Strength in Connections – B.E.I.N.G. is about Community

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Last year, Courtney Joseph, a Global Sales Training and Enablement Manager at Nuance Communications, had a vision of creating an Employee Resource Group (or “Nuance Network,” as Nuance calls them) for Black employees and allies. She identified colleagues to help her bring her vision to life and the Black Employees in Nuance Group (B.E.I.N.G.) was born in September 2021. One year later, B.E.I.N.G. is one of the largest and most active Nuance Networks! More importantly, it’s a community of employees that have transparent and authentic conversations together and are amplifying their voices across Nuance.

At a time when employee engagement and retention is at the top of many employers’ minds, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) like B.E.I.N.G. are extremely important. What makes an ERG valuable? And what is the best way to get started in creating a successful one?

MassTLC sat down with Courtney to learn more about how she created B.E.I.N.G., why it was the right time to launch it, and more. Plus, hear about B.E.I.N.G.’s memorable Juneteenth event and what she learned from the experience.

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Courtney, tell us more about yourself.

I’ve been with Nuance for close to six years! It’s been great to see the organization grow and evolve throughout the years. It’s also very exciting to think that we are now a Microsoft company as of March of this year. During my time at Nuance, I have been in a few different positions and most recently started a new role as a Sales Training & Enablement Manager for the Enterprise Division. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all my official and unofficial mentors who have helped me see things differently and who encouraged me to think big.

What was the tipping point moment that made you realize Nuance needed B.E.I.N.G.?

I was participating in Nuance’s global mentoring program and through discussions with my mentors, I realized there was a need for an ERG like B.E.I.N.G.. At the time, Nuance had three Nuance Networks: Women in Nuance (WIN), Pride for LGBTQ+, and the Multicultural Association for Diversity Empowerment (MADE). I was a member of all these wonderful Networks and felt connected to each one of them. I knew that B.E.I.N.G., like these other Networks, would unite employees but in a different way. It would encourage authentic and eye-opening conversations for Black employees and allies during a time where COVID was ravaging communities of color, we were dealing with unprecedented times, Black Lives Matter wasn’t just a movement – it was for many of us everyday life, and we were dealing with very serious mental health issues. People needed a safe space to talk, laugh, cry, and be their unapologetically authentic selves. Working with my mentors, I was able to say, “I want to create a network where we can talk about content that’s relevant to this particular demographic.”

Tell us more about what B.E.I.N.G. is.

B.E.I.N.G. was created to foster equity, representation, career development, allyship, and networking opportunities for all African American employees at Nuance. We strive to create a sense of community, while allowing our allies the opportunity to learn and grow.

If you identify as Black, we want you to feel like you have a safe space within the company to discuss successes, obstacles, challenges, and so on. B.E.I.N.G. also allows employees to network, mentor one another, and connect personally and professionally. Allies are also extremely important to the success of B.E.I.N.G., as well.

Nuance, in general, has had a lot of success with ERGs. Once you decided to move forward with the goal of creating B.E.I.N.G., what happened next? Was there a formal process within the company you had to follow?

After sharing my vision with my network of trusted advisors, I connected with the Nuance Network leaders and used them as a sounding board. Once I was ready, I reached out to the Talent Development and Communications team who support our Nuance Networks and explained why this was important and why now was the right time. They helped me to further refine my proposal, carefully think through all the moving pieces, and confidently articulate my vision.

How did you kick things off? Once the group was established, what happened next?

Nuance employees and B.E.I.N.G. members are all over the globe – the U.S., Spain, Canada, Ireland. If there’s one good thing that came from the pandemic, it was the reach that we’ve been able to establish.

In our first meeting we had about 30 people show up, which to me felt like 100! I was nervous, but excited to finally introduce B.E.I.N.G., after months of planning and strategizing. In our first virtual meeting we introduced our mission, purpose for existence, and welcomed everyone – black employees, sponsors, allies, those who were curious and maybe even a little skeptical! My goal was to let employees know that this wasn’t about me, it was about bringing people together to learn, grow, laugh, and share experiences. There wasn’t a leadership team yet, but I was already working on identifying leaders, not necessarily Black leaders, but people who understood the value of what this network could do. There are currently 5 employees that are now part of the B.E.I.N.G. leadership committee. They are all passionate about B.E.I.N.G.’s mission, are advocates for diversity, and are actively engaged participants – they don’t just sit on the sidelines.

How does B.E.I.N.G. engage and interact with Nuance as a company overall?

The leadership committee believes that it is our responsibility to help elevate and amplify representation at Nuance every day, not just during Black History Month. With that said, we did do something special for Juneteenth since it is such an important day. We worked with different parts of the organization to create a video series made up of Black leaders throughout Nuance called Black Excellence: Past, Present and Future. These videos were shared both internally and externally. I am extremely proud of all the employees who participated in these videos because they did not hold back, were unapologetically authentic, and vulnerable. It was the first time Nuance had ever done anything like this. All of this led up to our Juneteenth celebration which consisted of a panel discussion with the B.E.I.N.G. leadership committee led by Dr. Joe’l Lewis-Billingsley.

The panelists shared raw, real-life, eye-opening experiences – not just negative experiences, but experiences that many people didn’t realize existed for Black employees and couldn’t relate because they had never lived through it. We had several employees join the Juneteenth celebration including our CEO Mark Benjamin, along with many of his executive leadership team. I was humbled to see them show up to support B.E.I.N.G. – they listened to understand, were engaged, and asked questions.

That’s so amazing! Why do you think it’s important for executives to make time for ERGs?

It’s important because it helps executives better relate to employees and see, hear, and feel what they are going through. It also shows that they truly care about the mission of that ERG, which for B.E.I.N.G. is centered around Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

I also think executive sponsorship within ERGs is important, but I don’t think it’s necessary to get started. We first launched B.E.I.N.G. with a small group, as we continued to grow, we started having events that were aligned to our mission – more people came, including executives who now attend our meetings to learn from employees and their experiences.

We have very supportive leadership at Nuance who make the time for things that are important. They are also very accessible – I have never worked for a company where I could exchange an email or book a meeting with an executive.

What advice would you give to someone at a different organization who wants to start an ERG like B.E.I.N.G. within their organization?

Make sure you are clear on your why. I started B.E.I.N.G. because I identified a need and knew that B.E.I.N.G. was the solution to that need. Establishing the why is critical; then, make sure you’re passionate and committed to your mission. Next, identify the people who will support your vision and help you bring it to life. Lastly, be intentional and strategic about picking your leadership committee – you can’t do everything by yourself! You need people who are equally as passionate about the ERG and who have diverse skillsets to bring to the table.

How does B.E.I.N.G. make Nuance a better place to work?

For me, B.E.I.N.G. makes coming to work every day that much more rewarding. I feel so fulfilled, and because I feel fulfilled, I give that much more to the business. I know other B.E.I.N.G. members feel the same. Me and my leadership committee have worked hard to create a safe space for Black employees. We are not just an ERG, we are a community, we are a family. I am proud of what we have accomplished with B.E.I.N.G. and truly believe that ERGs increase employee satisfaction. As we celebrate B.E.I.N.G.’s 1-year anniversary we are extremely excited for the future – and the impact we will continue to have at Nuance.

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