Worldwide, organizations are increasingly creating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in order to bring together and leverage key groups in their workforce. Whether you’re just starting out with ERGs or contemplating how to keep the momentum going, read on for tips on what you should be doing to maximize the value of your ERGs.
What is an ERG?
ERGs (and the Employee Resource Group platforms used to administer them) are a powerful solution for organizations wishing to improve diversity and inclusion among certain underrepresented groups. ERGs, sometimes called business resource or affinity groups, are voluntary employee-led groups formed around individuals with certain common characteristics—such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or other demographics—and social and advocacy goals within an organization.
1) How to Form ERGs
ERGs can be formed:
- in response to specific diversity and inclusion issues uncovered in the organization
- as a result of a request by members of a certain group who would like representation
- or simply out of a sense that it’s the right thing to do in order to give a group a voice
ERGs members are usually excited to get started, but don’t necessarily know where and how to do so.
Your focus should be on empowering employees to create ERGs, rather than taking too much control from ERG members. Have your HR department focus on creating and providing the materials necessary to establish an ERG, especially templates covering leadership team details, mission statements, charters, and activity ideas. As ERGs become more commonplace, employees will also benefit from looking at other ERGs for inspiration, reference and assistance.
You might also like: ‘Maximizing the Value of ERGs: Expert Answers to 7 Burning Questions’
2) How to Grow ERGs
Socializing is an important aspect of ERG life, and usually proves to be critical during the first year as people from around the organization get to know each other and create a community. Social events should get allies involved too, with the goal of engaging and educating the wider organization.
Despite this, the long-term health and growth of the ERG depends on driving impacts for members and the organization. ERGs can stumble when members feel they’re achieving too little. So, it’s important that they offer advancement on all four of the Cs in Robert Rodriguez’s 4C model: Culture, Communications, Commerce, and Career.
Of these four Cs, communication has a particularly important role in promoting growth: reminding the organization about the ERG on key observance dates (e.g. Black History Month or International Women’s Day), ensuring that executive sponsors send comms to their peers, and letting everyone know when the ERG achieves something inside or outside of the organization. The more an ERG makes itself known, the more its members feel they’re a part of something important, and the more prospective members want to be involved.
Handpicked for you: ‘7 Best Practices for Maximizing the Value of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)’
3) How to Manage ERGs
Early in the ERG lifecycle, management may be a manual process, with membership and events tracked through spreadsheets. This is inevitably time-intensive and prone to errors. Depending on the make-up of your workforce, some ERGs can grow to a nearly unmanageable size. Later in the ERG lifecycle, organizations inevitably want to understand whether ERGs are having a positive impact, requiring even more management.
Keeping track of the appropriate metrics and budgets, and using these to prove ROI can be done manually. However, an Employee Resource Group platform dedicated to tracking memberships, managing events, and providing live reporting has the potential to significantly reduce the time and effort required.
4) How to Leverage ERGs
ERGs can be a useful resource for the businesses that create them. They can help improve product offerings and bring a competitive advantage to the marketplace. ERGs are particularly useful as focus groups. That’s because their members speak with candor and will help you speak to their group in a culturally competent manner.
If you’re targeting their audience group, your ERG members have the interests of your organization at heart and will be firm and knowledgeable critics. This works in reverse too: your ERGs should be free to bring product and campaign ideas to you and make the business case for pursuing them.
More from the blog: ‘Social Injustice and How Companies Can Support Their Black Employees’
5) How to Unite ERGs
Though it’s useful to build ERGs around common characteristics, it’s important to remember that individual employees may have to pick and choose between several different but relevant ERGs they could participate in. Whether they actively become members of multiple ERGs or not, these intersectional employees may be a natural bridging point between groups.
Where such convenient bridging points don’t exist, ERGs should be encouraged to seek collaboration anyway. Commonalities and contrasts in experience lead to collaboration, something that should be built into your ERG operating requirements. Encourage your ERGs to run joint events and communications, highlighting intersectionality and reaching a broader audience.