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Webinar on Project Management in Employee Resource Group Management (ERGs)

Moderator: Taylor Haner, Customer Success Product Trainer, Teleskope


Panelist: Michelle Liang, Senior Program Manager, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Uber Technologies Inc.

Key topics: Project Management in ERGs, Project Management principles - Iron Triangle, Benchmarks in ERG Management, ERG Metrics to measure ERG Success, Challenges in ERG Management, Technology solutions in ERG Management, Key Takeaways for DEI Managers and ERG Program Managers

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Webinar Transcript: Project Management in ERGs

00:00 Introduction


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: All right, welcome everyone! I'm thrilled to be here for today's webinar diving into the world of project management and Employee Resource Groups. Before we jump in, I'll briefly introduce myself. My name is Taylor Hanner and I'm a part of the Customer Success team at Teleskope. We empower organizations to build thriving and impactful ERGs and I have the privilege of seeing that firsthand. So, I'm excited to guide our discussion today and welcome our panelist Michelle Liang, Senior Program Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Uber Technologies Inc. Michelle, thanks for joining me today. Can you please share a bit about yourself and your experiences with project management in ERGs?


00:45 Get to know Michelle Liang from Uber


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Yes, well, thank you so much Taylor and the Teleskope team for welcoming me in your webinar. I am Michelle Liang. I'm based in New York City and a Senior Program Manager at Uber within the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team. I've been at Uber for five years now and previous to that I've spent about 10 years in total within the D&I space primarily as a Program Manager, having previously led and co-founded an Asian Employee Resource Group at Marsh & McLennan Companies. And I've worked in Project Management for almost 20+ years now, primarily and initially within Risk Management Insurance companies as well as Edu-Technologies and it's been a great pleasure to essentially be in the end to end project management and strategic planning across all various lines of businesses and companies. 


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Amazing, let's discuss your background. I see it says ‘Build with heart’ with your virtual background so I just wondered if you could tell me more about that?


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Sure, this is an illustration of one of the many Uber cultural values that we have and ‘Build with heart’ is something that is very close to my own values. I think it is very important not just to lead with your gut and your mind but also with a heart because after all, at the end of the day, we are working with various people, which is essentially what helps create good in order to continue to do well. And part of that is really building with a heart where you are led by your passion to come up and deliver great desired outcomes that are sustainable and also scalable.


03:15 What is Uber’s Employee Resource Group program like?


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Awesome! I love that. So, I'm going to start off with some questions. The first question: Can you share a brief overview of ERGs at Uber so that the audience can visualize the ERG program?


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Sure, so as far as the ERGs at Uber, there are 12 ERGs at Uber, Employee Resource Group, that are led by Global Co-Chairs then also Regional Chairs and then Chapter Chairs. Each chapter originally started with four pillars that are Careers, Commerce, Community and Culture. And I would just emphasize this, this is also particular framework that I've seen in other companies where they have in a specific area area that is key to the business or specific to what they're looking at for impacting their workforce, their workplace or marketplace and depending on whichever that particular framework or pillar is what they build their Chapter and their governance on. 


Within Uber each has their own structure based on what their needs are but still very much akin to the pillars or the framework that I have mentioned. The Global Leads meet on a recurring basis to discuss updates and other related operational strategies from our head of ERGs. I've seen that this model is successful in other companies such as when, as I mentioned, establishing an Asian Employee Resource Group over five years ago.


04:59 What are some benchmarks in ERG management?


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Are there any benchmarks such as project timelines, budget management, resource allocation that you could share with respect to project management in Employee Resource Groups? 


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Sure, and I could say that these benchmarks may vary depending on each of the Employee Resource Group - OKRs, which is Objectives and Key Results which by the way have their own distinct action items or related projects. From an operational perspective for managing the ERG their Annual ERG Summits where ERG leads come together to meet in celebration of their work and also their commitment to the ERGs while they take an opportunity to have a face time with their fellow leads and also learn together.


