One of the diversity and inclusion initiatives we’ve been working on at Extra Space Storage this year is the launch of new Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). The goal of these groups is to build networks for employees to strengthen relationships and foster a diverse and inclusive work environment aligned with our values and business objectives.
The new ERGs are open to all employees—whether they identify as members of the group in title or as allies—all contributions are welcome! Each ERG is led by an executive sponsor and a committee of three volunteer leaders. The new groups and leaders are:
- Samrat Sondhi, Executive Sponsor
- Kurt Gnessin, Chair
- Kathryn Thomas, Allyship Chair
- Jay Johnson, Membership & Communication
- Matt Herrington, Executive Sponsor
- Adam Willey, Chair
- Derek Thomson, Allyship Chair
- Joanie Bachonski, Membership & Communication
- Noah Springer, Executive Sponsor
- Kate Stapleton, Chair
- Chance Nelson, Allyship Chair
- Amber Baldwin, Membership & Communication
- Gwyn McNeal, Executive Sponsor
- McKenzy MacKay, Chair
- George Bishop, Allyship Chair
- Maria Avellana, Membership & Communication
This month, the new ERG leaders gathered at the Extra Space Storage corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City for a day of training and planning before the official launch scheduled for mid-October 2021. We caught up with some of the leaders and asked them to share their thoughts about the new groups, diversity and inclusion, and our company values.
Q: As Chair, what are your goals for the Employee Resource Group you will be leading?
Willey: The most important goal I have as Chair is to create a space where all employees can provide active feedback for directional change as an organization. I think it’s critical for our success to gather ideas of innovation from all employees, and these new ERGs will foster that safe space for employees to be heard.
Stapleton: I would like to be able to provide a voice to my brothers and sisters in arms, as well as insight for our allies and organization. Most veterans do not discuss their struggles or challenges with those who have not served because it is easier to just adjust and alter our tactics. This is the approach most favored by the military in which many veterans spent their formative years. As one of the chairs of this ERG, I hope to bring more awareness to the quiet challenges facing our veterans and help set them up for future success.
MacKay: I am excited about the opportunity to be involved in launching the women’s ERG! As a group, we will create an environment where women feel like there is a place for them to have a voice and can be their authentic selves. We will provide a space to foster personal and professional development for the women in our company, empower them as they continue with their careers here at Extra Space Storage, and create an inclusive space for all.
Gnessin: My vision for the BIPOC committee is to provide tools and resources that empower individuals to achieve real change in their lives and career. We’ll accomplish this by creating opportunities for mentorship and training to help navigate challenges and uplift BIPOC leadership in our organization.
Q: What are your plans as Allyship Chair of the new Employee Resource Groups?
Nelson: Our plans currently include gaining a diverse membership that includes family members and spouses of those who served. We are also looking to bridge the bias gap between military and non-military members for current employees and potential new hires. Other goals include utilizing our current Employee Assistance Program to have tailored military member resources, identifying outside resources and allies, and setting a foundation for military and veteran employees to build on going forward.
Bishop: I am looking forward to our group being a resource for not only women within our organization, but also their supporters. I am excited to help empower women team members within this organization. Maria Avellana and McKenzy MacKay are phenomenal leaders at Extra Space Storage, and I am so fortunate to get the chance to learn from both of them.
Q: How will you foster an open and communicative environment in your role overseeing membership and communication?
Bachonski: My main goal in overseeing membership and communication is to create a safe and inclusive environment that welcomes allies, the LGBTQIA+ community, and anyone willing to ask questions and listen. I want members to be open to engaging in conversation by sharing their experiences, and grow through communication and collaboration.
Avellana: I’ve found that providing different platforms to communicate is key to any group setting. My goal is to establish a safe space through the chat function, private scheduled meetings, mentorship programs, etc. Each person will have their preferred method of communication—I’d like to meet their preference as much as possible.
Baldwin: I work hard to foster an open and communicative environment for our employees by being willing to listen to the different perspectives they each may have. I believe that each person brings something unique to the table, and by having open dialogue and an open mind, we can make Extra Space Storage a more inclusive and diverse place to work!
Q: What is your favorite Extra Space Storage value, or which value resonates with you the most at this particular time in your career?
Bishop: This is an interesting question, as my answer can change from time to time. Currently, Passion is the value that resonates the most with me at this point in my career. I believe the leaders who are passionate about developing their teams day in and day out will always have the best results. I am personally driven and passionate about making a difference in this world in any way I can!
Avellana: Teamwork. It is through this core value that we have encouraged our team members to be a part of our company. Through the challenges we have faced, we relied on each other. We overcame those challenges because of our commitment to teamwork.
Stapleton: Teamwork is my favorite value. No matter the obstacle, a team can always come together to overcome it. Teams constantly make you challenge your assumptions and ideas while working toward a solution. It’s always exciting to hear a new point of view.
Gnessin: I believe integrity is the most important Extra Space Storage value. As leaders, it’s incumbent on us to foster an environment where all employees are comfortable being their true authentic selves and valued for the diversity of their backgrounds, thoughts, and ideas they bring to the organization.
Q: What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included?
Bachonski: Being someone who has faced discrimination, it is important for me to ensure that all voices are heard. I feel the bias and discrimination facing marginalized groups can be rectified with both open minds and hearts towards others’ experiences, along with education of the affects that those in our society face. My main objective is to bring an equal level of support, care, and information to each member of the LGBTQIA+ group. In order to change minds, you first have to change hearts.
Q: Regarding diversity and inclusion, where do we still have room for improvement as a company, and how do the new Employee Resource Groups help?
Nelson: We are in the initial stages of creating these groups, so the room to improve is limitless. It is imperative we continue to keep this at the forefront of our discussions, build diverse memberships in each group, and focus on what we can do to have the most impact regarding diversity and inclusion at Extra Space Storage.
Q: How will you utilize the new Employee Resource Group platform to celebrate diversity of people and ideas?
Willey: We will have open forums, educational resources, and training available to help promote LGBTQIA+ diversity. I’m most personally excited for our open forums and the direct line of communication with the executive team to provide this feedback for influencing change through the organization. This will be a great new way to provide ideas to promote and celebrate diversity as we continue to grow as an organization.
Baldwin: I am excited that Extra Space Storage is creating the ERG platforms. I think this is a great way for our employees to connect, not only with their direct teams, but also reach across the company to see that we have a lot more diversity than they may have realized. My hope is that we utilize the ERGs to help our employees feel included and valued.
MacKay: I have loved my time working here at Extra Space Storage. I am passionate about my work, this company, and helping it reach its fullest potential. I have also always been passionate about empowering women to be the best they can be throughout my life. I was excited about the ERG because it seemed like a great opportunity to blend two things I love. I also realize that I am not as strong on my own as I am when I work together with a team or have a community behind me. That is what I hope to create with this group; a community where both men and women can come together and champion women in their development, goals, and time here at Extra Space Storage. I have a great team to help lead this ERG with Maria and George, and I’m very excited to get the group launched.
Extra Space Storage is dedicated to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace through its Diversity & Inclusion committees. Interested in joining us? Learn more about our company culture and employment opportunities at careers.extraspace.com.