Extending the Value of Your Community

Episode Thumbnail
This is a podcast episode titled, Extending the Value of Your Community. The summary for this episode is: <p><span style="background-color: transparent; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">More than ever, members are looking for ways to connect beyond what they find in your community. Allison Able &amp; Shannon Emery will discuss what it takes to make employee resource groups or affinity groups happen by sharing keys to success and lessons learned.</span></p>
Resource Groups
00:28 MIN
Sense of Safety
00:14 MIN
00:21 MIN
00:42 MIN
00:31 MIN
Building Safe Community
00:30 MIN
Given Me a Voice
00:37 MIN

Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to the member engagement show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members and deepen member involvement.

Heather McNair: Throughout our show we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.

Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni and we're happy you're here. I'm very excited because this is a podcast episode that I've been looking forward to because we are joined by two of our awesome co- workers who are amazing community managers and leading the charge in an area that I know a lot of different folks want to learn more about, which is employee resource groups.

Heather McNair: Yeah. Absolutely. I am super excited about this topic and to be joined by Allison and Shannon. I'm not supposed to play favorites, but they are two of my favorite co- workers and they have done some really amazing work and led a charge in kind of a tough topic, and so I'm excited about what they're going to be talking about today. They're going to share how they launched these employee resource groups and some of the lessons they learned along the way, what they do differently, the successes they had.

Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. Let's jump right into it. Today we have Shannon Emery and Allison Able. Shannon and Allison, welcome.

Allison Able: Hi everyone. I'm Allison Abel. I am a team lead in the strategic services department here at Higher Logic. I've been with Higher Logic for a few years. Worked with big, small customers, corporate, nonprofit, association kind of have experienced across the board and building communities and community engagement and success. I'm really excited to be here today to talk about a personal passion that I have in the community area around our employee resource groups.

Shannon Emery: Yeah. Oh, hey everybody. My name is Shannon Emery and I am both the internal community manager for Higher Logic. So I'm our internal staffs community manager, but also our external community manager for Higher Logic User Group or HUG. And part of what I do is helping our employees come together. And so the employee resource groups has played a big role, both in my professional development and also me really wanting to connect all of our employees together. So it's been a lot of fun. I've been with Higher Logic for two years now and have been doing community work for almost the past eight. So I'm going to talk about that later. But I love what I do. I started in corporate community, but working at Higher Logic has let me expand my community learnings. So I'm excited to talk about the employee resource groups today.

Alex Mastrianni: Can we start with a very basic question. Some folks haven't heard the term employee resource group before. Allison, can you define it for our listeners?

Allison Able: Yeah, that's a great question. So this is actually a lesson learned, so we already have some advice that we can dole out here. When we first started this initiative we honestly didn't know what the right term was and transparently what we were calling our groups were special interest groups. And if you ask Shannon or I, we actually don't even know where that term came from, where it was coined or how it started. But we hadn't really taken the opportunity to really dive into what the right terminology or definition was going to be for our group. So we recently over the last few months, took a pause and really dived in and had the opportunity to meet with some other organizations that are doing employee resource groups really well and one thing that we learned through those interviews and discussions and collaboration was that it was really important that we really defined our groups in a way that would demonstrate the buy- in of the organization and the level of commitment. And these are in fact resource groups. These are groups that employees identify with. They are identity groups. Identity is not a hobby. And so we wanted to make sure that the level of engagement was accurately reflected. So employee resource groups are groups that are identity groups that employees can join that they identify with and they also are needle movers. So that was another thing that was really important for us. We wanted to make sure that we had a seat at the table at the executive level and could move the needle on different things, initiatives, policies, et cetera, Higher Logic. Shannon, do you have anything to add to that?

Shannon Emery: I mean, I always think of them in a community lens because that's who we are here. And it's a way for our employees to come together in ways that connect for them and to build that sense of community because we work a lot, right? So you want to have ways to connect with each other besides the every day. And so these identity groups allow us to do that and really, truly create a lasting connection between our employees and also the organization itself as we continue to scale them and do some really cool things. So, yeah.

