2010 Diversity Annual Report
Embraced: In Dubai, employee resource group builds unity, business momentum

Situated in the heart of the Middle East, the city of Dubai is among the most “global” places on earth: virtually everyone living and working there is from another country.

Aetna’s first international ERG was developed in Dubai
“The ERG has helped employees from different parts of the world to open up a little, to get that trust going. It starts with the realization that it’s okay to just be yourself.”

Ruchika Mukherjee, Quality Consultant

This is true of Aetna’s Dubai office, where roughly 100 professionals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and other countries work together to administer health management programs and services to local outpatient care practices. Engaging employees and building team unity in such a workplace is critical to business success. Cultural differences among staff and a sense of isolation – from family and community and from Aetna itself – must be acknowledged and addressed.

Fortunately, for the past year, the office has been developing Aetna’s first international employee resource group (ERG) – the Dubai Families@Work ERG. The new ERG focuses on boosting employee engagement and creating a greater sense of community. Leaders of the US-based Families@Work ERG reached out to the Dubai staff in 2009 to explain the ERG concept and provide guidance. Two medical professionals in Dubai, Stella George and Ruchika Mukherjee, both from India, took the lead in building the ERG branch, with help from Aetna Global Benefits and human resources staff.

Because the ERG concept was completely novel to staff in Dubai, the ERG started by helping with the most practical of issues, such as where to find a good pediatrician or dentist, or ideas for healthy children’s lunches. As the year progressed, the ERG was better able to provide resources and training for staff. For example, the ERG realized that many employees wanted to improve their Microsoft Office skills, but were reticent to use online training tools. In response, the ERG organized training programs led by “power users” in the office, which boosted skills of both trainers and students.

Now more than a third of the office’s roughly 100 employees are part of the ERG, and the group is excited to continue its pioneering work as Aetna’s flagship international employee group.

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