employees in the BEN collaborate

Celebrating Ten Years of Progress and Impact with our Black Employee Network

Investing in the success of people includes building communities of belonging, advocacy and allyship. For our Black Employee Network, we're recognizing 10 years of progress and the need to continue.

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are invaluable to organizations, many successfully use them to support their business strategy, brand, culture, and people. According to a report from Bentley University, nearly 90% of all Fortune 500 companies have ERGs, demonstrating that they are essential in our business climate. At Trane Technologies, our employee-led networks help us cultivate an inclusive workplace, serve employees, drive partnerships, uplift communities, and support our business. 

For ten years, our Black Employee Network (BEN) has had a significant impact on Trane Technologies, helping create community and build bridges of understanding. The BEN is working to support our people, community and business, demonstrating our commitment to diversity and inclusion and driving our progress toward enabling Opportunity for All.

Supporting employees

In a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 90% of the companies said ERGs helped make new hires more comfortable during the onboarding process. And 70% relied on ERGs to build a workforce to reflect the demographics of their customer base.

Kenyetta Puckett, Diversity & Inclusion Leader and co-chair of BEN, believes the networking, meaningful activities, and education BEN has provided its members helps the company retain Black employees. 

“Over the years, we’ve not only hosted celebrations for important holidays, we’ve also provided support by developing programs that help our members learn techniques to deal with everyday challenges, balance work and life, and manage stress. We’ve partnered with community groups to host classes on mindfulness and meditation, and we’ve brought in speakers to discuss mental health and self-care,” shared Kenyetta. 

Every year, we try to select 10 to 20 members interested in career development, and we connect them with a senior leader, allowing Black employees to get in front of leaders and talk about their career aspirations. It gives the employee more visibility to senior leaders and an opportunity to work with a leader to formulate a good development plan to help them reach their career goals.

Kenyetta Puckett

Diversity & Inclusion Leader and Co-chair of BEN

“We always ask members where they need more education, resources, and tools. We continue to take our work to the next level by tapping into those areas to benefit Black employees and their families.”

BEN recently won Trane Technologies’ Corporate President’s Award for a financial education series developed for members.

“We partnered with Fidelity to provide a four-part workshop financial series. The classes in this program addressed, retirement planning, purchasing a home, credit building, end-of-life planning, and investing,” said Kenyetta. 

Thanks to the series, more than 200 employees expanded their financial literacy, many scheduled financial advisor sessions, increased 401(k) contributions, reallocated assets to prepare for retirement, and are more aware of available financial services. And BEN membership increased 12%. Along with these helpful programs, activities and events, BEN supports career development, which is extremely valuable as companies push for more Black employees in leadership roles.

McKinsey found that Black workers make up just 7% of the managerial workforce, and the higher you go, the fewer Black professionals you see. 

“Every year, we try to select 10 to 20 members interested in career development, and we connect them with a senior leader, allowing Black employees to get in front of leaders and talk about their career aspirations. It gives the employee more visibility to senior leaders and an opportunity to work with a leader to formulate a good development plan to help them reach their career goals,” added Kenyetta.

Visibility matters for black employees. Korn Ferry research reveals that nearly 60% of the Black executives who oversee major lines of business at Fortune 500 companies felt they had to work twice as hard —and accomplish twice as much—to be seen on the same level as their colleagues. Getting in front of leaders gives them more opportunity to be promoted for roles that are otherwise harder for them to obtain. 

Working in the community

BEN has taken the lead among ERGs at Trane Technologies in the development of partnerships with community organizations that lead to demonstrable community and business impact. 

“Our first partnership was with Crisis Assistance Ministries. To support them, we hosted a clothing drive where employees could donate their professional clothing—placing them in the barrels we set up over campus. The barrels were always over-filled with clothing," shared Aenis Harris, vice president, human resources, Thermo King Americas and former co-chair of BEN. “We also supported a shoe drive where employees donated their shoes to a nonprofit organization called Samaritans Feet. They're still receiving shoes from our employees to this day." 

The donations are just one area where BEN has helped us make a difference in our communities. Five years ago, BEN began a partnership with the Urban League of Central Carolinas (ULCC), a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization. Supporting the HVAC Training Program is a significant component of this partnership. The 16-week curriculum focuses on the knowledge and hands-on skills needed to be ready for certification and immediate entry-level employment following completion of the program.

“The program helps people establish, maintain and grow impactful careers, so our partnership is an opportunity for us to pay it forward in the community,” added Aenis. “We’ve donated $400,000 in grant money to support the program. This partnership is also another way to advance the company’s diversity recruiting efforts.”

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects an average of 40,100 job openings in HVAC, each year, over the next decade. Today, Black workers only make up 8.0% of the HVAC industry. By supporting the ULCC’s HVAC Training Program, BEN is helping increase Black representation.

Along with funding, BEN has provided volunteer services, including resume writing and mock interview support to the ULCC. The partnership supports the company’s corporate citizenship strategy.

Shaping the business

employees in discussion

BEN has also taken a lead in building toolkits to help the company recognize and support various events, celebration days and holidays.

“We developed black heritage month toolkits that provided education on black cultural holidays and guidance on how employees in our plants and offices can celebrate with us. The toolkits were so valuable that other ERGs created toolkits too,” shared Aenis. 

In addition, BEN has worked to educate leaders on how to offer support and address important and sometimes uncomfortable topics that may affect Black employees.

“Over the years, BEN has helped facilitate courageous conversations, where we talk to leaders and employees about situations or events impacting Black employees and recommend a specific action around it,” said Kenyetta.

“As the organization has hired more diverse employees, we’ve had conversations with leaders on how to provide better support to them. We’ve also shared the resources and information leaders may need to help them engage more with black employees. These efforts contribute to our organizational goal to nurture a diverse, inclusive workplace.”

The future

All of these efforts combined lead to greater success for business and industry. Research validates that public companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely than others to have financial returns above the industry mean. 

The work the Black Employee Network has been doing for ten years has helped shape how Trane Technologies fosters and grows an inclusive workplace, while supporting employees and strengthening communities.

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