Heather McNair: I think we have three or four of them here at Higher Logic. What are the three employee resource groups that you both manager lead the charge with?

Shannon Emery: So we do have three here at Higher Logic currently. The first and the founding group was our Women in Technology group and we called them WiT for short, followed by PRIDE which is... And they'll be mad at me if I don't say the whole entire acronym, it's a pain to type, but it means a lot. It's People Respecting Individual Diversity Everywhere with a focus on the LGBTQIA community. And then recently we launched our minorities in technology group for our employees of color and all of their supporters to joined along the way as well. So yeah, we've got another one coming up, but we won't spoil that surprise just yet as they're working on it now, yeah.

Heather McNair: So Allison, you really led the charge with our first employee resource group, which was the women in tech group. So kind of tell us how you got that started, why it was important to you, what that process looked like?

Allison Able: It really started with a simple conversation between employees. So when I had joined Higher Logic, I was really excited to have the opportunity to start to network with other organizations in the technology sector. I am a natural community builder in the sense that I've built networking groups in the past and networking and collaboration is something I love. And when I came to Higher Logic and talking with other employees, I started to identify a need that there are a lot of people interested in this concept of meeting other women in tech and talking about our experiences and being actively involved in that area. So through that conversation... I'm a doer by nature, so once I start to identify that need, I'm ready to create an action plan and get some things moving. And so I actually through that simple conversation with a colleague reached out to HR and just ask the simple question, " Hey, do you think this is even something viable that we could do? I'm not exactly sure what it looks like yet, but what I'm envisioning is a bunch of different groups that employees can join and have as a resource?" HR got really excited about it. Little did I know they were also thinking very similarly. Employee resource groups in my opinion, it's really exciting to see them grow across a bunch of different companies and start to become the norm. So as soon as I got that sign off of course I was tasked with, " We're excited, but we want to know what you think it should look like." So in true community manager form, I need to validate my need. So I got the permission to survey our employees. So I sent out a simple survey to see first of all, is there interest? And then secondly, what kinds of topics and things would we want to talk about? Both at a very hard- hitting level and at a very day to day level, if that makes sense, kind of see where the interest lied and if we could really have some of those impactful conversations and people would engage at that level. I was pleasantly surprised. We had a huge response, a lot of excitement. And so once I had that excitement, I was able to identify a few what we'd probably term in the community world, beta testers for my committee. So I was to identify a few individuals who really raised their hand and said, " How can we help?" And together we created a community plan, a community strategic plan that we brought to the executive team to our CEO and through that got approval to kick this off. One thing that was really important to me that I built into this plan was women in tech was not going to be the only group. That's something that I wanted to really emphasize that we wanted to pave the way for additional groups, because we know we can't serve every need. And that there's interest in other areas that we also identified through that survey. So it was really important for me to be able to set that foundation through that initial experience.

Heather McNair: Oh, no. I think that's really an important point going into this planning is that it... I guess, I think some internal groups people had the notion that it was a one- off, that women in tech group would be a one off. So I think that was a critical step in your plan to say, " This isn't. Let's build an infrastructure that can be built upon for other groups." Kind of a tangential question to this, the women in tech group feels like it largely targeted at women. And that's where you saw a lot of the traction and a lot of the discussion, but really over the last six months or so, we've seen a lot of men participating in it too and really being part of the discussion about, how can we support the women in our organization and get more women involved in technology and make sure they're being recruited and that we're doing the right things to support women in our company? How do you think that has... It's been part of the company? I've really appreciated that kind of support. How do you think that that has evolved? How do you think that's happened?

