Black Alliance ERG leaders reflect on first year
What is the mission and purpose of the Black Alliance ERG?
Nicole Terrel, Senior Capture Analyst, Black Alliance ERG President
Our purpose is to bridge the gap from exclusivity to inclusivity. That's why many of our initiatives are around meeting the needs of our members – Maximus employees who want career advancement or ways to move up in their current environment or situation. We operate according to Maximus's core values. The Black Alliance’s main focus this year is moving people forward with excellence.
Dwayne Brown, Project Manager in Workforce Services, Black Alliance ERG Vice President
We are always looking for ways to help our members. Some of the things we want to do is prepare people for advancement, create opportunities, and preparing people to take action. It's one thing to have opportunities, and it's another thing to have people ready to act on them.
Why is the Black Alliance ERG important for Maximus?
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are important because they foster a sense of belonging. Sometimes you can feel isolated when you are in your working environment. People come into the office or work at home and do their jobs. ERGs provide employees with an environment where they can open up. The Black Alliance allows employees who might feel marginalized to feel like they belong. ERGs allow people to see others who look like them and have similar backgrounds and experiences while also learning about diversity among the group. It is also a place where people can join as allies. ERGs allow us to come together on a range of topics, including shared experiences. The most important thing the ERG brings is a sense of belonging in a corporate environment.
ERGs can benefit everyone in the company. When people have a purpose and feel like they are a part of an inclusive environment, it brings out the best in everyone. Then, the company benefits and grows from that. The Black Alliance ERG is built upon a foundation that is inclusive of all well-meaning people of different hues, backgrounds, and thoughts. By weaving this tapestry of diversity, Maximus gets the best that everyone has to offer. And in turn, everyone gets the best that Maximus has to offer.
What initiatives are you most proud of so far?
There are two that stand out to me. The first one would be our Juneteenth event; that was our first event. We hosted a panel and had topics of discussion around Juneteenth and its history. It was really informative—I learned much more about Juneteenth. I live in Indiana, so it's not one of those things that was just widely talked about here because it happened in Texas. I enjoyed learning more about and hearing other people's experiences and what their communities do to recognize Juneteenth now that it's a nationally recognized holiday.
The other one, I would have to say, was our Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week. We had so much participation, and we had a lot of different areas of the company that came and helped us plan it—everyone from Human Resources, Corporate Communications, Black Alliance, and DE&I. We came together and made those things happen!
Those were great events. I'm most proud of our process. During our monthly ERG meeting, we have an open mic segment – an opportunity for people to speak and share. I'm very proud that those moments don't go by in silence. There's always somebody with things to say, add, contribute, and give us something to contemplate. That level of engagement says to me that this platform is needed and appreciated. It also shows me that it can really transform Maximus in terms of DE&I. People participate when they feel like they have a voice, and people listen. That is when the chain of change can begin to take place. We don't necessarily get to do those things in silence or when we're not listening.
What are the ERG goals for 2023 and beyond?
Our focus has been on career growth, advancement, and development. We are also figuring out different ways to tie our mission and goals into the corporate mission, vision, and goals. We're working with the Maximus Foundation and started a giving campaign in October of 2022.
Last year, we asked 422 members to give at least a dollar to the Maximus Foundation and called it our #BlackAllianceCares Giving Campaign. The idea is that we want to drive community engagement within the ERG, thus, tying things into our Black Alliance initiatives related to growth and excellence. We want our members to help us increase awareness of what Maximus and the Black Alliance are all about and what we stand for as a group. We are also looking forward to promoting more awareness on a global or international level because we are a global company.
We want to promote excellence within the company so that a sense of pride comes along with working at Maximus. One of our major initiatives is to partner with HR in a way where we can begin to work on streamlining hiring. As you know, hiring and retention are all the buzz everywhere. We need to create an atmosphere of opportunity. There are times where the best person comes from outside of the company. That's how companies grow. But there are times when the best person comes from the cubicle next to you. When you see a co-worker get that opportunity, it shows others that career growth is possible within the company. It gives people aspirations and shows them that Maximus is a place of advancement and development. We want to ensure that we insist on and promote Black excellence within the company and our members. It makes sense from a practical and tactical vantage point. The ERG has spearheaded the effort, but African Americans and Black Alliance members aren't the only employees who will benefit.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
I am excited about the ERG and the milestones at the company. The Black Alliance was one of the first ERGs to come to fruition in 2022. It's exciting to see the membership in each ERG growing. We all bring different things to the table that we can all learn from, which is very important. Even within our group where we may share certain commonalities, it’s the diversity of thought within the group that makes us thrive creatively.
My Maximus life began in 1997. Having been around a while, I think Maximus has always committed to DE&I, even before it had a formal name. However, the commitment was assumed. Now, the commitment is tangible. There has always been some conscientiousness of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. It has a voice—it has tools and resources.
I came in the door as a project manager. Having a tangible DE&I strategy makes it more attractive for job seekers and employees. Sometimes, entities can almost become appendages of a company or organization. We never want the Black Alliance to be that way. We want to be fully ingrained and involved in Maximus and the other ERGs. That's one of the things we try to make sure – that we don't let our diversity end up being siloed. We need to remain focused on the mission and vision of Maximus, and if we always keep that, then that diversity will never pull us apart. It'll always keep us together.