IT turns to employee resource groups to attract, retain tech talent

Affinity groups can bolster productivity and community among tech teams -- but only if they’re done right. Autodesk, Booz Allen Hamilton, Humana and others lead the way.

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After eight years pursuing undergrad and graduate work, Babatunde Agboola landed his dream job last year as a research engineer in Autodesk's digital manufacturing group.

One sticking point for the Nigerian immigrant: The position wasn't at the software firm's global headquarters in San Rafael, Calif., but rather at a small remote office in upstate New York. Agboola loved the work there and enjoyed his small group of colleagues, but he increasingly felt isolated and different from his peers.

"I work from the East Coast for a West Coast company, and I'm the only black within my work place," says Agboola, based in Ithaca. "I love the job, but once I started, it didn't take long to see there was a different social culture, which made me start to ask basic questions about my career path and how to navigate this company. I felt the need to find a connection."

babatunde agboola autodesk Courtesy photo

Babatunde Agboola, Autodesk. 

That connection came in the form of an email, which invited Agboola to join the Autodesk Black Network, one of several employee resource groups (ERG) at the software provider. Agboola accepted, and in the months since he's been an active member, he's been able to bond with other black Autodesk employees via Slack, the internal messaging platform, and strike up long-distance mentor relationships with two African American colleagues.

Agboola is just one of a growing number of tech employees flirting with affinity groups (sometimes called ERGs) as way to seek out and cultivate relationships with other like-minded peers in the underrepresented ranks of black, Asian, Latino, female, LGBTQ, military veteran and other employees within IT. Most have an interest beyond social connections, seeing the potential for career enrichment, including mentorships, networking opportunities, professional training, and even as a conduit to their next post.

Read on to discover how companies like Booz Allen Hamilton, Humana, HCA and others leverage ERGs to develop and engage IT staffers, aid in retention and recruitment, and encourage a diverse point of view they believe is necessary for building and deploying technology on a global scale.

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