Our Employee Resource Groups: fostering connections in the community

Employees at an inclusive yoga class
From left to right: Abbey Berge-Clogston, Jen Orbeso and Brenda Schechter participate in the Embody+ Employee Resource Group's Inclusive Yoga session in celebration of Body Image Awareness Month in February.

The formation of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) at Dartmouth Health began as a way to cultivate belonging among employees. But through community partnerships and actions, ERGs are extending the reach of belonging into our communities.

What is an Employee Resource Group?

Employee Resource Groups are safe spaces where employees can connect based on shared values and experiences. “These groups foster a sense of belonging,” explains Terri Malcolm, MD, FACOG, Dartmouth Health vice president of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB). “They are designed to bring people together with intentional impact and to give voice to those who have otherwise been voiceless.” ERGs welcome anyone committed to learning and allyship (supporting and promoting diversity).

There are 7 Employee Resource Groups at Dartmouth Health: Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), Embody+, Emerging Leaders, Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), International and Military.

ERGs are open to all employees from every member organization. They meet regularly to talk or plan activities. Groups host guest speakers, trips and educational offerings and participate in community events.

1st Annual Community Impact Social Justice Awards

During Black History Month, we recognized black leaders who paved the way to create a world in which all people have the opportunity to thrive. In their honor, our BIPOC Employee Resource Group wanted to recognize today's social justice leaders in our communities. Three finalists were selected in the following categories: Dartmouth Health Employee Award, Youth Award and Community Member Award. Here are the winners of the 2023 awards.

Dartmouth Health Employee Award

Alisha Robinson, DEI Program Coordinator/HR Business Partner, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital.

Youth Award

Anthony Fosu, Dartmouth student (class of ’24).

Community Member Award

Kile Adumene, founder of Manchester Community Action Coalition.

Why are Employee Resource Groups important?

“To appreciate diversity, you must strengthen a culture of belonging. The diversity is here, and we’ve built a structure to express it,” says Greg Crowley, system director, Employee Community Partnerships. “Employees can express their culture and bring their unique gifts forward to share with others.”

Giving space for people to make meaningful connections makes people want to stay, work and play in their communities. It contributes to employee recruitment, satisfaction, fulfillment and retention. When employees feel they are being seen and heard, that satisfaction extends to our patients.

Employee Resource Groups promote education

“The workplace provides an opportunity to engage with diversity. You get a chance to be around people of different backgrounds. There’s a lot to learn by seeing the world from a different perspective,” says Malcolm.

In 2022, Dartmouth Health ERGs celebrated the first month-long celebrations of Black History Month, Body Positivity Awareness Month, AAPI Month, Pride Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.

BIPOC Employee Resource Group members

These celebrations featured ERG-sponsored activities, including a walk on the Back Heritage Trail in Portsmouth, Smithsonian art displays, body positivity story circles, cultural demonstrations of food and dance, educational talks on the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people in healthcare and a speaker panel sharing stories of migrant farm workers in the Upper Valley.

Employee Resource Groups take action

Shortly after the GSA formed, its members campaigned for pronoun fields on employee identification badges and gave out pins with QR codes linking to “safe zone” educational materials about why pronouns matter. These efforts led to an advisory role within Dartmouth Health as voices of the LGBTQ+ employee and patient experience. The GSA has played a vital role in advocating for health equity rights, working with the Dartmouth Health Government Relations office and providing testimonials supporting LGBTQ+ healthcare and policy throughout the region.

Representatives from ERGs participate in the Advancing Health Equity and Data Steering Committee, an initiative to respectfully address patient language, sexual orientation and gender identity data to improve patient care.

Employee Resource Groups take action when community is needed most. When troops were pulled from Afghanistan, the Military ERG held the first “safe-space conversation” for those affected. And recently, the BIPOC group held a safe-space event in response to the death of Tyre Nichols.

“One of the most important measures of success is connecting people who can be themselves and have authentic conversations that build relationships and trust,” says Crowley.

ERG event for Veterans Day

Employee Resource Groups frequently come together to support each other or collaborate on larger initiatives, like when the International ERG collaborated with the Military ERG to send unused medical equipment to Ukraine and raise funds for citizens and refugees.

The ERGs collectively worked on projects they call “Random Acts of Kindness,” where everyone comes together for one purpose. These activities included giving out treats to inpatient nursing units on Christmas Eve, surprising overnight staff with muffins and baked goods and handing out more than 5,000 friendship bracelets in honor of International Day of Friendship and 4,000 paper sunflowers on Humanitarian Day.

Employee Resource Groups create bridges to our communities

The reach of belonging extends beyond the doors of our facilities. Employee Resource Groups have established connections with community organizations through event participation and partnerships.

To support health equity in underrepresented populations, the BIPOC and International ERGs partnered with “Be a Match” at the Concord Multicultural Festival to encourage bone marrow donation. As a result of their efforts, 40 people registered as donors, one of whom was a match.

During Lebanon’s 2022 Pride Month activities, the GSA hosted a table and purchased headsets for any employee who wanted to attend a “Silent Disco” celebration. “We’re trying to do little things together that collectively make a big impact,” says Abbey Berge-Clogston, program coordinator, Office of DEIB. “When people attend our events, they feel like what we give them is valuable. It doesn’t have to be extravagant—just meaningful.”

When hosting events, ERGs use culturally-authentic and locally-sourced vendors to provide food, entertainment and other offerings. “Our activities are building bridges in the community,” explains Malcolm. “They are allowing small and minority-owned businesses to engage with Dartmouth Health.”

On Saturday, April 29, the BIPOC ERG held its first-ever Community Impact Social Justice Awards (see sidebar). These awards recognized social justice trailblazers committed to making a difference in the neighborhoods we serve.

Learn more about Dartmouth Health’s Employee Resource Groups.