A Springboard for Inclusion and Diversity

Employee Resource Groups foster a richer, more unified organization
Oct 3, 2019 10:30 AM ET
Blog

By Mary Burich

American entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes once called diversity “the art of thinking independently together.”

With that idea in mind, Hormel Foods has for years been dedicated to creating a culture of inclusion and diversity, uniting an extensive and global workforce focused on feeding the world.

In her new role as director of talent development for Hormel Foods, Erin Freshwater is impressed with the company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, including its employee resource groups (ERGs) – coalitions “formed around common interests, issues and/or a common bond or background,” according to the highly regarded university MIT.

The ERGs of Hormel Foods speak volumes about the company’s desire to make all workers feel welcome, accepted and free to be who they are on the job and off, Freshwater said.

“We have a strong commitment to ERGs, evident in the number and their areas of focus,” she said. “As we continue to build a culture of inclusion, it’s important to have ERGs that have different perspectives beyond the obvious ones.”

The Road to Hormel Foods

Freshwater is new to Hormel Foods, but she is no stranger to her job responsibilities. She has spent the past 15 years focusing on talent development, inclusion and diversity, and the management of ERGs in a variety of industries.

She’s finding the culture of Hormel Foods in sync with her passions, especially where the ERGs are concerned.

“People involved are very passionate about inclusion and how we develop and retain talent,” Freshwater said, adding her belief that inclusion is the more critical part of the equation. Any company can recruit a diverse workforce; it’s the inclusion piece that makes the real difference, she offered.

“Diversity is important, but creating an inclusive environment – that’s the thing,” she said. “Inclusion leads to retention of diverse talent, which is essential to our company thriving in the future.”

She’s met with the ERGs, and is impressed by their progress and focus. She’s also filled with ideas on how to make them even more integral to the company’s strategy and long-term goals.

Historically speaking, the ERGs started out as a means of support at Hormel Foods. They were groups of people with common demographic traits or characteristics coming together in rooms where they knew they belonged.

Like all vital organizations, ERGs are not static. They are constantly changing, working on being better tomorrow than they are today. For example, some years later, ERGs are now helping the organization recruit and retain diverse team members, not to mention connect with varied customer and consumer bases. And there is even more that can be done, Freshwater said.

Constantly Evolving

Hormel Foods has nine ERGs, each of which is dedicated to one of the following: women, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic team members, military veterans, young professionals, experienced hires and agricultural resources. HProud & Allies is an ERG that promotes a safe and equitable work environment for all team members, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Membership in each group is open to all team members across the company. There are no prerequisites.

HIRE (Hormel Integrating Relevant Experiences) is the newest in the array of ERGs. It began as a way to help experienced individuals assimilate quickly and begin making contributions immediately. It emerged in large part as a response to the promote-from-within practice at Hormel Foods. Processes and systems in place at Hormel Foods are often focused on the many workers who come to the company directly from school and experience long, successful careers.

As important as that is, “There are times when we need to bring people in from the outside to augment the experience of the Hormel Foods family. We looked at our systems, which tended to be focused on hiring people right out of college and helping them build their careers,” Freshwater said.

A revamped orientation and a navigation program whereby new-hires are matched with a mentor of sorts are helping to fill the void. In addition, HIRE gives experienced talent a voice to make positive changes at Hormel Foods, drawing on their backgrounds with other organizations.

Supporting Young Professionals

At the same time, HYPE (Hormel Young Professionals Enterprise) is working to support and empower the younger workers of Hormel Foods. Given that 40 percent of the employee base is between 21 and 36, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

HYPE considers ways to make the work environment more attractive to our young professionals, Freshwater said.

“We’ve leaned on HYPE pretty heavily to come up with ideas to help retain our younger talent,” she added. Topics such as compensation, paid time off, leaves and housing are hot ones. HYPE has provided counsel to the organization, in some cases enlightening leaders about issues such as child care.

Are ERGs a necessary component of a company’s inclusion and diversity platform? Freshwater summed it up this way.

“Ideally, there would be no need for ERGs,” Freshwater said. “But we still live in a world where many issues are faced by certain segments of the population. We want to be truly inclusive with people who may be different from us, and so we continue working toward that end.”

The endeavor is not only important, it’s rooted in the company’s values and its culture.

“I’m confident that at Hormel Foods we are committed to creating a sense of belonging where everyone feels respected and valued. Our people are essential to our continued success, and we want each person to be empowered with opportunities, be treated fairly and have a voice to make things better for the future.”

Meet the Employee Resource Groups

Hormel African American Resource Group

HAARG channels the unique African American experience into business and consumer insights that help Hormel Foods excel in the global marketplace. The group’s main goals are to enhance the professional development of its diverse membership and to provide philanthropic support to the communities where members live and work.

Hormel Asian-American Professionals Association

HAPA enhances the personal and professional development of Asian Americans and promotes cross-cultural awareness in order to elevate Hormel Foods in a competitive global market.

Hormel Food and Agriculture Resource Members

H-FARM offers agricultural insight to different business units, promotes professional development and educates consumers about the origins of their food. It also serves as a resource for any employee, customer or community group seeking to expand its understanding of how agriculture influences our business results, while it promotes awareness of the company’s deeply rooted agricultural heritage.

Hormel Integrating Relevant Experiences

HIRE was formed to foster and maximize varied professional backgrounds to grow talent, build bridges and bring the best results to the company.

Hormel Military Veteran Engagement Team

HMVET provides assistance to former and current military members and their families as they join the Hormel Foods family and assimilate into our culture. It also provides a platform for continued camaraderie throughout their Hormel Foods careers. HMVET ultimately impacts Hormel Foods results by supporting military members with self-improvement and personal achievement, resulting in a more engaged workforce.

Hormel Professionals Representing Out and United inDividuals & Allies

HProud & Allies promotes a safe and equitable working environment for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Hormel Young Professionals Enterprise

HYPE seeks to attract, develop and retain the young professionals of Hormel Foods by encouraging creativity and innovation while stimulating action to drive change to keep the company on the leading edge of business development

Nuestra Gente

Nuestra Gente (Our People) strives to cultivate an inclusive environment where employees from diverse Hispanic cultures and backgrounds can experience professional development through collaboration, networking and mentoring opportunities at Hormel Foods.

Women’s Insights Network

WIN is concerned with creating a culture at Hormel Foods where members can achieve their fullest potential. WIN offers opportunities for leadership development, networking, enhancing the workplace and philanthropy.