Helping employees stay connected in a virtual world
In the current environment of social distancing and remote work due to COVID-19, many employees are finding themselves missing the daily interactions they had with their colleagues in the office before the pandemic.
For many years, employee resource groups (ERGs) at RBC Wealth Management - U.S. have offered an opportunity for employees to connect with their colleagues, learn new perspectives and support RBC's core value of diversity & inclusion. But most ERG activities, from “lunch and learn" presentations to networking events, usually happened in person prior to COVID-19.
Rather than postponing activities until employees return to the office, RBC Wealth Management's newest ERG, Women Empowered (WE), has found new and creative ways to keep employees feeling socially connected and supported.
WE members pose for a photo op at a networking event held at the RBC Wealth Management - U.S. Minneapolis headquarters in January before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Launched in 2019, the WE group was created to support the growth and advancement of women, both professionally and personally.
There are two other long-standing women-focused ERGs at RBC Wealth Management, but membership in those groups is limited to women in certain roles at the firm. WE was formed as an additional opportunity for all employees, not just those who identify as women, in all roles to come together and build a community of women and allies at RBC.
So far, the group has more than 500 members across the firm's Minneapolis headquarters and in branch offices throughout the country.
“We recognize there are a lot of women and allies who don't live in Minneapolis, so it's important to us to ensure that all WE members can participate and feel included," says Laura Cheeley, RBC Wealth Management – U.S. Practice Management & Teams senior manager, who serves as co-chair of WE.
The group's mission became much more difficult in mid-March, when stay-at-home orders across the U.S. left most RBC employees working from home to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
Keeping employees connected
As members adapted to remote working conditions while navigating other challenges, such as social isolation and children's distance learning, WE leaders knew members needed support more than ever.
“Stress and anxiety levels are high for everyone right now, and people need a safe place to share and reflect on what's happening," says Ann Senne, head of Advice and Solutions for RBC Wealth Management – U.S. and executive sponsor of WE. “WE is working to provide resources and a sense of connectivity for employees while we all navigate this difficult time."
WE member Jaclyn Berisford's work-from-home setup
Over the past few months, WE has shifted its focus to providing more online activities to keep members engaged and feeling supported.
The group has hosted a series of professional development webinars on topics such as "advocating for yourself in a virtual environment" and "breaking down barriers for women in the finance field." And to provide a little levity, WE encouraged members to share photos of their home offices and hosted several virtual member-led classes, ranging from do-it-yourself face masks to yoga.
WE co-chair Laura Cheeley's DIY face mask
"WE has brought a different perspective to my day, reminding me there are other women struggling with similar issues, raising or teaching children, being a spouse, and staying safe during this pandemic," says Heather Krause, WE member and Seattle, Washington financial advisor and assistant branch director.
The group also asked members to share tips and best practices for working from home, working remotely with kids and pets, staying socially connected, and self-care. Nearly 100 responses were compiled into a list that was distributed to WE membership and presented at one of the group's quarterly virtual membership meetings.
“We're trying to be a steadying presence for people and to raise their spirits however we can," says Nicole Dunham, RBC Wealth Management Fixed Income Business Development manager and co-chair of WE. “Even though we're separated physically, we want our members to know that we're all in this new and challenging situation together."
RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC.