Elevate is an Avery Dennison employee resource group (ERG) dedicated to strengthening a diverse and inclusive work environment. Founded in 2017, Elevate provides programs, resources, support, and advocacy aimed at connecting, developing, and advancing women across the North America region.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we spoke with Elevate Chair Kimberly Dunlap, Enterprise Lean Sigma Champion for Label and Graphic Materials North America, to understand the value the group brings to the company and our employees.
What is the importance of this Employee Resource Group (ERG) to you?
The Elevate ERG was founded as a way to give all employees a chance to discuss and overcome issues and challenges related to gender in the workplace. We currently have more than 200 members in 18 mentoring circles, which are small peer-led groups for women and men. Based on the concept of Lean In Circles, these groups meet regularly to learn and grow together. Although we are a women-centered ERG, membership is open to all employees, and our coed groups have been invaluable to me, personally. My circle is a space where I can just be myself and engage on a deep level with other members who come from diverse backgrounds and offer a variety of perspectives. As a member of Elevate, and now as chair of the group, I have learned to give myself greater opportunities and challenges. I am incredibly proud of this ERG’s accomplishments since its inception four years ago.
What key topics and activities do the members of this ERG discuss and advocate for?
The Elevate steering team just completed a strategic focus planning process that will help guide our focus and growth over the next five years. That said, our big-picture objective remains the same: to drive meaningful change across the organization by increasing employee awareness of diversity and supporting our members’ to demonstrate this value in action. A mainstay of Elevate is the group circles that meet on a monthly basis. Each circle defines their own goals and areas of focus. Depending on the makeup of the group, discussion might focus on topics like networking, professional development, time management, intersectionality, and so much more.
How does this ERG help further Avery Dennison’s values of diversity and inclusion?
Elevate was originally founded as a way to ensure women have the resources and support needed to be promoted into roles across the business. Today, we want to ensure that all roles are equally accessible, regardless of gender -- from the shop floor to the C-suite. We do this through the power of relationship building and by connecting personally with one another. When you get to know someone, their strengths and their struggles, it is easier to find common ground and ways to support each others’ success. The magic is in learning and growing together, which empowers and strengthens us all.
What is your main goal for this ERG in 2021?
I look forward to combining my passion for the ERG’s mission with my day job as a lean six sigma champion to create a solid foundation for the ongoing training, development and structure of the group’s steering team. We are at a point in Elevate’s journey where I want to be sure we are well positioned to drive long-term effectiveness as the ERG continues to grow and evolve.
As the leader of Elevate and a member of the North America Diversity & Inclusion Council, employee retention will also be a primary focus for me this year. In the employment lifecycle, we know that creating a diverse and inclusive workforce begins at recruitment, but long-term, lasting change depends on the entire end-to-end employee experience, including a focus on employee retention. For Elevate, this is especially pertinent in 2021, based on a recent report, “Women in the Workplace”, citing a sobering finding that three in 10 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is a memorable success story you can share about how this ERG is making a difference in our employees personal/professional lives?
New in this year’s participant survey, we asked Elevate members to tell us about how they self-identify. We had more than 85 responses with 40 different terms used for self-identification. At the same time, response to one of our key metrics reached a new height, achieving a net promoter score of 100%. (NPS is a calculation taking into account promoters and detractors, but overall tells us how likely members are to refer Elevate to a friend.). The combination of those two results speaks volumes to me. That despite, or maybe because of our individual differences, Elevate is successfully creating a space where people feel safe to be their authentic self. I believe that in a year where many things became more of a headache for employees, Elevate became a place of solace, centering and camaraderie -- thereby making our members more resilient and helping many of them to grow into leadership roles.