And then planning for these Summits, by the way, is no easy task and it requires a lot of thought and coordination such as scheduling travel, agenda and also ensuring that the event has a balance of both learning and team building. And so, specific to benchmarks the timelines the budget management resource allocation I would say primarily I would defer the ERGs and their leaders to their head of ERGs who's essentially responsible for ensuring that the policies as well as other specific timeline, scope and resources are allocated accordingly and essentially all of these are guided by the business policies.


06:48 What are the different aspects of project management in ERG management?


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: So, what do you mean by project management in ERGs so what does that encompass exactly?


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Sure. Project management in ERGs is such that the Employee Resource Group is like having a particular entity where ERGs are seen as a product for people with passion for a value or an affinity. Hence, ERGs are also called Affinity Groups. For a successful ERG it has to be treated with strategies and tactical approaches such as in project management where we have a concept of the Iron Triangle that includes Time, Resources and Scope, so does every ERG.


So for ERGs, we are bound by time. Leaders, for instance, typically have a  mandate for a given role. Typically, I've seen that for a year, some it really depends on the business need and also the needs of pursuing the ERG strategies. And when it comes to Resource, we have a nominal resource, an investment or a budget from the D&I organization or the business and at times specific from the business via the Executive Sponsor. 


And we have a number of members we are responsible for to ensure their experience is both impactful and meaningful. All ERGs have committees and these committees are built and established with a number of dedicated employees, who are also volunteers, to continue the work dependent on the pillars that they are responsible for.


And then lastly, we have Scope. Such as in Project management, again Iron Triangle - Scope, Time and Resources. And in particular if we are a leader for a Chapter or a Region or as a whole meaning as a Global Chair we are responsible. And we're  volunteering for that particular area of our remit. So, from a planning and execution standpoint, every event or initiative that the ERGs pursue, it has to be the project first, before it can even be part of our daily operations. Regardless of whether there is a start or end date which means it's a project. There is a set resource requirement for these initiatives and events, whether internal or external. And where we focus our actions, our initiatives, our projects to meet our goals and objectives, is generally based on what we agree upon as the scope for the particular work.


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Okay so you give out some of the responsibilities through that scope giving different leaders different titles and responsibilities. So what.. oh go ahead sorry. 


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Oh, I was also going to add that you know we don't want to duplicate work. Especially when it comes to volunteers who essentially take time out from their daily task and all of their already work responsibilities. So, we want to make sure that we are optimizing and we are working within the guidelines of like operational excellence, where we want to make sure that this particular area or body of work that the volunteer is raising their hand for is something essentially a specific task or a specific project or initiative. 


And certainly we encourage collaboration too, because either one is passionate or interested or want to stretch themselves, I have always been a believer of the importance of having a buddy system. And I believe ERGs are the best place to have that insular level of of leadership using your ability to lead but also creating a legacy for what you want to represent and brand yourself as within your company, which also means the opportunity that it presents to be able to mentor and guide another member of the ERG by way of collaborating with them on a particular project within the ERG. But also there is a very importance of that in that you have somebody essentially to continue the work that you're doing. Let's say, for instance, if you're not available that day to step in or you know, you have more workload than anticipated. And also this is also sharing the learning and the knowledge that you can accumulate on this particular activity or work.


12:20 What are some key ERG metrics that measure ERG success?


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Yeah. So, you talked a lot about what makes up different Employee Resource Groups. So, now I kind of want to know what metrics would you recommend for measuring the success of setting up that Employee Resource Group?


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Sure. I mean there's several. I would definitely recommend 100% measuring the impact, what is the outcome of the work that you have delivered. Like in project management the kinds of metrics would be part of ERGs retrospectives or post mortem. And this would be on areas on stakeholder management, how well did you engage your executive sponsor or your Business Leaders in a particular initiative? How do we continue to bring value of the ERGs to the business? What is the engagement from employees? So, there are such where annually you could do or even biannually or quarterly do some sort of engagement surveys. 