Allison Able: I think one thing that we did right off the start and I'm going to use we because this was very much a team effort and especially as Shannon came on board it's been incredibly valuable to have the team because to that point we encounter a lot of difficult conversations in the work we do. And one of those conversations that we had was, " Do we keep it exclusively women? Are women the only individuals allowed to be in the community?" And we did a lot of thinking around that and where we landed was, it was important to create a sense of safety in our community as within any community. So the community is definitely built with women in mind, but to your point, Heather, it's really important that the collaboration on all levels is there because we do need to build partners and allyship. And so that's been a huge thing we've been focused on too is how do we build productive allyship? I mean the right allyship, because allyship can be very tricky as well. And we've been able to see some of the fruits of our labor recently in some of the conversations we had, but I think what really set the stage for that and what opened up that dialogue and conversation was we were able to build that sense of safety from the start. So hit on some of those conversations that were very much women focused and invited women to share their experiences and have their voices amplified and then provide specific opportunities to incorporate our male counterparts or other identifying genders into the conversation as well.

Shannon Emery: Oh, same thing for PRIDE. So I'll keep rolling with that. So PRIDE came about because of the efforts and things that we saw with the women in technology group. Our employees came to us... Actually, I remember the specific day, I remember the team's message because then that's what kicks off this journey. They said, " I love what they're doing in Women in Technology, but what about the LGBTQIA community?" It too can be... It's a pause because at the time I grew up in a different world in technology. So even though I identify as LGBTQIA community, it was never really a forefront to my personality as a professional. So actually it was fun because I got to lean into that and really bond with other teammates and really share their challenges. So I said, " Okay, well, if we're going to do this, we're going to do it and hold it to the same level that Women in Technology have done." So I got it together a committee of folks who raised their hands to help. We actually did all of the pre- planning. We knew we had the support, but I even made them show up in their professional wear that day to showcase the plan to Kevin Boyce, who's our CEO. So actually that they were all required to look like grownups that day, because some of these employee resource groups at other organizations, aren't always... You don't have a welcome arm sometimes. You have to fight for the fight. So I was like, " We're preparing to fight for a fight if that's what it comes down to." And so we sat down, everybody was all nervous and ready to share our plans. I was lucky to work with two extremely amazing community builders, as well as just some committee members who had the energy and the drive to do this. And it was a moment we were getting ready, got the PowerPoint going, and then Kevin said, " This is simply the right thing to do. What can we do to make this happen?" You could actually feel the relief in the room. And that's something I'll say about all of these employee resource groups as they come forward. Higher Logic made it so we do feel supported and that it is the right thing to do. So, yeah, simply because we had the amazing WiT group go before us, we saw the door open to be able to open it up to PRIDE and say, " How do we change policies? How do we drive inclusion?" And as a personal bonus benefit, I got to showcase a different side of me for my colleagues. I didn't have to hide, I didn't have to put it away. It could be me. And that was the most powerful thing I learned during PRIDE is that we were allowing people to be themselves. And that is a huge message for me as we move forward, if I can bring me to work, then I'm going to be a better employee for my company. And then I also get to work with really awesome people. So yeah, I got a little choked up because PRIDE is one of my favorite professional things I've done. So give me a moment. But yeah, we based everything off of what Women in Technology did, we built that basis and then we kind of expanded. But a lesson to learned there was, is this year we needed to trim some of that back to make it easier to participate, to get involved. Community builders are extremely, when we focus, we focus. So we got really into the community part, but now Allison and I have learned you open it up a little bit. You kind of change things to what your group needs and to really get more people involved. So it's been a lot of fun so far.

Heather McNair: I love hearing the backstories of how these came to be, because I think it's just really cool and heartwarming and impactful to hear how these different... Well, like you said, their identities, they're not interests, things that are really important to us as individuals and as humans can be discussed and brought to the forefront and brought into the workplace where we spend so much time and the more of that, we feel like we can be ourselves at work, the better jobs that we can do and the more we feel like we're contributing. I'm probably jumping ahead here, but one thing that you both mentioned that I just want to touch on is that something that helped bring these off the ground and make them more impactful, I guess, that the organization is the internal buy- in and the planning that you went through whether it was, bringing it to the executive team or HR to get their input and partnership and moving forward. So I think that's probably a quick lesson learned that I just want to point out while it's top of mind that I think that's really made a big impact in making them successful.

Allison Able: And also just tack onto that real quick because I do think it's really important to emphasize something that's why we've been successful and I will want to iterate. It's been lessons learned. It is a process and you do fall flat on your face sometime. That's been one of the things I've loved about this experience. I've gained some invaluable life lessons. The biggest thing that we've also found to be successful is the partnership aspect and I cannot underemphasize the partnership piece. We actually have built in essentially a committee structure where we have committees for each of our groups, and then we have a leadership committee that specifically meets with Kevin, our CEO and the person charge of Higher Logic who will be newly joining Higher Logic. And in that we, as leaders of the ERG are bringing forth, not only the plans we have for the year, so we can make sure to collaborate on those things. So we're never competing with each other for space. That we're amplifying each other's voices. But also so that we can have a seat at that table. Like I mentioned at the top. We've built that in and we have that opportunity to raise concerns or opportunities with Kevin and partner with him to see resolution in those areas too. So I think the key thing for the buy- in was building that partnership along the way and making sure that all voices were heard and actively participating in discussions too at all levels.

Heather McNair: Can we dive into that just a little bit further too Allison. And to Allison's point, I think we've been very fortunate that we got buy- in from HR and from our CEO. Let's just be realistic that not every organization is going to have that. Within associations, they're not only going to have to have that buy- in, they're also going to have to have buy- in from their board of directors to do things like this as well. What advice would you guys have, even just pitching an idea like this when you're bringing this idea to the table and maybe you don't get that level of buy- in or how would you pitch it to ensure that you do make the case strongly from the very beginning?

Shannon Emery: Yeah, like I said, we went in with our armor ready, right? I always talk about that. I made them dress up, I made them... We had the plans ready. We sat down and actually what we did is... Because people came to us to me, right? So I was like, " All right. Come to me, let's all get together and do this together." You lay the groundwork before you even set the board meeting or set the time to go present this. And you say... It's your beta users, right? The people who were really excited about this. Have them come together with you because the more people that any organization sees come together with the same concern, you can have more buy- in that way. I am not representing just myself, I'm representing a whole section of your association, or your space, or your community. And for us it was, " I have represented a section of your employees, but I also have four of them behind me who want this to happen." And then you have to adjust what you're going to present to your audience, right? So in this case, what we did is we created missions instead of values to go along with PRIDE. We went through and kind of did an exercise I like to do for any of these types of things that I do, but we centered everything around that. Then we went in with planning ideas ahead of time. Like we said, we aligned with themes that women in tech had put into place because they were amazing theme, so I wasn't about to go off on my own there. We kind of aligned there and said, " This is what our planning looks like for the next couple of quarters." And the most important part too is to make these kinds of move forward is to have budget in place. So we sat down and actually thought through what kind of budget do we need in our first year? And we were going to ask for that money, we were going to say, " In order for this to be something successful moving forward, instead of just a nice networking group somewhere, we need this kind of investment from Higher Logic and can this be done?" So we actually sat down and went through a whole entire budgeting process and shockingly, as much as it sounds dry, money speaks, right? But then we also said, " This is how Higher Logic is going to benefit from this investment." And that's the ROI, right? Everybody talks about it and no matter what industry you're in, it's the ROI. So we sat down and we said, " Hey Kevin, this is what we expect to do." Yeah. And we said, " Hey, Kevin, this is what you should be getting back or Higher Logic should be getting back and how you're going to improve the employee experience." Because when you see that stuff out, especially on our social channels, that's a good driver for bringing people in and that was our use case. But what does that mean for your organization? Retaining members, recruiting the younger generation. I hear about that a lot. The new people coming in, how do we retain them? Employee resource groups, or these types of groups is a good way to do that. They're connecting with each other on a whole different level. And Hey, if I found these in association spaces, I'd be happy to go join. And they'd probably be a good way to keep people joined. We actually talked to a customer and I'm blanking on her name right now. But she said, " Yeah. People come in and they connect in these..." They call them affinity groups at their organization and they've done networking and they've gotten jobs this way. They mentors and people are in these groups for five plus years. That's what keeps them there. These types of identity based groups and all of the cool benefits of the association as well. But she said, " Yeah. When we dig into it, they were like, 'Yeah. We love this. We're connecting with people like us.' And so it makes a difference." So I said, " Yeah. Get your armor read. Go out there and get everything as much as you can done." Because when you're prepared, you have all the answers or as many as you can, I never have all the answers, but you're a lot more prepared that way.

