Community and connection are potent forces, empowering people to form bonds, unify as they face daunting issues and foster an environment where they can be their authentic selves.
Finding one person, let alone several, who relates to you and “gets” you can quickly take an employee’s experience from good to great.
At Yext, seven ERGs — Elevate, Embrace, Empower, Equip, Expand, Express and Sustainability — lay the foundation for an environment where authenticity and community is valued and encouraged.
The origins of Yext’s ERGs date back to 2016 with the establishment of Intersect, an umbrella program that covers all seven employee-led groups. Intersect’s logo is an X, a simple symbol that encapsulates the company’s philosophy on ERGs.
“To form an X, the lines must cross, which is the origin of intersectionality — we believe that no person is part of a singular group but more an intersection of multiple,” explained Manager of Employer Branding and Recruitment Marketing Hannah Ranowiecki.
At Yext, employee resource groups provide opportunities to build connections around shared experiences while being exposed to the issues facing other communities.
“ERGs at Yext provide an outlet for others to feel welcomed and meet colleagues they may not cross paths with on a normal basis,” said Senior Client Solutions Manager Nick Sanchez. “My favorite part of ERG events is when two people meet for the first time, not realizing how much they may have had in common despite never crossing paths in the office!”
Employee-led ERGs can also be a great way to connect with leaders, as all participants — regardless of their background or hierarchical position — have the opportunity to make their voices heard.
“One major benefit is that you open up the chance to meet, collaborate and build relationships with people of various job functions and seniorities. Each person has an equal stake in the ERG’s success, and a big part of that success is the relationship itself,” said Director of Technical Partner Management Chris Haluszczak.
“Each person has an equal stake in the ERG’s success, and a big part of that success is the relationship itself.”
The ERGs host many fun events — such as book clubs, movie screenings and holiday parties — but they are also a space to build awareness on serious matters and help employees make an impact both inside and outside of the office.
“It’s not just about having a happy hour on the rooftop after work but finding meaning in the events we get together for, whether that’s to raise money for a charity or support underrepresented groups with volunteering,” said Manager of Sales Recruiting Jennifer Faithfull.
Faithfull, who’s creating a DEI-focused recruitment plan, noted that while there is always room for improvement in DEI, Yext’s ERGs — and its broader company culture — is defined by a willingness to learn and advance DEI initiatives.
These four leaders spoke to Built In about their personal experiences as members of ERGs at Yext and shared why these groups are invaluable.
At the end of May, Yext’s ERG leaders — including Embrace member Nick Sanchez — came together in New York to strategize on what initiatives they wanted to pursue in the following 12 months and how they planned to advance them.
This strategic, tactical planning session highlights a broader truth about Yext’s ERGs: These groups are about exposure to different perspectives and the challenges facing other underrepresented communities as much as they are about connecting with one’s own community.
“One of my favorite ERG events that I’ve attended was a fireside chat with Sunita Viswanath, co-founder and former board member of the international women’s human rights organization Women for Afghan Women,” said Sanchez.
The event came just after the United States had withdrawn from Afghanistan, and hearing directly from someone so close to those impacted was an enlightening experience for Sanchez.
“That event put our world into a different perspective through learning more about the specific struggles others endure daily,” said Sanchez.
“That event put our world into a different perspective through learning more about the specific struggles others endure daily.”
Chris Haluszczak has been a part of the Sustainability ERG since its founding in 2019 and eventually took over the lead role.
The years since then have been marked by finding answers to important questions, perhaps most significantly, “What could we do at Yext and at home to make a difference?”
It takes time and effort to make a difference, and rallying people around the newer concept of sustainability proved to be a difficult challenge initially. But a lot has changed since then.
“Now, more than five years later, we’ve driven a myriad of sustainability improvement projects within the company and expanded our influence outside of Yext through volunteerism and charitable donations,” said Haluszczak.
“We’ve driven a myriad of sustainability improvement projects within the company and expanded our influence outside of Yext through volunteerism and charitable donations.”
After seeing the impact of Yext’s Sustainability ERG, Haluszczak understands that anyone can be a planner, organizer or participant if they take the initiative.
Haluszczak’s advice and encouragement for those considering joining or starting an ERG: “Do it! You can be the community. You can be the voice. You can be the difference you want to see.”
At Yext, ERGs are one part of a broader people-first culture where colleagues are there for each other through thick and thin.
“Joining Empower and bonding with these other women has been really exciting,” said Jennifer Faithfull while discussing the company’s ERG for women. “It’s great to turn to others who might know of resources I’m not familiar with or even having a friend I can turn to if I’m feeling overwhelmed.”
“It’s great to turn to others who might know of resources I’m not familiar with or even having a friend I can turn to if I’m feeling overwhelmed.”
Last year, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, rolling back reproductive rights by decades in the process, the group quickly arranged an educational forum with a professor to understand the history of the pivotal law and what its overturning meant for the future.
“Everyone in the Empower Slack channel sent resources and links to donate to Planned Parenthood and smaller, underfunded clinics and offered emotional support,” said Faithfull.
“That sense of community in a very scary situation made it a little easier to get through the day and feel supported.”
Hannah Ranowiecki may not be a parent, at least in the traditional sense. (“Unless fur babies count. If that’s the case, I am the proud mom to a 4-year-old spunky mini goldendoodle named Fitz!”) But that hasn’t stopped her from getting involved in Yext’s ERG for parents and caregivers, Expand.
“I think one of the greatest things about ERGs is that you don’t have to identify with a specific group to participate — or even, in my case, be a leader,” explained Ranowiecki.
“I think one of the greatest things about ERGs is that you don’t have to identify with a specific group to participate — or even, in my case, be a leader.”
At Yext, employees don’t need to possess a specific identity or background to get involved in an ERG. Contributions are welcomed and encouraged; the only barrier to entry is the desire to help.
While Ranowiecki hopes to be a parent eventually, that hasn’t stopped her from helping those who are parents now.
“I took this role because I am passionate about the mission of Expand — and Intersect as a whole — and I believe that if I can make an impact or help one of my colleagues, I have done my job,” said Ranowiecki.
Find Your People and Expand Your Horizons
A common thread can be found across all four of these team members’ experiences. At Yext, ambition and drive appear not only in employees’ work contributions but also in their efforts to create and sustain a work environment where people feel like they belong.
Yext empowers team members to create a brighter future far beyond the office walls by investing in spaces where employees find strength in their similarities and differences.
When times feel uncertain, headlines are worrying and marginalized communities remain vulnerable, team members can find solace, community and confidence in each other’s steady support.