Uniting Leaders: Reflections on “The Rules of ERG Engagement Tour,” hosted by Asana

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1 maja 2024
5 min czytania
Asana ERG engagement tour

How Asana Came to Host a Summit

I love being involved with our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) at Asana.  I’ve helped lead AsanaWomen for over two years and have shown up as an ally to other groups at various events, both in person and virtually over the years. Joining an ERG has given me so many opportunities to connect with colleagues I would have never interacted with, such as women in engineering, marketing, business development or product management. I’ve also benefited from loads of professional development: managing a team of volunteers, event planning, program management. I was even asked to be on a panel for another Bay Area company’s ERG leadership summit, where I met some incredible people leading community programming for their organizations and creating inclusive environments for their employees, and came away with loads of ideas to improve our own ERG engagement at Asana. The coordinator of that summit was Maceo Owens, The ERG Homegirl, and we stayed in touch. 

When Maceo’s company The ERG Movement put out a call needing a San Francisco host for their nation-wide tour this spring, I reached out to see what their needs were. And it turned out Asana had the perfect space for it! I received buy-in from our Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging team (DIB) and the cross-functional partners that we would need to make this happen, from culinary to AV to workplace, and then it was official: Asana was hosting “The Rules of ERG Engagement Tour” San Francisco stop! 

ERG Leadership Summit Leads

The Day Of

We had over 40 ERG leaders and program managers join us on site for a half day of content at our San Francisco headquarters, starting with lunch. Liliana Blanco, Asana’s Belonging and Inclusion Lead, kicked off the event with a fireside chat alongside Maceo, where they chatted about the challenges ERGs are facing today and the ways ERGs have been able to articulate the value and impact of their initiatives over time to business leaders. Liliana highlighted an example about the collaboration between our Talent Acquisition team and ERGs, where ERG members participate in culture chats as a way for prospective employees to learn more about Asana during the interview process (which has been cited as a reason why some people have joined the company!) and track the number of job applications directly generated from guests who attended our external ERG events. This has shown our leadership team the importance of intentionally building safe spaces for employees, and that ERGs directly contribute to creating a culture of belonging even before folks join the organization. Fun fact: AsanaWomen has done the most culture chats across all the ERGs at the company, go team!  

ERG Leadership Summit Panel

Next up was a panel of ERG leaders moderated by Uyum Ulgen, a co-lead of Gradient (Asana’s multi-cultural and intersectional ERG) and featured industry guests alongside Asana’s own Charisse Holman (current Blacsana co-lead) and Seabass Gibson (former Blacsana co-lead and current ERG advisor). The panelists pulled back the curtain about what was actually working in their ERGs to build community engagement, increase committee involvement, and generate business impact, and also be honest about the pieces of programming that haven’t worked as expected – sharing failures is just as important as sharing the successes when we’re trying to build community for our ERG members. Charisse shared how Blacsana is focusing on creating events specifically for her community both inside Asana and out, and how she is collaborating with our events team to put on a breakfast sponsored by Blacsana for our customers as part of the San Francisco stop of The Work Innovation Summit in June 2024. This will be the first time Asana’s ERGs will have a role in a customer-facing event, and we are excited to hold space and showcase our culture in a public way. 

The story telling and knowledge sharing continued at The Rules of ERG Engagement Tour with small group discussions. Each attendee got the chance to interact with every other person at round tables set up specifically to swap learnings and play a sort of “group circle musical chairs” around the room with different topics. 

After a quick break we were back for an in-depth workshop and presentation about, ‘The 10 Rules of ERG Engagement’ with Maceo, the big deliverable of the day. Maceo thoughtfully took the room through the lifecycle of ERG engagement and shared ways to overcome common pitfalls when it comes to leading employee engagement, and introduced the 3 P’s of ERGs: Purpose, Process, and Programming. Folks shared their takeaways from the day, before we dove into happy hour. Asana Culinary did not disappoint, and provided amazing snacks and drinks to keep the conversation flowing.  

ERG Leadership Summit Panel 2

Community Takeaways

“It opened up so many possibilities when it comes to the DE&I work we do. I learned so much from Maceo Owens and other ERG PMs and Leaders. Thank you for the invite!”

“It was truly inspiring to connect with fellow ERG leaders and exchange experiences, lessons, and highlights.”

“I LOVE seeing the impact of first time IRL connections happening!”

“Special shout out to the team at Asana for being wonderful, welcoming, and truly showcasing the culture at Asana!”

This was the first time many guests had met other ERG leaders and program managers in person since COVID, and it’s clear there is a need for more in person connection. Bringing people together in person is the key for unlocking community and improving engagement, especially in the DEI/DIB space. It goes to show the importance of rubbing shoulders with colleagues in your office and in the local industry, and reinforces Asana’s Office-Centric Hybrid model with coordinated days at work. ERGs really benefit from holding local programming on the days everyone is on site and the ERG leadership summit proved how crucial it is to foster a culture of belonging and inclusion from ERG co-leads all the way up to the heads of corporate diversity initiatives. Now that The Rules of ERG Engagement Tour added ‘The 3 P’s of ERGs’ and ‘The 10 Rules of Engagement’ to our toolboxes, everyone will be set up for success.  

While there aren’t many places where DEI/DIB professionals like Liliana and Maceo – and volunteers like me – can have candid discussions about current events and the impact on their employees, Asana provided a platform to foster local connections and encourage this type of discourse. Hosting this event made us realize there is a need for more engagement with others in the community in order to improve our own employee engagement. Looking ahead, Asana plans to hold a dinner for program managers in the DEI/DIB space next month and create a leadership summit for folks in the San Francisco Bay Area to continue the conversation. I’m thankful I work for a company who provides the space (in this case very literally!) for people to share their experiences and create a sense of belonging in the local DEI/DIB community. 

At Asana, building culture is just as important as building our product and every employee benefits from this intentional practice. We were thrilled to sponsor The ERG Movement’s San Francisco leg of their nation-wide tour, and can’t wait until we can all get together again in person to knowledge-share with other industry professionals on ways to improve engagement.  Because when employees feel like they belong,  they stay dialed in at their jobs with higher engagement rates and job satisfaction scores, and they stick around longer.  When ERGs win, we all win! 

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ERG Leadership Summit

About the Author: Audrey Utchen (she/her/hers)

As a Deal Manager, I have spent the last three years at Asana working as a strategic advisor to the sales organization, helping Account Executives and Renewals Managers structure non-standard deals and negotiate complex business-to-business (B2B) software transactions all over the world.  I have also served as a co-lead for AsanaWomen for more than two years, the Employee Resource Group (ERG) responsible for creating programming and fostering community for all women-identifying and non-binary folks at Asana.

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