Masters of Community with David Spinks
IBM’s Playbook for Scaling Internal Communities with Joy Dettorre & Stephanie Galera
December 13, 2021
In this episode of Masters of Community, we speak with Joy Dettorre, Global Leader for Diversity and Inclusion, and Stephanie Galera, Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader, at IBM. Our host, David Spinks, the VP of Community at Bevy and the Co-Founder of CMX, moderates the conversation. The business resource group program plays a central part in successfully managing IBM's 250+ employee groups across fifty countries that touch approximately 50,000 employees. Joy and Stephanie will reveal how BRGs create a space for diverse, inclusive, equitable purpose-driven workplaces, like IBM’s eight communities, and why businesses need to invest in ERGs and BRGs. Who is this episode for? HR specialists, company leaders, and executive managers. Three key takeaways: 1. Unfolding the business resource group program at IBM: IBM focuses on delivering employee-centric programs and initiatives by creating communities of like-minded people and offering a space for diverse, inclusive, equitable purpose-driven workplaces. HR at IBM manages the BRG program, which focuses on intersectionality and allyship. BRG serves as a platform for employees who want to launch a program or campaign for these different communities. From a strategy standpoint, HR provides the structure or template that BRGs can be successful. IBM has three global communities: the LGBT+ community, The Women's community, and the People With Diverse Abilities community. In the United States, there are five other communities: the Black community, the Hispanic community, the Indigenous community, the Pan-Asian Community, and the Veterans community. 2. Why does IBM invest in ERGs and BRGs?: The business resource groups enable values like compassion, kindness, justice, dignity, and unity. They also create a sense of belonging and inclusion for the employees. The second part of that equation is about organization trust, companionship, and offering employees the opportunity to do something good. 3. Measuring the success of the employee resource groups: There are two ways IBM measures the success of an employee resource group. One is the annual employee engagement survey. IBM also experiments with something called "mini-pulse surveys," which are topical and spontaneous. They are anonymous and include a small number of questions. When measuring the employee engagement data, HR looks at two metrics: engagement and inclusion. They also break down these metrics by community. HR identifies challenges, sentiments, and the needs of the community. Furthermore, they look at the societal impact. All of the measurements influence bigger goals, like attention, retention, engagement, and representation. Notable Quotes: 1. “By nature and by blood, you're probably part of a community. But if I want to do something more, a BRG becomes the vehicle that I would use to create more impact, recognized and funded by the corporation.” - Stephanie Galera 2. “We all have one client that we serve. That's the IBM employee. That's why we exist. We need to create environments where these employees can feel safe, included, valued, appreciated, and an environment where they can thrive.” - Joy Dettorre 3. “These business resource groups create a sense of belonging and community, organizing employees around a common cause of driving passion.” - Joy Dettorre Answers to rapid-fire questions: 1. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would that food be? Joy: Pasta and meatballs. Stephanie: Mushroom omelet. 2. What's your go-to community engagement tactic or conversation starter? Joy: If someone comes to me for help, I ask, "how can I help you?" But if I need help from somebody else, I tend to say, "will you help me?" Stephanie: The trip that my spouse and I had in the US, which talks about the benefits of actually joining a BRG meeting 3. If you could distill all of your experience as community builders and as community professionals into one bite-sized piece of advice for other community professionals, what would that advice be? Joy: Can we all commit to leaving every conversation and every interaction a little bit better than we found it, just based on how we behave. Stephanie: When you're in doubt about anything that you'd like to do, ask yourself, what's the worst that can happen. And most of the time, you'll find that things can be manageable. 4. What does the organizational structure of the groups look like? Are there any leads, and are they compensated for their work? There is absolutely a governance around our business resource groups. They constantly evolve and get better. But one thing in that governance model is an executive sponsor. There are also co-chairs, which are volunteer positions. They receive blue points, with which they can go into IBM's internal shopping store and purchase something. There are also some financial gifts and digital thank you cards. The company writes blogs to recognize their effort, and leaders make personal calls to them and offer specialty digital badges they can post on LinkedIn. 5. Do people need to fill out some form to specify how they contributed, or do you have it automated somehow? In terms of recognition, we do have a 360 feedback that's called a checkpoint where people can put in their goal, and it’s visible to their managers so that if they achieve that goal, that becomes part of their appraisal for the year. Volunteers at IBM can also convert spent hours into grants. 6. Do BRG leaders have weekly or monthly hours carved out for the work honored within management rather than a volunteer expectation on top of their job? We know that some managers carve out a portion of some person's time to do this, especially if it's for a business unit or geographic location. Sometimes we ask managers to carve out time for this person as a leadership development activity. And other times, they balance it as a work of passion. 7. Is there a step-by-step playbook to help us launch an ERG? We have a playbook that we're writing, but I don't know if it will be available outside IBM. 8. When an organization is committed to DEI, there will be several instances where you have to engage in uncomfortable conversations around discrimination and unconscious biases. How do you start and manage those conversations successfully? It's about creating a culture across the entire ecosystem where allyship, diversity, equity, and inclusion are a part of all of those processes.
Learn more about Joy and Stephanie:

Episode resources:

Send your stories and feedback on this episode to

If you enjoyed this episode, then please either:

Masters of Community is hand crafted by our friends over at: