Lebanon, TN: Home to Cracker Barrel, Cedar Trees, and Growing LGBT Employee Resource Groups
July 26, 2013 by Liz Cooper, Manager of Corporate Programs, Workplace Project
HRC Workplace Project Director Deena Fidas and Manager Liz Cooper traveled down to Lebanon, TN this week for two days of Southern hospitality from old friends and new.
The trip came at the invitation of Lebanon-headquartered Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, who partnered with the Middle Tennessee Diversity Forum to host a panel and roundtable discussion on the topic of Employee Resource Groups. On Monday evening we had the pleasure of dining with Co-Founder and Board Chair of the Middle Tennessee Diversity Forum and Director of Employer Services for the Nashville Career Advancement Center Jacky Akbari, employee resource group members from Cracker Barrel, Fifth Thirds Bank, Hallmark, and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto.
The evening was filled with good food and good conversation from leaders in Wilson County; the state’s second most prosperous county and home to antique and historic general stores, alongside major employers including Cracker Barrel, Dell, and Amazon. This business-minded group embraced the value of a diverse workforce by engaging employee resource groups, who can be the true drivers of innovation, and who we give our thanks for bringing together this memorable meeting in TN.
Employee Resource Groups: Adding Business Value
The following morning, the Workplace Project traveled to Cracker Barrel headquarters, hosts of the event “Employee Resource Groups: Adding Business Value.” Just twenty minutes east of Nashville, a group of over 100 company representatives from Bridgestone Americas, Caterpillar, Cummins, Dell, Deloitte, Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce, Nissan North America, Skanska USA, and of course, Cracker Barrel, gathered for a biscuit breakfast Felicia Johnson, Sr. Analyst Diversity & Inclusion at Nissan North America shared opening remarks. Johnson noted the importance of employees bringing their whole selves to work, and that inclusive corporate cultures were crucial for the bottom line.
Next, Laura Daily, Senior Vice President of Retail shared part of Cracker Barrel’s diversity and inclusion journey, and how their newly revamped employee resource groups – with the LGBT Alliance being one of three established ERGs -- as being crucial to the company’s success, where the two words that best describe their philosophy for creating an inclusive and productive environment for guests, employees, vendors and shareholders are, “pleasing people.” Cracker Barrel demonstrated their commitment to this philosophy and support for such diverse programming and engagement as several additional leaders attended the event, including Terry Deas, Director Diversity & Outreach, Edward A. Greene,Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Doug Barber EVP, Chief People Officer, and Sandra B. Cochran, President and CEO.
Director of the Workplace Project, Deena Fidas, then participated in a panel moderated by Nashville’s News 2’s Joseph Pleasant, speaking on a range of topics about employee resource groups, from creation to measuring business impact. Fidas was joined on the panel by Michael Gonzales, Leader of Corporate Diversity & Inclusion at Hallmark Cards, and Tan Fletcher Technical Support Manager at Dell. Immediately following the panel was a roundtable Q&A, where a group of standing-room-only participants gathered to glean additional insights from established ERG best practices.
A sincere thanks to our hosts at Cracker Barrel, in partnership with the Middle Tennessee Diversity Forum, for convening such an engaged group local LGBT leaders and allies. And a special thanks to Steve Smotherman, Management Training & Development at Cracker Barrel, whose commitment to LGBT inclusion made this a truly memorable event, and represents what our team is confident is the start of many great LGBT initiatives to come out of Middle Tennessee.
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