By Tony Khing
A mantra at PG&E is continuous improvement. Without it, the company will not effectively serve its 15 million customers.
Continuous improvement also applies to supporting the diversity of its work force through PG&E’s 10 employee resource groups. The Asian Employee Resource Group is one of them.
“We’ve transformed over the years from being an employee club focused on social connections to being a strategic company resource concentrating on the community and on employee development,” said Linda Trinh, Asian ERG president.
The organization started more than 30 years ago as the Chinese Employees Association, an internal social network, continues to be a helpful force for PG&E internally as well as in the communities the company serves.
“It was formed to promote cultural awareness among employees as well as to give back to the local community,” said Deanna Toy, who served as the association’s secretary in the early 1990s.
In 2004, the now-Asian Employees Association established itself as a major company asset. The organization spearheaded a drive to raise funds to help those affected by that year’s Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which resulted in nearly 300,000 deaths. The Asian Employee Association led an employee clothing and medical drive and raised $75,000 for the American Red Cross.
“That’s when the company started to see the ERGs as not just a social club,” said Wayland Chan, who was the Asian Employee Association president at the time. “Soon after that, we got lots of officer support and regular meetings with them to discuss diversity issues. Company management started to realize the ERGs could help PG&E’s image and attract top talent.”
As a result, the organization — whose membership has 34 Asian languages represented — is often sought for assistance in external company initiatives such as television and radio commercials, the annual San Francisco Lunar New Year Parade and customer programs such as the California Alternate Rates for Energy Program (CARE) and the Energy Savings Assistance Program.
Trinh believes PG&E “will further leverage the Asian ERG to strengthen its impact on the business while being the go-to resource to better serve our communities.”
While these initiatives are important, the Asian ERG has slowly been establishing itself as a resource for career development.
“Current members want to use the Asian ERG to develop their leadership skills and get noticed by upper management,” said Chan.
For the last nine years, the Asian ERG has sponsored a leadership program that assists lines of business on projects that further the company’s goals of providing safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy. Participating employees improve their presentation, problem-solving and consulting skills. They also gain insights into other parts of the company and networking opportunities.
An example of the program’s success is May Wong. A few years ago, she worked on a team tasked on improving PG&E’s Contractor Safety Program. Wong feels her participation in the project helped her advance from senior analyst to being a manager in human resources.
Over the last two years, the Asian ERG has been involved with events to help Asian-Americans advance in the workplace such as last year’s “Closing the Asian Leadership Gap.”
But while the focus has evolved for the Asian ERG, the early priorities still exist. The group continues to award college scholarships; in more than 30 years, they’ve given an estimated $700,000 to more than 360 students.
The Asian ERG continues to bring awareness of the Asian community to all PG&E employees. Their efforts were recognized by Diversity Best Practices, which nominated the Asian ERG for a 2017 Above and Beyond Award for their efforts in the community.
And during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May, the Asian and Samahan (Filipino) ERGs are hosting various events such as food fundraisers, helping Asian-owned enterprises do business with PG&E and teaching others how to make sushi.
“It’s the Asian ERG’s three-pronged mission of career development, community outreach and cultural awareness that will continue to be important within PG&E and the communities it serves over the coming years,” said Toy.
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