Photo courtesy of The Hanover Insurance Group.
The Hanover Insurance Group fosters a culture of inclusion, diversity, and equity (IDE), welcoming the unique perspectives, experiences, and insights of individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life. And they embrace IDE by appreciating differences, reinforcing inclusive behaviors at all levels, and enhancing their unique culture by living their CARE values.
This careful focus has resulted in some very positive outcomes. Since 2020, The Hanover has consistently been ranked as a Fairygodboss Best Company for Women. As Britani Jones, The Hanover’s HR program manager of IDE, notes, women make up almost 60% of the company, nearly half of management roles, over one-fourth of senior leadership roles, and 28% of their board of directors, reflecting the organization’s commitment to IDE.
So, what goes into such a successful IDE strategy? For The Hanover, one key aspect is their business resource groups (BRGs). “Our BRGs are a critical component of our culture,” emphasizes Britani. As such, The Hanover invests heavily in BRGs as part of their IDE initiatives, providing funding for BRG strategic goals that are aligned to their enterprise (like university partnerships), fostering allyship, driving purposeful conversations, educating through cultural awareness programming, and more.
“Our BRGs are empowered with a great balance of autonomy and support,” Britani states, noting that her role acts as a dedicated resource to the company’s BRGs. To get a clear picture of these high-performing BRGs, and what it takes to be successful, we reached out to four BRG leaders at The Hanover. Here’s what they had to say.
A successful BRG leader has a passion to help others and a desire to use their voice to make a difference. As a leader of the Kinship Village BRG at The Hanover, Brigitte Spencer told us, “I got involved quite simply because there was and still is a need for equal and equitable representation for women and People of Color.” Brigitte’s colleague Linda Hinh has a similar path to BRG leadership. “Being an AAPI woman, I recognize that there’s a need for community for both AAPI and women employees,” Linda says. “I wanted to ensure that there was a safe space for these groups to share and speak to their struggles and concerns.” In her case, Linda notes that she’s previously struggled to find her voice at work. “My Chair role for H.A.A.P.I. (The Hanover Asian American Pacific Islander BRG) has given me the opportunity to not only share my experiences, but also encourage other women to do the same,” says Linda.
A desire to create a safe space is a consistent driving force behind BRG leaders. Take Sandy Tassi, a leader in the Proud to Empower BRG. In her experience, many members of the LGBTQIA+ community feel uncomfortable being open about their identity in the workplace despite supportive HR policies, including domestic partner benefits and transgender healthcare. “I knew something had to change quickly in order to engage and retain this talent” says Sandy. As a result, she worked with HR and fellow colleagues to create a BRG for LGBTQIA+ employees.
The path to BRG leadership may also stem from being encouraged within an existing group. That was how it happened for Juliette Peguero, who tells us she was encouraged by other women leaders in the existing women’s network. They “inspired me to aspire, to grow, and to not be fearful. They taught me what I had to contribute was enough,” Juliette shares. As a result, Juliette was empowered to use her voice to help LatinX/Hispanic employees as part of the Mi Familia BRG.
After becoming a BRG leader, the amount of positive change that can be enacted is extensive.
For starters, BRGs help create “an environment where employees are comfortable enough to be their true professional selves in the workplace,” says Sandy. In her case, her BRG helped foster a work environment where employees feel safe and supported openly transitioning — even in more conservative locations. This support extends to everything from council representation to participation in local pride parades and normalizing pronoun usage. A safe and supportive culture is evident throughout the company. “There are Pride flags everywhere,” says Sandy. “I have used my role as chair to create a space where people of all genders, including women, can feel comfortable being their true selves.”
A welcoming, inclusive community is also what Juliette views as the key influential factor for her LatinX/Hispanic BRG, Mi Familia. Before Mi Familia launched, Juliette notes that employees often didn’t see much LatinX/Hispanic representation throughout the organization. However, with this BRG, “we’ve joined forces and have contributed meaningfully to a general awareness of our culture and values-driven characteristics/personality,” says Juliette. Through this hard work, the BRG also managed to “entice more Hispanics/Latinos to join our company,” Juliette notes. “It’s a place where we all belong!”
Linda, too, emphasizes the importance of a dedicated community in making employees feel welcome. The HAAPI BRG may be the newest one at The Hanover, but the “fact that we are a group that stands for the AAPI community (a very small demographic in the insurance industry) while contributing to The Hanover’s overall IDE mission and AAPI representation is significant and meaningful,” Linda explains. “For example, HAAPI has representation in the development of an enterprise-wide mentorship program and allyship training content.”
In addition to community, programming is an important way BRGs can contribute to supporting employees and achieving company-wide IDE goals. For instance, Brigitte shares how Kinship Village created a “Crossing the Rivers of Race” series. These are “purposeful conversation workshops that are an integral part of The Hanover’s Building Better Allies content,” Brigitte states. These workshops “have helped transform the heart, mindset, and behavior of participants.”
This amazing work is accomplished via the dedication and talent of all BRG members and councils. Everyone participating in BRGs at The Hanover gets the chance to shine and make a positive impact. As we know, it takes a community to move forward, together.
It is evident that BRG members can make a huge impact on the company. But in a busy work environment, how does one make time? For Linda, it’s keeping her calendar organized to make sure that she dedicates her time to mentor and coach others (as well as for her own mentors and coaches). Linda plans her time to make sure she is available.
Sandy is also focused on actively carving out time in her busy schedule to support others. “I have built a widely diverse council that covers a vast spectrum of genders, races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, and abilities to encourage the voices represented to speak loudly,” says Sandy. To help support her council members, Sandy sets reminders on her calendar to check in with each council member on a regular basis. “We have built a strong and supportive community, together,” she says.
Another key part of helping to lift others up is becoming a role model. For instance, Brigitte says that, “I’ve tried to role model what I wish to see, in both mindset and behaviors around IDE.” She considers this, and her mentoring and coaching activities, as an integral part of her succession planning. “I’m constantly thinking about how I can coach and mentor, who I can advocate for, and how to execute IDE within the business,” Brigitte tells us.
And empowering women isn’t associated with just IDE-related work, either. For instance, Juliette notes, “as an IT program director, I’ve primarily used my role as an opportunity to lead by example in the technology field, which is typically dominated by men. I choose to show up leading with emotional intelligence, respect, and collaborative behavior without limiting my points of view or contributions… This is my way of setting a path for other women while both directly and indirectly coaching, creating connections, and empowering others.”
If you’re feeling inspired by the work of these impressive BRGs, these leaders have advice on creating high-functioning employee-led communities at your company, too.
Make sure your organization recognizes the importance of inclusion and empowers people to organically join groups based on their interests and passions. (Juliette)
Ensure that your executive leadership team demonstrates their support of BRGs, and actively participates in the work of the BRGs and their programming. (Linda)
Be intentional, make IDE an imperative, and develop a culture where action and execution are an objective. (Brigitte)
Listen first! “A BRG represents a group that has been marginalized, ostracized, and otherwise ignored by the larger part of society for far too long. There is a culture and a story that needs to be heard from, not dictated to.” (Sandy)
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