AT&T’s national Employee Resource Group (ERG) Conference is one of the company’s most highly anticipated events. When registration opened this year, it “sold out” in nine minutes, eclipsing last years’ time of 13 minutes. With more than 2,000 employees from around the globe attending the annual conference in Dallas, Texas, and more than another 2,000 participating remotely via the web, it was AT&T’s largest conference to date. Nearly 200 AT&T leaders also attended the conference and more than 110 participated in panels or led fireside chats with employees.
“This ERG conference was full of energy, impact, relevance and emotion all rolled into one,” said Janice King, assistant vice president, Workforce Diversity. Employee Resource Groups at AT&T represent different races, sexual orientations, genders, ages, physical & mental abilities, and veteran status – a full spectrum of diversity. Employees are free to join any ERG they choose and they fully engage in this opportunity. Collectively, AT&T’s ERGs have more than 135,000 members – an increase of 1,000 percent over the last five years.
Empowering messages from AT&T leaders
At the conference last year, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson challenged employees not to just tolerate one another’s differences, but seek to understand them.
“Transforming Together,” was this year’s conference theme. Chief Diversity Officer Corey Anthony challenged employees to transform together by getting away from echo chambers and binary thinking. “Echo chambers reinforce what we already believe,” said Anthony. “When you’re in an echo chamber, you have a tendency to drown out all other voices. Binary thinking is simply thinking that your perspective is right, so either you are with me or against me.” Anthony encouraged employees to break away from these self-limiting behaviors to become more collaborative and innovative teams.
Day of service hits home
Conference attendees participated in a day of service on day two, pitching in on a KaBOOM! town event. KaBoom! is a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of children in impoverished areas. More than 475 employees and family members gathered to build a playground for the Park South YMCA in South Dallas.
“Our employees are passionate about volunteering to help our communities,” said Tina Morefield, director, Citizenship & Sustainability. “It was great to see employees from all over the company come together for our day of service.”
For employee, David Williams, it was a surreal moment. “I grew up not far from the Park South YMCA,” said Williams, a project management director. “I played there and I learned how to swim at that YMCA. The volunteers who helped build the Park South playground have a special place in my heart.”
Williams, who is an active member in eight of the 12 AT&T ERGs, was presented with a Champion of Diversity Award for his service at this year’s conference.
Diversity & inclusion: A winning combination for AT&T
AT&T’s 2017 ERG Conference was truly a great event, reflecting the company’s success in creating an inclusive workplace for its employees and using its diversity as a strategic business advantage.
As John Donovan, CEO for AT&T Communications, said in his keynote, “It shows that you can take a really large body of people with radically different backgrounds, beliefs, sexual orientations, races. You name it. We are all different in very profound ways; demonstrating you can love each other, work with each other and yet compete and win in a way that’s married together.”