Diversity is only one part of a great company culture. Another element that goes hand-in-hand with it—one that is arguably even more important—is inclusion.
The team at John Deere had a feeling that Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) wasn’t just about putting the right holidays on the work calendar and making sure they had a diverse team. D&I, they believed, is about developing an organization that rallies people from all backgrounds and with different interests around projects that matter to them.
That’s what John Deere does with its Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Here’s a look at how these groups have made diversity and inclusion THRIVE at John Deere—one of the world’s oldest and most established agricultural tech firms.
To find out more, we spoke to their ERG Manager, Emmanuel Rivera. He told us all about what ERGs mean to him and the rest of the John Deere team.
What Are ERGs?
At John Deere, ERGs are company-sponsored, employee-run organizations formed around a common dimension of diversity, shared interest, or experience that affects the workplace. For example, WomenREACH’s ERG supports the personal and professional development of women by providing leadership, education, networking and community outreach opportunities.
For John Deere, ERGs provide a space for people to come together and use their combined experience and expertise to create an environment of inclusion.
“They have a unique ability to bring people from a cross-section of backgrounds together around a common mission,” Emmanuel explains. “The relationships and the connections that people make provide tremendous benefits for both the employees and the organization. ERGs connect people across functions, across units, across divisions, and even across time zones globally.”
This is especially important for John Deere, which, according to Emmanuel, is a relationship-based company. “ERGs play an integral role in being a natural mechanism for allowing that to take place,” he says.
We’ve all heard of employee groups before, but what do the ones at John Deere do differently? They’re not just social clubs, Emmanuel says. The ERGs at John Deere are made of leaders who drive real change in the organization. ERGs are true change agents that help support attracting, retaining and developing top diverse talent.
Leaders Are Made (And Recognized)
“If you do become a truly engaged member, you have an opportunity to develop in a way that your functional job might not allow you to,” Emmanuel says. “For employees with individual contributor type roles, those who take on leadership roles have an opportunity to lead teams, to and influence without authority amongst other things, competencies and skillsets that translate well into future roles of increased responsibility.”
Because ERGs are places for people to connect around different cultural dynamics and challenges affecting the workplace, they’re also where management is listening to get genuine feedback. Transformative initiatives come from ERGs. When you have a voice in the ERGs at John Deere, you’re heard by leaders at every level.
This is particularly exciting for people early in their careers—and interns—because you can take on leadership roles without having to wait for a promotion. This, in turn, can really help with showcasing ERG leaders’ ability to lead, influence and add value to the business, behaviors that when demonstrated could actually support securing that promotion.
“It’s invaluable experience,” Emmanuel says. “You can put events together, manage projects and budgets—the development that comes with ERGs accelerates your personal and professional development in a way that can’t be reproduced.”
This kind of opportunity for leadership benefits everyone—from the employee fresh out of college who’s hungry for experience to the most senior executive who can have faith that their D&I initiatives are coming from the ground up.
Now that’s running (a company) like a (John) Deere.