There's also like risk management to really understand what are the blockers and the drivers of the initiatives that you're trying to pursue. And by way of understanding these two important factors it would essentially give you a better insight into how you can elevate the position of your ERG with your business partners.


And then of course, last but not least, the strengths and opportunities that come with every work that you do within the ERG. These are important ways to measure and they can happen actually not just in retrospectives but these can happen also at the beginning at the start of the initiative where you use all of these different factors as a way to almost put your manifesto in the front end where you're saying - Okay these are my assumptions. I'm going to engage and ensure that my Executive Sponsor and ERG have alignment in the objectives that we're going to do. It's going to do well in these areas. And then you can have a look back during your retrospective where you can actually also help, you know, gauge these are the things in the beginning that we've discussed before we started a project, which were our assumptions and this is actually where we have completed these particular assumptions.


And then you can also validate what worked and what didn't work. So, in the future this could be part of your knowledge sharing tool that you can share with other Project Owners for the ERGs and they can learn something from it. And it's also somewhat related to metrics in that you want to make sure you document all of this information that you gather be pre and post. And while some such as the engagement surveys can be quantitative, some other areas of validating these could be qualitative. So, you have both types of measurements that's going to be truly impactful to what you're trying to deliver. And then hopefully this would be a great artifact to proceed with when you are also looking at revisiting your budget requirements and your budget ask.


16:20 What are the biggest challenges in ERG management?


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Yeah, as you were discussing all of those different ways to collect metrics and data I was just it made me think of Teleskope’s Affinities and how on our program we have a ton of different ways to collect data through surveys and different communication tools over there as well. So, I was just wondering in your experience what are your biggest challenges in project management within ERGs?


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Yes, so I would say that before I answer that question, I do want to emphasize what you shared about Teleskopes capabilities because as a user myself and also super user actually. And having had to train our teams on the use and adaptability of the tool there's a lot of opportunities that's already made intuitive by your tool. And I especially appreciate the fact that, you know, it allows me, for instance, to be able to know how many clicks a particular invitation has been delivered as well as, you know, making sure that we have data for particular acceptances and declines and things of that nature. Because it's helpful for us to understand, you know, where like the opportunities, where can we do more and where do we know that we all already have supporters and advocates. So, a lot of analyses can be drawn from the metadata that's made available by Teleskope.


And part of the biggest challenges that I've seen in project management is 100% communication, in the area of communication. So, project management is 100% communication and this was one of the key questions in the PMBOK which is - PMBOK, is a project management. It's like the book that essentially has all of the requirements and information that's needed for certification for PMP. And you know if it hadn't been mentioned then it wouldn't have been a potential and a continuous strategy that project managers always face. 


Communication is the biggest challenge but it's also the biggest opportunity. And being part of an ERG and leading an ERG is a sure way to have a voice and to have a seat at the table. It's essentially giving one access to be able to share their point of view, validate that point of view and also engage others. And so it's a very very powerful tool. I would say that communication is power and while the ERGs is the key to representation and communication is an instrument in

enabling that. We should be thoughtful about communication. Communication planning should have its own work stream within the ERG and I personally would establish it as its own committee. 


And a lot of the analyses, outputs that come from all those metrics that we've talked about earlier can essentially be applied in how we best serve our ERGs communication. And something even as simple as knowing when your teams, when some of the membership or the group of organizations that you want to invite, if you're going to do a lunch and learn but not knowing when some team members actually are not available during that time. Or let's just say for instance when you're trying to tap multiple and various members across organizations but you know your Sales team is trying to close books at the end of the month or the quarter. Then that's where the communication, the two-way understanding of knowing when that is and then actually figuring out when the best way to hold that event to accommodate and enable a lot more people than anticipated would be something that's delivered through communication. 


