November 4, 2021
On November 4, 2020, under the guidance of our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I) Committee, Kittelson launched our first set of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
What Are Employee Resource Groups?
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are intentional internal networks and pockets of community throughout Kittelson. The primary goal of ERGs is connection through shared experiences and mutual support. Secondary purposes include discussing important issues, creating space for new ideas, and helping ease new staff’s transition to the firm.
Launching Our ERGs
The suggestion to provide breakout groups and safe spaces across the firm was a theme across feedback following a series of firmwide listening sessions last year. While firmwide dialogues are powerful for better understanding one another’s experiences, what was missing was the safe space for staff who already share those experiences.
Kittelson’s DE&I Committee surveyed our team to learn what groups were most desired, and launched the following groups in Fall 2020:
- Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+)
- Mental Health
- Partner Staff (staff who are not engineers or planners)
- People of Faith
- Staff Preparing for Retirement
Within the first few weeks of meeting, each group selected one or more facilitators and defined a mission and operating procedures, which are posted on our intranet for the benefit of staff who are considering joining an ERG. Each group also selected a leadership team liaison whose role is to listen in on discussions, act as an advocate for the group, and elevate concerns as needed.
One Year In
A year later, all eight groups are going strong, with the majority having grown in membership since their launch. We asked facilitators if they or anyone in their group wanted to share what they’ve gotten out of ERG participation, and here are a few of the quotes we heard.
“Members benefit from supportive cheerleaders that understand your unique position at Kittelson, and help find solutions oriented in a safe space. Sometimes talking through a challenge with others helps and puts things in perspective for you.”
“Overall, the ERG participants have created a space where we can be frank with each other and share ideas about making the different spaces in our lives diverse, equitable, and inclusive.”
“I look forward to our monthly meetings because I can talk through my stress, learn strategies that have worked for others, and feel like I have a support system at all times.”
"Members benefit from supportive cheerleaders that understand your unique position at Kittelson, and help find solutions oriented in a safe space."
The Future of ERGs at Kittelson
We see the future of Kittelson’s Employee Resource Groups as continuing to be staff-led, mission driven, equalizing, and empowering, and through having a connection to leadership, an important link to opening dialogue, building trust, and elevating new ideas and perspectives.
We’re also optimistic that the number of ERGs at Kittelson will continue to grow based on interest and demand. In fact, we’re in the midst of launching two additional ERGs: foreign nationals and new staff. As with the first eight groups, these groups have been requested by staff and will be member-driven following their launch later this month.
Has your organization found value in ERGs or something similar? What have you learned about creating safe spaces for community and connection within your company? We’re always looking to learn and swap ideas!