Heather McNair: Yeah. I think that's a great point and a membership organization beyond an employee resource group. A member group, it drives that loyalty. It goes back to what you guys were saying about the safe space, if members feel like they have that safe space, then it does result in that loyalty and yeah mentorship and that type of thing. Yeah.

Alex Mastrianni: These are the types of groups that make people feel a connection, right? It's more beyond just, " Oh, I can learn something new or I can professionally develop in some way, shape or form." But it's creating those really long lasting connections or connecting on a deeper level that makes people feel differently, or have that affinity towards an organization, or a group, or their association. So let's talk a little bit about once you have these up and running, how do you keep the momentum going? How do you keep the excitement up and people coming back? Allison, why don't you take this one?

Allison Able: Yeah. This is something that any community manager, I think it's just always top of mind, right? That concept of engagement, however you define engagement. It's really important, right? You can't have a community thrive if nobody's in there and nobody's talking. So something that's been important to us and I know I touched a little bit on this and Shannon did as well, is this concept of a committee. This concept of offering leadership opportunities through this committee. That was another big thing that we are focused on as ERGs is, how can we provide professional development opportunities for employees? And this is one of these opportunities at a leadership level. So we each have a committee. And as Shannon also mentioned, we've simplified that committee over time. We kind of took what I call the high school student council approach. I'm a former teacher, so I lean a lot into teaching experiences. But at a student council level, you have your treasurer, you have your president, you have all these roles. And we had those roles defined and what we learned over time is these are volunteer opportunities and people need to be able to easily participate. So at our committees, we have a chair and a vice chair, and they're very much responsible for the logistics of the committee. Think, agenda, think making sure things are getting done, and then you have your committee members and committee members for WiT and this might vary a little bit different, group to group. They are signing up for quarterly initiatives. So as a group, we define an initiative each quarter that we're going to focus on and I think event style, like webinar, panel, kind of that concept or a topic that we'll do like a week long awareness campaign around and each committee member will sign up for that quarterly initiative and they're very much tasked with those plannings, but another key component here that I mentioned at the start is the community. So we have dedicated community spaces where all of our members join and we have conversation. And one thing that I've found that's been really helpful in keeping alive and engagement high is fostering and nurturing those conversations. I mentioned earlier creating that sense of safety so that we can have some of those hard hitting topics, as well as some fun because Shannon will say this all the time. She'll remind me, because I'm a little bit more analytical, " Don't forget the fun." And we'll have some fun in there as well. But our committee members are dedicated to starting those conversations and in true community fashion, because we've started those conversations, we've been able to model what types of things we may want to talk about in the committee or in the community and as a result, we've had a lot of organic activity. And I will say again, it's a process. It's not something that happened overnight. These things can be hard. They can be tough because you're going to show a vulnerable side of yourself at work which is not always comfortable for everyone. And so we've really wanted to cater to people's comfort levels while also though, of course moving the needle. So I've been really fortunate through that committee experience to be able to foster that nurture over time. I'd say the committee piece has been the key to our success that way. Shannon, I'm not sure if you agree.

