Business Resource Groups (BRGs) play an important role in many large organizations, including Highmark’s. Also known as Employee Resource Groups, Business Networking Groups, or Business Affinity Groups, BRGs bring together and provide support to employees who share characteristics — such as race and ethnicity, gender and/or sexual orientation — or who share certain interests, like volunteering or protecting the environment.

BRGs can have a wide range of purposes and activities, but often they focus on areas like career development, professional networking, and issues related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. At Highmark, BRGs serve as an inclusive network and are guided under corporate sponsorship. Additionally, BRGs:

  • Enhance competitive advantage by sharing unique insights
  • Enable employees to grow professionally
  • Partner to enhance community outreach programs
  • Promote diversity and inclusion as a business strategy
  • Create a work environment that is inclusive
  • Increase employee engagement

Highmark BRGs include:

  • LGBTA Network, Highmark’s first BRG, formed to bring together Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender employees and their allies; LGBTA’s many activities include annual Pride Festivals in Pittsburgh and central Pennsylvania as well as National Coming Out Day
  • B-Net (Black Network), one of Highmark’s first BRGs, is made up of African-American employees and allies; key projects include the African-American Heritage Day Parade and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, as well as ongoing mentoring, development and health and wellness activities
  • GenNEXT is a cross-generational BRG whose vision is “to be an influential partner fostering an environment of generational inclusion and inspiring a culture of innovation”; the group is particularly active in networking and professional development
  • Women’s BRG was founded in 2012 to “energize the marketplace, workplace and community by leveraging the power of women’s resources;” it has worked on the “Paths To Success” Speakers Series, partnered with the YWCA, and much more
  • SALUD stands for Strengthening Awareness of Latino culture by Using and understanding Diversity; activities include a range of multicultural and health and wellness projects, as well as advocating for and assisting with Spanish translation services
  • Abilities BRG was founded in 2012 to raise awareness about the needs of, and offer support to, people with disabilities and their caregivers in the Highmark workplace, marketplace and community; in addition to advocating for accessibility, the group’s activities include hosting educational-to-career experiences for students with disabilities
  • V.E.T.S. (Voices of Employees That have Served) BRG held its initial kickoff event in 2014, and the group is now in the process of getting officially established; it will tap the strength of, and offer support to, Highmark’s many employees who are military veteran employees, family members and allies

We’ll be profiling each BRG and its members here on Highmark’s blog. In this first profile, let’s take a closer look at GenNEXT.

Meet GenNEXT BRG: Multiple Generations in the Workplace

GenNEXT's Stephen Hunter, Megan Sullivan and Rachel English

Three members of the GenNEXT BRG leadership team; from left to right: Stephen Hunter, Megan Sullivan, and Rachel English

What’s interesting about Highmark’s GenNEXT BRG is that it doesn’t focus on any single generation. Instead, GenNEXT focuses on how different generations can best join together in the workplace.

The group was founded in 2012 and has about 50 members. Many members are in their 20s and 30s, but group leaders Stephen Hunter, Rachel English, Megan Sullivan and Brandie Baughman are eager to dispel the belief that the group is focused only on that, or any other, age group. They emphasize that GenNEXT’s activities and events typically have value and appeal for Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials (sometimes referred to as Generation Y) alike.

As an example, Hunter, the site representative for GenNEXT in Pittsburgh, pointed to the group’s mentoring events, which are hosted yearly during or around National Mentoring Month, which is January. The events give employees of all ages an opportunity for informal networking, in addition to a structured, mentor/mentee “speed-networking” activity involving Highmark leadership.

In speed networking, groups of mentees sit with each executive for 20 minutes to talk about predefined topics such as overcoming barriers/challenges in the workplace, developing an elevator pitch, and personal branding. When the 20 minutes expire, the mentees move to the next table to discuss the next topic with another manager.

According to English, the current chair of GenNEXT, past mentoring events have had attendance of more than 100 people and have been well-received. “Participants have noted that they enjoyed how the atmosphere was relaxed, and that they could ask the difficult questions that they don’t often get to ask of vice presidents or presidents about how they got where they are today and what they’re looking for in an employee,” she says.

She adds that large events like this are just part of GenNEXT’s focus. The BRG also creates smaller, more personalized events to help people grow in their career, such as a recent career coaching event called “Generations in the Workplace.”

“Career coaching is another area that GenNEXT has been focusing on recently, including seminars touching on interviewing, resume writing, and how to network,” she says. “The ‘Generations in the Workplace’ seminar will help employees from different generations to interact better with one another. Part of it is discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each generation and their differing expectations. That’s the starting point for finding the best way to communicate with different generations, so that you meet their needs and communicate with them in the way that they prefer.”

As English points out, the group’s approach and overall mission make it an attractive BRG for a wide range of employees. When asked who should consider joining GenNEXT, she replies, “Any employee who is looking to meet new people, or get more exposure to people from other departments, and wants to grow their career and expand networking opportunities within Highmark.” On the professional development side, the BRG also offers valuable connections to internal career coaching, e-mentoring workshops, and other resources.

Connecting With Other Employees — and With the Community

Community service is another important aspect of GenNEXT’s activities, and one of the ways that the BRG connects with the people it wants to serve — both inside and outside the workplace.

As the BRG’s Community Events Chair, Baughman is responsible for facilitating volunteer opportunities, including working with Highmark’s Community Affairs department to organize events around causes such as Adopt-a-Family and Junior Achievement. Such opportunities allow GenNEXT (and Highmark) to stay active and visible in the community and make additional connections with members.

“Community is one area that I think we could make a big impact,” English says. “I’d love to see us get even more involved in community projects to show people that we care, and that we are more than a BRG that focuses on professional growth. It’d be great to get more of our members involved with the community aspects of GenNEXT, which would allow us to then develop more events and activities in that area in the future.” (If you’re a Highmark employee or contractor, be sure to check the sidebar of this article for more information on how you can get involved!)