The ABCs of ERGs

featured image

Before Royal Caribbean joined a panoply of other major businesses in planting the seeds for some very specialized groups among its employees, due diligence was in order.

“We reached out to the Coca-Colas of the world, AT&T, big companies that we knew had these programs in place already, to get best practices,” says Francisca Phillips, an RCL human resources senior analyst. Among others on the list were IBM, American and United airlines and more, including one unexpected organization commonly referred to as “The Company.”

“The CIA has been in the D & I journey for over 30 years,” Phillips says of the Central Intelligence Agency’s diversity and inclusion practices.

Royal Caribbean, already highly diverse with some 73,000 employees encompassing 126 nationalities, was looking to jump-start inclusion, to ensure a workplace where employees can be themselves, be appreciated for their differences and know they are woven their company’s colorful cultural tapestry.

After due diligence and more research, it settled on ERGs, or Employee Resource Groups, which were launched in November 2016 with a founding core of a half dozen:

  • ROAR – Royal Organization for Abilities Resources (Disabilities)
  • Anchored in Pride (LGBTQ+)
  • RCL NOW – Network of Women (Men welcome)
  • RCL S.E.R.V.E.D. – Saluting and Empowering RCL Veterans towards Enhanced Development
  • M.O.R.E. – Multicultural Organization of RCL Employees
  • YoPro – Young Professionals

These seed groups were chosen to show the way for other ERGs, which work best when they arise from employees themselves. It happened in February after Phillips and others visited RCL call centers in Kansas and Oregon.

“In Wichita they have Big Beautiful Humans, which is people that maybe are over 300 pounds,” Phillips explains. “And they also came up with another group called 50 and Fabulous.” Another RCL ERG, Solo Parents, is now operating in Manila.

While all activity is voluntary and relies on this grass roots approach, Phillips’ office creates guidelines.

“We like to use the term “glocal” – global initiatives with a local approach,” she continues. “So we say these are the groups that we think we should have, but we give the flexibility to locations to come up with something that is actually going to work for them.”

As of now, there are 10 ERGs with about 1,300 members. They hold monthly meetings and have new access to vice presidents and “leadership higher up in the food chain,” Phillips says. “So they have the VP come to their meetings and they have one-on-ones sometimes for personal development. It’s kind of informal mentorship.

“Their meetings are extremely rich in what you learn from different people of different backgrounds and the diversity of thought you get. It’s really nice.”

And it offers other benefits for the company. Outside businesses have already contacted RCL ERGs for their specific expertise, and internally groups collaborate to improve operations, such as the Casino Group working with YoPro to attract more moneyed Millennials to the slots and tables.

The prize is an increasingly engaged collection of highly diverse employees more securely woven into the RCL tapestry. The rest is gravy.