Shannon Emery: Oh, absolutely. I can't do what we do for PRIDE without my committee. So we're kicking off a fairly intensive project. We're calling it the Pronouns Project. And so it's helped across our different platforms. Right now we're super excited. We actually got the ticketed yesterday. So we're actually going to work with our IT team to showcase Pronouns in different areas of our tech stack here at Higher Logic to really foster inclusion because we do have some non- binary identifying folks here at Higher Logic and we want to make sure that they feel included and it becomes a part of an education piece. The committees do bring a completely different viewpoint than myself. They bring different experiences to the table and we work together and that's where the leaders get to shine is because you're actually leading a group of passionate people which has also instilled in me a patient I never thought I'd have because by nature me and Allison that are doers, we're like, " We're going to go do this." They're like, " Hold up. But this is a much better idea." And so you learn to listen to them and what they bring to the table is... Yeah, like I said, their experiences, they make me stop and think, " Is that something that we need to do right now? Or is that something I feel comfortable doing because of my sense of privilege versus theirs?" And it brings a whole different viewpoint. But yeah, it also is a lot of fun. We have fun. I tell people, "You got to have some fun with us." And so we've done cool things like buttons and badges. And our welcome thread in the PRIDE group was probably one of my favorite community threads. It's bringing those perspectives and views that we wouldn't necessarily have as leaders by ourselves. And our global group is growing now and I'm learning even more as people are joining that altogether council. Different once again, perspectives, viewpoints, and occasionally a lot of fun conversations. We do have a little chat on this end. But yeah, no, the communities are crucial to this. Nobody can do this by themselves. So we might as well do it together.

Heather McNair: One of the big things that I've always preached in community management is to model the behavior that you want to see in your community, because that does lead to that sense of safety, if people see themselves in the community activity, that's already going on, it makes them more apt to participate. And so I think that's where these committees really come into play. If you have different viewpoints going on out there, different people posting that diversity happening, other people are more likely to see themselves out there and they feel... We keep talking about that sense of safety, building that sense of safety. And yeah, if they see themselves, who see someone that looks like them out there, see activity that they can relate to out there, they're more likely to jump in there and start participating and realize, " Okay, this is an okay place." If someone is posting about something that may feel controversial and the organization is okay with that, like this person didn't get... I know one of the concerns going into this project was, is there going to be any retribution in the company for posting some of these things? And we really had to push to make sure that people knew this is a safe place, there isn't going to be retribution for that. And part of that is modeling that behavior to show it's okay, you can post these things.

Allison Able: Just really quickly want to emphasize two things there. I think with any community, you have to build internal advocates over time. I think we oftentimes brand those things as like champions or ambassadors, but they can take different forms and I think this is a good example of kind of looking outside the box of that ambassador concept. I've heard this starting to formulate in different committees and as Shannon mentioned, building those internal advocates, because they really can jump in especially on those roles because every community will have an activity role at some point, and so it's great to have those built in people to jump in. And then just to emphasize, again, the partnership piece again, with the learning of the partnership was when to respond to things within the community and when not to respond to things in the community. And so through our partnership with HR, we actually built out somewhat of an escalation plan. So if somebody did state something in the community, we had an agreement that Shannon, myself, the leaders of the ERG could take a minute to take that in before HR would respond and that's also really helped because that's allowed everybody to kind of pause and think before responding to certain things that may either need to be escalated or not escalated or a little bit hard hitting if that makes sense. And so building that partnership and giving that space and providing the opportunity for collaboration has also been helpful in building that community sense of safety. I just wanted to emphasize because that's also a really important piece as you're building these things out is to build out that escalation plan, anticipate that there's going to be some tricky, difficult conversations and have a plan in place to address those things and that your committee is aware and that your members are also aware of how that will work too.

Heather McNair: Yeah, that's fantastic. Thanks for bringing that up, Allison. Yeah.

