For several years organizations have increasingly recognized the significance of fostering inclusive work cultures and empowering their employees from diverse backgrounds. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) play a vital role in creating a sense of community, driving change, and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within organizations. Even as the laws around affirmative action and acknowledging differences continue to be in flux, no one can deny that a more engaged workforce is a happier and more productive workforce. This article explores how High Tides Consulting’s learning path, “Lifting Leaders,” successfully empowered AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) leaders at VMLY&R, contributing to an inclusive work culture and the growth of their underlying ERG.

Understanding the Importance of ERGs in Building Inclusive Work Cultures

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led communities that bring together individuals with shared characteristics, experiences, or backgrounds. ERGs serve as valuable platforms for networking, mentorship, professional development, and promoting diversity and inclusion. By fostering a sense of belonging and creating opportunities for underrepresented employees, ERGs contribute to the overall well-being and success of individuals and the organization as a whole.

Unfortunately, while the primary function of a well-run ERG is to empower the rapid and ongoing professional development of its members, many ERGs often default to cultural programming and token events. If your ERG is stuck in a rut of celebrating holidays and hosting multicultural potluck, it may be time to reexamine the professional development component and new avenues to help progress the careers of the ERG member base.


[Before this program I needed] validation that my culture can be a professional input.

-Program Participant

High Tides Consulting’s Approach: Empowering AAPI Leaders through “Lifting Leaders”

High Tides Consulting, renowned for their expertise in DEI and designing impactful learning programs, partnered with VMLY&R to develop a customized leadership experience. By bringing the Lifting Leaders Curriculum to VMLY&R, the High Tides team was able to partner with the company’s internal HR and L&D team to cultivate a pilot program that included active sponsorship, group coaching around specific professional development themes, and a consistent container for networking and peer to peer support.

The participants’ levels of engagement and sense of self advocacy were measured using a custom assessment, allowing High Tides to create benchmarks for the company to respond to in the areas of sponsorship, identity, career growth and resilience. This pilot program specifically focused on empowering AAPI leaders within the organization. By addressing themes of personal power, authority, self-advocacy, and career pathing, High Tides Consulting created a bespoke group coaching series that empowered participants to break free from existing stereotypes and tropes associated with AAPI professionals. Participants were provided with tangible tools and strategies to leverage internal sponsor relationships, assert the value of their personal cultural lived experiences and identities, and space to deepen their sense of community amongst their affinity group.

The Tangible Impact on AAPI Leaders and ERGs

The “Lifting Leaders” curriculum achieved remarkable results, positively impacting AAPI leaders and ERGs at VMLY&R:

Personal Growth and Empowerment: Participants experienced significant advancements in their leadership skills, gaining the confidence to advocate for themselves and their career goals. This newfound empowerment contributed to a stronger sense of self-worth and increased engagement within ERGs.

Enhanced Leadership Skills: High Tides Consulting equipped participants with practical tools and resources to lead authentically and meaningfully. By focusing on storytelling, identity exploration, and courageous conversations, participants gained a deeper understanding of their unique strengths, contributing to more effective leadership within ERGs.

Fostering Inclusive Work Cultures: The “Lifting Leaders” program fostered a sense of community and support among AAPI leaders, thereby promoting a more inclusive work culture. Participants reported increased connections and a greater sense of belonging within ERGs, fueling a collective commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives.

I have so much to think about afterwards, and I enjoyed how tangible and relevant the topics and tools were.

-Program Participant

Driving Organizational Change: The Ripple Effect of Empowered AAPI Leaders

The impact of High Tides Consulting’s pilot program extended beyond individual AAPI leaders. Empowered and engaged AAPI leaders served as catalysts for driving organizational change and cultivating inclusive work cultures. They actively contributed to ERGs, promoted the sharing of diverse perspectives, and advocated for equitable practices within VMLY&R.

Embracing ERGs for Lasting Impact and Growth

VMLY&R’s successful collaboration with High Tides Consulting showcases the power of ERGs in fostering inclusive work cultures. By empowering AAPI leaders through the “Lifting Leaders” curriculum, VMLY&R has demonstrated their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This pilot program serves as a testament to the invaluable contributions ERGs can make toward creating an environment where all employees can thrive. To learn more about the structure and tangible results and benefits of the pilot program, we invite you to download the full case study.

Discover how High Tides Consulting’s Cohort Leadership Experience, “Lifting Leaders,” can empower your employees, enhance ERGs, and contribute to a more inclusive work culture.

Apply now for Facilitator Certification: Cohort 3 starts in 2024