Building a Better Place to Work
Good employers want people to bring their full selves to their roles and feel that their careers go beyond the basic elements of working in exchange for a paycheck. Commerce Bank believes in this philosophy, and understands that people will get more satisfaction and fulfillment from their careers when they feel a true sense of belonging and community at work.
Commerce’s employee resource groups, or ERGs, bring this approach to life. They’re designed to help team members build important personal connections, feel welcome, and develop their careers in ways that might not otherwise be possible. There are currently four ERGs at Commerce: RISE, for women; EMERGE, for young professionals; VIBE, for multicultural employees; and PRIDE, for LGBTQ+ employees.
Beth Feuring, senior vice president and director of talent development at Commerce Bank, believes in the necessity of these groups. “They allow people to meet others within the company who share their experience,” she says. “There’s power in that. The ERGs are an extension of our welcoming and inclusive culture.”
While each employee resource group is unique, they all have a common goal of providing members with development opportunities like networking events and educational programs. These activities not only help individuals with their careers, but also help build personal bonds across the company.
“Through the ERGs, our team members are establishing relationships with people they may have never met over the course of their day-to-day work,” Feuring says. “We’re creating opportunities for people to interact and learn about each other as well as about other parts of the company. This helps them gain a larger perspective on the organization as a whole.”
She also notes that these groups offer unique development opportunities. “If you want to build your leadership skills, you can raise your hand to lead an ERG,” she notes. “For some, it helps them learn to establish and manage a corporate-wide budget, or hone their ability to build a team and establish consensus. It could also be a cool opportunity for them to set a vision that they help bring to life across the company. It can be both personally and professionally rewarding to take an active leadership role within our ERGs.”
Jon Butler, a marketing strategist for Commerce who will be co-chairing the EMERGE group in 2020, agrees that the ERGs represent a great opportunity, especially for younger employees. “When you’re only a year or two out of college, it can be hard to show evidence of your people skills and leadership abilities,” he says. “In the ERGs, you can work on and lead projects. You can gain knowledge, skills and experiences that can really accelerate your career. The sub-committees are run by small but mighty groups of passionate people; as a member you can make a difference as part of one.”
Butler also notes that the groups provide team members the chance to interact with more senior leaders on an informal basis. “It can be difficult to get to know someone just through work-related interactions,” he says, “but when you’re able to talk to them outside the business of the day, it’s so much easier to build relationships with people who are more senior. You can ask questions, get advice, learn the lay of the land – it really helps.”
The ERGs foster a sense of camaraderie that carries over into the bank’s work, says Angela Weidenbener, a commercial banking relationship manager who helps lead the Kansas chapter of Commerce’s RISE group. “You meet people across lines of business, across markets, and you realize we all have a lot in common, and by combining resources and knowledge, you can make a better experience for everyone,” she says.
Weidenbener believes participation in Commerce’s ERGs has the potential to help people become more comfortable in their roles at the bank, and more effective. “I’ve seen people who really came out of their shells,” she says. “Others tell me they worked with someone for years, but it wasn’t until they got to know each other through the mentorship program in RISE that they were able to connect with others. The ERGs provide a safe, constructive avenue for building strong working and personal relationships.”
The best part of Commerce’s ERGs? Membership is open to everyone, and team members are welcome to join any of the groups. To do otherwise would run counter to the spirit of groups organized on principles of inclusiveness, and the philosophy runs deeper than that.
“The mission, goals and development content may be catered to a particular community, but team members who don’t identify with that community are equally invited and encouraged to engage and participate,” says Feuring. “Participating in an ERG builds awareness and insight into what your coworkers experience, and it helps create allies and advocates.”
“I’m proud to work for a company that supports its employees in this way and has such a strong internal culture,” Feuring adds. “Our team members have a voice and can come together as their authentic selves. Opportunities like our ERGs are part of what makes Commerce such a great place to work.”