Shannon Emery: Luckily we haven't had too many of those moments, but the interesting is because of all of that work that's been done beforehand, when they have come up, it's not done by gut reaction or a knee jerk reaction, as I like to call it in community. The leaders are often aware of what's happening in their own spaces. They bring it to the council, they make sure HR is involved if needed. And we've actually seen some policy changes because of it. Instead of saying, " No." Right off the bat or, " Oh, this is a problem." We all took a step back. It's like a moment of like, " You got to take a step." I always tell people, " Take a step back in community." Because your knee jerk reaction is not always going to be the instinct that you want to go with. And we've been pleasantly surprised, but it has also created that sense of belonging and safety. And so some of my pride committee members have come to me and said, " Because of this work, because of the community, I voice my opinions more in meetings, or I stand up for myself. And one instance, I stand up for other people." And that is a powerful thing to hear when you empower your employees with a sense of belonging and that they're not the only ones here who are them, or look like them, or is part of their community. That's the stories that I sit back and go, " Okay, everything else was worth that if we keep going in the right direction." And so that's what we're going to build on because that's how you find your future leaders too. And thus, the ERG is partly designed for that. Yeah.

Alex Mastrianni: Shannon, you're giving me goosebumps over here.

Shannon Emery: I know I was going to say, " That's the stuff that chokes me up." Yeah. That, that-

Alex Mastrianni: That's incredible.

Shannon Emery: I know, right? I mean, we do talk a lot about the hard parts of this, but there are moments and Allison can attest to this where like, in the WiT community... I mean, Allison was on PTO that week, but it was hilarious, a male identifying individual said, " I want to help make things better." He started a post and people started chiming in. So those are the moments that we look forward to and know that everything else that we deal with is worth it. Or the first time I pulled a report and saw PRIDE listed in the OCS community list, I had a moment, but that was the day too we gave out stickers and everybody's like, " Where do I put my sticker?" They were proud to be part of that. And one of my committee members said, " I've always wanted to do this. I just never worked at a company that let me do this." That's one of those moments where you can't cry on them, but you want to, but you're like, " No, good. Let's keep going." But no, those are the moments.

Alex Mastrianni: Well, and I think when you guys mentioned policies have changed because of conversations that have happened in the community. And I think that's when you've really feel the power of community and that's why you guys have done what you've done. And that's incredible. You've given people a voice that maybe didn't have a voice before. I mean, that's power. That's incredible.

Shannon Emery: I like to give people... I want people to be heard. I work with a lot of extraordinary people. Their voices should be heard. And how do we do that? And I do that for my other community members too, it's not just Higher Logic, but how do you make sure that they're heard? Because if you give that to them, they go and do the amazing things, right? If you stop those voices, they don't do the amazing things and nobody wants that. I've been fortunate enough to have people to give me my place to have a voice. And that's when I get to go do the amazing things. Sometimes I've just pushed things out of the way, but it's a whole different... That's a Shannon thing, but at the same time, it's given me an Allison a voice, I've seen Allison stand up for herself in different ways and I've learned that from Allison too. I have know how to stand up for myself, but we also stand up for other people. And I think that's the coolest thing I've learned so far that Allison, she's pretty tenacious. So it is helpful to have that on the other side, I'm not going to lie, but yeah.

Alex Mastrianni: So I feel like I have learned so much about what has gone into the makings of these incredible employee resource groups that we have here that you two have and all the work that you've put in. It's really amazing. If we have listeners that are wondering, how do I want to do this? What's one thing that you would each tell them, a piece of advice that you would give to folks who are looking to bring something like this to their organization? Allison, why don't you start?

Allison Able: I actually have two, so I'm going to cheat, but I'm going to do a little self promotion here. The resources and things we're talking about are actually available in our hub community as well. So we do have a presentation we gave at super forum. So if you're looking for some resources, there are some out there and we can always get those more broadly shared. The one piece of advice that I would give, and I know we've touched upon this a few different times in a few different ways is, have a plan, spend some time thinking, map out what you want this journey to be. That's one thing that I think Shannon and I have kind of been unwavering on is we had a vision and we've really been working towards that vision. Has it been perfect? No. we often times utilize the analogy of climbing a mountain and sometimes your climbing... I'm not an expert climber. This is what I envisioned climbing a mountain is, you're climbing a mountain, may you hit a little roadblock and you have to pause, right? And think about a different path you're going to take to get to the top of the mountain and we've had those moments, but we've always had our vision and goal in mind or what we want our end result to be. And I think that's been really helpful to keep us moving forward.

