Focusing on creating a sense of belonging spurs innovation, improves business outcomes, and provides leadership with essential insights into various aspects of the business. Colorado Springs Utilities knows a thing or two about energy and recognizes that its employees are the lifeblood of their organization – the very source of power and ingenuity – and just the right audience to act as their sounding board for diversity, equity, and inclusion improvements. To get to the heart of their program, I sat down with Colorado Springs Utilities to learn more about how they have implemented employee resource groups (ERGs) as part of their HR strategy and how they are working on expanding their program.
Q: Thanks for sitting down to share your insight into these important programs! Before we dive into the details, tell us why ERGs are important to your organization.
ERGs help create, deliver, and manage activities and events that promote diversity and inclusion within Colorado Springs Utilities and the community at large. ERGs provide the opportunity for employees to join a passionate group of diverse employees that want to help make Colorado Springs Utilities an even better place to work. ERGs create opportunities to meet coworkers representing a wide variety of workgroups, including field personnel, office staff and upper management. Finally, they allow for individuals to develop knowledge about best practices related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and develop their project management and leadership skills.
Q: And how many ERGs does Colorado Springs Utilities have at the moment?
At present, just one umbrella ERG called DELTA. The primary purpose of the DELTA Team is to facilitate activities and events that create awareness and develop skills in employees to create a more inclusive workplace, and:
- Support diversity and inclusion events in the community on behalf of Colorado Springs Utilities.
- Review existing Colorado Springs Utilities policies, procedures, and programs as they relate to organizational diversity and recommend modification and/or development of additional policies, procedures, and programs that will align our organizational systems with Colorado Springs Utilities diversity goal.
- Provide recommendations about diversity training for Colorado Springs Utilities employees.
- Provide assistance to other Colorado Springs Utilities initiatives in identifying and addressing diversity concerns as requested by the Chief Executive Officer.
- Provide ongoing review and monitoring of Colorado Springs Utilities overall progress in meeting its diversity goal.
- Provide recommendations to the Chief Executive Officer, as appropriate.
- Help Colorado Springs Utilities capitalize on diversity in recruiting, training, retaining, and promoting the best individuals from a diverse labor force.
To create and sustain an environment that encourages every employee to accept individual differences, embrace inclusivity, and be open to the realities surrounding our diversity.
This will allow Colorado Springs Utilities to emerge as the employer of choice for current and future employees and to position us to evolve and thrive as an organization valued by the community.
To encourage Colorado Springs Utilities employees to embrace and leverage diversity and be a model of inclusiveness.
Q: I love the overarching ERG for the organization, and name – especially the tie to the deep military roots in the Colorado Springs area. As your program evolves, how does your company support its ERG?
Our Chief Executive Officer designates a senior leader to serve as the executive sponsor of the DELTA Team. The team also consists of a General Manager Sponsor and a Staff Advisor. DELTA is financially supported by the organization with an annual budget of $50,000. The DELTA Team meets monthly for a comprehensive team meeting, and bi-weekly for a 30-minute, task-based check-in meeting. Each DELTA Team member is required to have 10% of their annual performance evaluation based on the DELTA Team’s overall performance rating.
Q: How active is the DELTA Team? How many employees participate?
We have 14 current participants in DELTA, and kept our focus on planned activities for celebratory or awareness days using the following calendar in 2022:
- January – MLK Jr Day. Organization-wide email and internal promotion of DELTA.
- February – Black history Month. Facilitated two lunch-time discussions about Black History Month Meeting in a Box (Leon Young and Mesa CEC).
- March – Women’s History Month. Coordinated book club event on the Confidence Code. Provided female employees with practical tools to advance their careers. Helped male employees gain skills to better support female coworkers. Facilitated two lunch-time discussions for 30 employees.
- April – Autism Awareness Month, Community speaker event through Teams. Delivered Lunch and Learn presentation about raising autistic children from community expert, Christine Hyman Owen, via Teams. Organization-wide email and internal promotion of DELTA.
- May – Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Mary Randa, Senior Power Trading Analyst, created video sharing how to make lumpia, Filipino Spring Rolls. Executed “Test Your Knowledge Quiz on AANHPI Heritage” for Rave points.
- June – Pride Month, Expert presentation on LGBTQ+ terms and creating a safe workplace. Held in-person expert presentation from Patricia Bursnall, local medical practitioner specializing in serving LGBTQ+ community members.
- July – Discovering Diversity through Food (aka Potluck Month)
- August – International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
- September – Hispanic Heritage Month
- October – National Disability Employment Awareness Month
- November – Military Family Month
- December – Diversity of Winter Holidays and Celebrations
Q: This calendar looks much like one DirectEmployers has on deck for our content planning efforts! For an organization that is just starting ERGs, what suggestions or advice can you offer?
We’re still growing our program and have so much to learn. If anything, we’d recommend establishing guiding principles, policies, and procedures for governance. Then make sure you get executive leadership support both in action and funding.
Q: I love the effort you’ve put behind DELTA, and the mission and vision Colorado Springs Utilities has for the ERG. How do you encourage employees and/or new hires to join ERGs?
We are actually having this very discussion right now! We will be looking at how we can introduce DELTA to all new hires and create pathways for engagement from day one.
Q: What success stories can you share as a result of having ERGs?
I think one of our greatest success stories is the creation of a dedicated space for the DELTA Resource Room. This is a physical space in our office that contains printed materials and media for employee use.
Q: With it being National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), share with us some ways that Colorado Springs Utilities supports the advancement and employment of individuals with disabilities.
As for supporting individuals with disabilities (IWD), we coordinate an annual event in the community, but this isn’t done by our DELTA team. While DELTA is working on more internally focused efforts, Cali has worked with other local organizations to promote awareness and job opportunities for the IWD community in the region. This year, the event is being marketed as the “Pathways to Progress Seminar”. This free one-day event will help employers advance disability hiring and inclusion in their workplace to ensure that all individuals have equal opportunities in employment. Our hope for this event is to provide perspective and leave attendees better prepared to effectively recognize, engage, and value the contributions of workers with disabilities. Topics at the seminar include Mental Health in the Modern Workplace, Skilled-Based Hiring Practices, Opportunities and Resources for Hiring Veterans, ADA Blind Spots, and How to Start Your Hiring Chain.
As long-time Members of DirectEmployers, we are proud of the work our friends at Colorado Springs Utilities are doing for their community and employees. Keeping an ERG going is no simple feat. Colorado Springs is creating an inclusive, future-focused community thanks to dedication, participation, and support from all levels. Thanks to Jonathan L. and Cali S. for providing a peek into DELTA, its mission, and the continual push for improvements to create a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Have additional questions? I encourage you to connect with the Colorado Springs Utilities team in DE Connect or start a discussion post to gather insights and crowdsource information from your fellow Members!
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