Another way too is that, you know, we have to be thoughtful about the format of our communication and how we communicate. We are living in a time when diverse abilities is very core of a sense of belonging. So, you want to make sure and also be thoughtful about ensuring that you have like ways to communicate, for instance, when there may be those that have either hearing impairment or sight impairment. So, really be thoughtful about how big are your fonts in your presentation and is it better to talk about your project updates via email or via a platform versus actually having decisions made via Zoom or in person. So, these are a couple of things to be thoughtful about because the outcome of your communication can bring even more challenges if it's not done in a thoughtful manner. Does that answer your question?


22:54 How can technology solutions like ERG software help in ERG project management?


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Yeah, no absolutely. It did answer the question and it actually leads into the next question of how can technology solutions help in ERG project management? And I know you discussed this a little bit in your previous question with communication and going back with the metrics, but is there anything else that could help with ERG project management?


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Oh yes of course. As project management, actually as you know there's multiple project management software out there. But to have something that is specifically for Employee Resource Groups is a big plus. At the end of the day technology solutions for ERG project management is going to be very helpful because it centralizes information. You no longer have to do things or track your membership on a spreadsheet or or on some other, you know, document.


Having a technology solution or platform has everything there already intuitively and also innovatively. Also I think the user interface is going to be very helpful for when you have to present to a lot of people especially your Executive Sponsor and to have essentially a dashboard is part of the technology solution that takes up all of the information and presents it and illustrates a lot of analysis in a very concise manner. 


And onboarding and training our ERGs the use of Teleskope has been a phenomenal experience, not just because the tool is already excellent but I would also say that the Customer Service that we've received from Teleskope has been amazing. And special shout out to Maneet on that because he's been an excellent true partner.


25:13 What are the key takeaways for DEI Managers or ERG Program Managers?


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Before we wrap up because we are getting to the end of the webinar, what are the three most important things you would like D&I or ERG program managers to keep in mind when they begin their project management journey? 


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Sure. There could be more than three actually. Maybe I could write an article about that! But as far as the three that I could come up with right now is - number one, not necessarily in a particular order, is get to know your members. You are essentially building your team. And I reflect on my experience in the past when starting an Employee Resource Group, having a list of members that essentially would have raised their hand to say they're willing to volunteer for a particular activity etc.


I personally have taken some time off during my lunch break and reached out, drafted an email, and sometimes even reached out to individuals directly to understand learn about their passions and their interest and also their current roles and what would they want to do if were asked to go above and beyond in the work that they're currently doing. And for me to work with these individuals, to essentially carve a path which is not necessarily conventional but yet aligned to their own career goals and objectives and what kind of brand that they want to have at their company and I have never failed in that particular approach. And some of our old Business or Employee Resource Group members can attest with this particular approach that, in fact, they had yet they had not said no to the request for them to participate. 


And then a second would be, like I mentioned before, it's really important to understand their passion and interest because you are creating resources and you're also cultivating relationships, which at the end of the day it's what matters the most. You go and spend a lot of your time at work and what is a better way there than to really create relationships and cultivate your professional network.


Last but not the least, align your goals and objectives with your business and with your Executive Sponsor. Essentially this way you are nurturing the support you are given and sponsorship is not just nominal. There have been multiple times when in my previous work within ERGs I was able to seek mentorship and sponsorship for myself because of this particular item, where you really have to align your goals and objectives with your Executive Sponsor. And there have also been times when we need a particular speaker that this particular relationship that I've built has been very helpful in reaching out to the Executive Sponsor without multiple and various steps to do that because you've already built that trust. And also, so the quality that you are looking out for that person as much as that person is also looking out for you. 


And so essentially, you know, get to know your members, understand their passions and their interests, and align the goals and objectives. And those are the three pearls of nuggets or pearls of wisdom I should say and nuggets of wisdom that I'd like to share.


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Amazing, thank you. So, it sounds like you know communication is huge in ERGs and also just bringing everyone together through one kind of platform, one place to connect.


Michelle Liang [Uber]: Yes, certainly.


Taylor Haner [Teleskope]: Awesome. So, thank you so much Michelle for being here and sharing your expertise. And thank you to those who have tuned in and stay tuned for future webinars.


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