Alex Mastrianni: Shannon?

Shannon Emery: Absolutely. This is the favorite thing I say about community all the time and this is applying here as well is, this is a long- term game. This isn't a short- term do the thing, win and yeah, it's there. Because it can become performative in ways if you go too fast at these things, it can appear performative. It can feel performative. And when you are leading these kinds of initiatives, you want to create change and change doesn't happen overnight. I wish it did, but it doesn't. So I always say, " Prepare for the long haul." This isn't a one and done one quarter done, " Oh, this is great. We set those up." It is a dedicated moment in your life or your professional moment where you're like, "All right, this is the long haul." Even though sometimes you're like, " I need to step away from this." Part of you is still dedicated to that because it needs to happen. And when you step up and want to make people's voices heard, it's not a sprint or... I'm not really good. I know we picked the mountain analogy, but I don't know if there's like a short mountain climb. It's not a gentle hike. I'd say more of like, I'm actually climbing a mountain. Yeah. It's not a foot hill, It's an actual mountain. Right? So yeah, prepare for that and prepare for the moments that aren't all that great. You're going to encounter challenges, but you're going to learn so much along the way that you'd be surprised when you look back. You're like, " Okay, there was a reason all of that happened." I've had the pleasure of being able to do that with Allison a couple of times, we're like, " Okay, all right. That's why." And then we keep going. Yeah. Just prepare yourself for the long haul. Get ready. It's a lot of fun though. I always tell people, it's a lot of fun.

Heather McNair: Well, I think you guys already can look back with a lot of pride, pun intended at everything that you've accomplished. So thank you guys so much. This was so inspiring and even working closely with you, I haven't realized everything that you've accomplished over the last couple of years. So thank you for sharing this story. This was fantastic.

Alex Mastrianni: Yes, thank you both so much.

Shannon Emery: Oh, you're very welcome. And like Allison said, come find us on the HUG, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, or wherever. We love to talk about this stuff and I will always be super lucky to have worked with somebody like Allison to keep us going, to keep us focused and then just learn from over the past couple of years. So come ask us questions or find us, we are always happy to chat about it.

Allison Able: Yeah. I would just want to reiterate what Shannon said and I agree, it's been to have a partner in Shannon and we really want to share our experiences, a thing in communities is, steal, steal, steal. We don't need to necessarily reinvent the wheel, learn from our lessons and we're more than willing to share them. So come find us, which kind of sounds creepy. But we're out there.

Heather McNair: So, yeah. Do you guys want to share Twitter handles, LinkedIn really quick? Where can they find you guys?

Shannon Emery: So I'm pretty sure I'm one of the few Shannon Emery on LinkedIn, so you can find me there under that. And then my handle for Twitter is llamasayswhat. So llamasayswhat, yeah. I'm not getting rid of that branding you guys. So you can find me out there. I talk about community a lot on Twitter. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn also.

Allison Able: I'm a little bit of a granny so I'm working on my Twitter presence. I fell into the Instagram trap. So I'm circling back into the Twitter world, but I am very active on LinkedIn and would love to connect with anybody willing to connect and I'm Allison Able and working at Higher Logic. So you should be able to find me that way.

Alex Mastrianni: All right. Well, this has been an awesome discussion. Thank you so much, ladies. And that will do it for this week's episode. We'll see you next week on the member engagement show.


More than ever, members are looking for ways to connect beyond what they find in your community. Allison Able & Shannon Emery will discuss what it takes to make employee resource groups or affinity groups happen by sharing keys to success and lessons learned.

Today's Host

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Beth Arritt

|Association Evangelist

Today's Guests

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Shannon Emery

|Community Manager
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Allison Able

|Team Lead - Community Strategy and Opersations