Victoria Cross, founder and co-chair of Multnomah County’s Employee’s Resource Group (ERG) for Immigrant and Refugee speaks proudly to the creation and history of this group.
Working in the Health Department, Victoria Cross was exposed to different units, where she had the opportunity to meet and talk to employees from all sectors of life. She found that many immigrant and refugee employee’s had difficulties navigating the American workforce. Employees who had advance skills or degrees from their home country were working entry level jobs. This gave rise to a new concept she would take hold of, an employee resource group, specifically for Immigrant and Refugee employees of Multnomah County.
Cross took this idea and made it her stretch assignment after she was accepted to the Multnomah County Leadership Academy.
In June of 2011, after undertaking the creation of the Immigrant and Refugee ERG, the charter was approved by the County Chair with a core group of people ready to join.
Following its creation, the group identified obstacles employee’s faced in Multnomah County. “We wanted to help this organization understand who was working in Multnomah County. Because at that time, this was not reflected in the way data was being collected.”
We are providing training and support to employees who came from different countries to gain better self-awareness, advance their knowledge about the American workforce, enhance their skills and as a result assist them in achieving their full potential. We are providing for this group of employees trainings, carrier mapping and opportunities to bring their advanced skills to the work place and increase customer and employee satisfaction.
The implementation of our project is expected to help employees in their career progression and self-esteem; and create opportunities for leadership development. We create systems and practices that engage talented employees, introduce career mapping to support employees taking ownership of their careers.
In the fall of 2012, Cross co-presented “How to Develop and Implement an Employee Resource Group: Nuts and Bolts" with Travis Graves, Central HR Director and Nancy Wilton, Talent Development Manger at the Northwest Public Employees Diversity Conference, drawing in over 85 participants.
Within three years of its creation, Immigrant and Refugee ERG won the 2014 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) and have since served as a model for other counties to start their own Employee Resource Group.
Cross shares the importance of the Immigrant and Refugee Group: “You have this place where you can safely ask questions and ask for advice. Because what I know is that many people, when they come here, they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know they can ask. How do you ask if you don’t know it exists?”