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Inclusion allows Commerce team members to feel welcomed and valued.

The words diversity, equity and inclusion are mentioned together so often that they are sometimes viewed as a single entity. Commerce Bank understands that, while the two concepts are related, it’s important to recognize the distinctions between them. Diversity is perhaps the easier of the two to clearly define; in the workplace, it refers to having team members from a wide variety of backgrounds who can each bring their unique perspectives to the company. Inclusion, on the other hand, is about ensuring that everyone feels truly welcome and can bring the best version of their full selves to work every day.

“Put more simply, if diversity unlocks the doors, inclusion welcomes, respects and values everyone who walks through them. ”

And at Commerce, inclusion is a key point of emphasis. That focus is evident in the wide variety of programs the bank has put in place to ensure team members feel fully welcomed and valued from their very first day. One such initiative is Commerce’s Ambassador Program, which connects new team members with current ones to help them through their first 90 days with the company. The Ambassador Program is designed to help new team members acclimate to the bank’s culture, have a single point of contact for questions and begin networking throughout the company.

“The Ambassador Program really creates that sense of belonging really early on,” says Becki Feldmann, a senior employee experience designer at Commerce who helps to oversee the program. “When people start working at a new company, they want to know that they fit in. We’re trying to create relationships and give them someone to talk to, and it helps all of our new team members start off on the right foot.”

Commerce’s focus on inclusion influences its onboarding strategy in other ways as well. For example, all new team members take two online courses on inclusion and diversity as part of their initial learning plan. These courses introduce new colleagues to Commerce’s commitment to equity in the workplace as well as the team member’s individual responsibility to foster it at all times.

New team members are introduced early on to Commerce’s employee resource groups, or ERGs, which are designed to help them build important connections, feel welcome, and develop their careers. There are currently four ERGs at Commerce: RISE, for women; EMERGE, for young professionals; VIBE, for multicultural team members; and PRIDE, for LGBTQ+ team members. While each ERG has its own focus, all team members are encouraged to join any ERG they wish as a member of the target group or as an ally.

“We like to say that onboarding is an experience, not a process to go through,” says Feldmann. “There’s an entire roadmap that we’ve created to guide a team member’s first year, and we support them through multiple touchpoints. ERGs are an important part of that network, as are managers and ambassadors. It all helps foster that sense of belonging.”

Commerce’s job shadowing program is another key element in its support of inclusiveness. Through it, team members can observe a colleague for part of a day, or an entire work day, even if it’s in an entirely different department. The idea is to show people what’s possible for their careers at Commerce and to gain a more holistic understanding of different areas of the company.

Programs such as these are particularly important right now, with social distancing and a remote working environment due to the coronavirus pandemic. Maintaining a strong culture of inclusion can be challenging when coworkers aren’t in a shared environment, but Commerce is ensuring all its initiatives are able to continue through virtual means. ERGs are meeting via Zoom and Microsoft Teams, for example, and job shadowing continues to take place virtually.

These opportunities are making an impact for team members. During a recent annual survey, team members as a whole strongly agreed with the statement “I feel l belong at Commerce,” and the bank’s engagement and enablement scores (measuring team members’ feelings of commitment to the bank and belief that their skills are being fully utilized, respectively) were up significantly over the previous year’s survey. Commerce’s overall scores are also well above the financial services industry’s benchmarks.

Additionally, Commerce was named to Forbes 2019 Global List of the World’s Best Employers and was honored by Korn Ferry as a 2019 Engaged Performance Winner. In both instances, the awards were based on feedback by team members about Commerce’s core values and levels of engagement and enablement.

“We’re very committed to acting on feedback,” says Feldmann.

“I call it a listening strategy. We frequently check the pulse of team members about their sense of belonging, and we try to ask thoughtful questions that help us constantly improve. We ask, we listen, and then we act, and that lets our team members know that they all have a voice here.”

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