Bank of America’s Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA) recently earned the distinction of top employee resource group (ERG) of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Employee Resource Group Corporate Challenge. It was named the winner during the chamber’s national convention and ERG summit in Salt Lake City in September.
Founded in 2010 as a way to highlight the value of corporate ERGs, the challenge recognized five finalists, this year including Hispanic ERGs from Google, Sprint, Ford Motor Company, and Southern California Edison. HOLA won the 2014 challenge by displaying key partnerships, nationwide grassroots efforts, and extensive networking opportunities.
An independent selection committee, which included Pedro A. Guerrero, CEO of Guerrero Howe and president of Hispanic Executive, selected the finalists and winner. To participate in the ERG challenge, chapters submitted a document outlining the group’s history, mission, size, structure, and impact. An emphasis on professional development, fundraising drives to target hunger in Hispanic communities, and work with bilingual schools were among the projects that made HOLA stand out to the committee.
A group of Bank of America employees founded HOLA in 2005, and it has since grown to 30 chapters across the nation (including a virtual chapter) and boasts more than 6,500 members ranging from recent hires to senior managers. This diversity within the organization allows members to network with colleagues who can help them plot their career opportunities at Bank of America. HOLA is open to all Bank of America employees.
Members are spread throughout different lines of business and locations across the United States, connected and supported by the ERG’s operating structure. At the enterprise level, HOLA is supported by two executive sponsors from the bank’s global diversity and inclusion council. The enterprise program management support team provides ERG guidelines, communication, infrastructure with SharePoint, and internal websites that promote the bank’s diversity and inclusion programs. It also ensures the ERG is focused on its areas of priority: workplace environment, community involvement, business strategy, professional development and recruiting. HOLA also has regional leaders and an executive steering committee who work with the ERG to create strategies and tactics at the national and local levels.
HE sat down with Silvina Salazar, consumer operations executive and HOLA enterprise leader at Bank of America, to talk about the significance of the win for the bank and the ERG.
What set the Bank of America ERG apart in the competition?
SS: Motivation. Our members are engaged and want to make a difference. Their actions, commitment, and leadership set us apart.
What does it mean for your group to win this award?
SS: It’s an amazing accomplishment, and the recognition is a testament to all of the great work our HOLA chapter members do on a daily basis to support Bank of America. It has been a journey of almost 10 years, and getting external recognition helps drive the importance of ERGs in corporate America, which, in turn, we hope will inspire others.
Describe some of the major projects or events the ERG hosted in 2014 that impacted the community. Are any of them annual events?
SS: One of our core priorities is to help our Hispanic communities, many of which have been particularly hard-hit by hunger. This year, we partnered with Feeding America.We created the Feeding America Food Bank Challenge with all of our chapters competing to see who could donate the most volunteer hours at local food banks. They completed more than 1,700 hours of volunteer service, and four of the top chapters raised $5,000 for their local food bank.
We are making a big impact with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in Hispanic communities and partnering with Junior Achievement to donate books in Spanish to bilingual schools. We also organize back-to-school drives in Hispanic communities such as Las Vegas, where last year we collected more than 21,000 items for students, like backpacks, markers, pens, and calculators.
What does the ERG’s internal impact look like at Bank of America?
SS: Another priority of ours is to help our members connect with colleagues who have similar backgrounds and interests, so they can grow in their careers at Bank of America. During Hispanic Heritage Month, there were 50 HOLA chapter events attended by hundreds of HOLA members and nonmembers. At the national level, HOLA kicked off the celebration by offering a webinar that focused on the behaviors that contribute to executive presence, the missing link between merit and success, and how to seek out and leverage sponsors.
What are some of HOLA’s upcoming initiatives?
SS: HOLA, like many of the bank’s ERGs, has a strong emphasis on professional development. This year we formed an alliance with the bank’s new Hispanic/Latino leadership council, which provides HOLA members with more opportunities to engage with senior executives throughout the company. We will continue to build on that alliance in 2015. We have also launched a mentoring program for new chapter leaders to help them leverage the experience and lessons learned from other leaders and succeed in their new role. HOLA members also play a big role in helping recruit talented Hispanic candidates, and we are looking forward to playing an even larger role in 2015 through our partnerships with ALPFA and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.