Successful Employee Resource Groups: 5 Strategies from Top Companies

Adoption of employee resource groups (ERGs) continues to rise across all types of employers. More and more, ERGs are featured prominently on company websites as a signal to job seekers of a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion—a clear sign that the organization welcomes diversity and actively fosters an inclusive workplace culture.

But when HR leaders and their budgets are already stretched thin, it can be a challenge to launch, manage, and grow a successful ERG program.

Maybe your D&I program needs technology for ERG management. Maybe it needs a solution to governance or compliance issues. Maybe you need fresh ideas to foster growth and adoption.

One of the best ways to find ideas that work in ERG management—and any other aspect of D&I programs—is by looking to the best.

Let’s explore five organizations who rank high on DiversityInc’s 2019 list of Top Companies for Employee Resource Groups and see how they do it.

1. Ernst & Young’s (EY) Approach to D&I

EY sees diversity as critical to innovation and business strategy. Their highest performing teams are the ones that embrace diverse opinions, experiences, and perspectives to deliver better client solutions and solve marketplace issues.

At EY, executive leaders base D&I on two principles: diversity—supporting differences—and inclusion—using these differences to create an environment where all people feel valued.

Beyond recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse talent and establishing mutual accountability, EY’s D&I strategy includes a global network of ERGs that serve to

  • Educate employees about diversity issues
  • Promote a culture of inclusive leadership
  • Offer professional development opportunities
  • Encourage social collaboration and networking
  • Engage members with existing and potential clients.

EY believes that when employees can bring their whole selves—differences and all—to work every day, they think deeper, ask thoughtful questions, and become leaders of change.

Watch EY’s Oceania talent share their perspectives.

Source: EY Celebrates Cultural Diversity, YouTube [00:01:19]

2. AT&T’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

AT&T has a long history of promoting D&I with programs that now support a workforce in 57 countries. Their employee networks and ERGs engage over 130,000 members who are encouraged to cross-collaborate on D&I and professional development topics.

With a diversity framework built on accountability from the top down, AT&T leaders are responsible for supporting their diverse workforce, customers, and extended community through committees dedicated to components of their D&I program:

  • Senior Executive Diversity Council – The council, chaired by AT&T’s Chief Diversity Officer, shepherds the 4 pillars that form their D&I strategy.
  • Business Unit Diversity Councils – Multiple subcommittees are responsible for forming, implementing, and steering diversity awareness and employee engagement efforts.
  • Chief Diversity Officer’s Forum – Business unit representatives, led by the VP of Diversity and Inclusion, meet each quarter to discuss diversity initiatives and best practices across their community.
  • Joint Diversity Council – Appointed sponsors preside over 12 ERGs, convening monthly to brainstorm, learn, and share ideas for D&I programs, plus any company issues needing corporate attention.

Managing ERGs at scale isn’t easy: Find out how your diversity leaders can pioneer D&I success.

3. Eli Lilly and Company’s Key to Business Success

Striving to exceed what’s possible in the current world of medicine, Lilly wouldn’t survive “if they didn’t leverage their talent across the globe.”

For Lilly, this begins with a comprehensive D&I strategy—guided by their Code of Business Conduct, The Red Book—that includes employee resource groups, which

  • Educate on diversity issues
  • Create forums for diversity support
  • Offer mentoring and networking opportunities
  • Organize D&I advocacy events like diversity summits and multicultural celebrations.

The Global D&I Office sets goals to achieve and sustain representation of workplace D&I through other initiatives, such as their Conscious Inclusion Leadership program.

Lilly conducted a review in 2015 that found a significant shortage of women in leadership positions. The CEO, senior executives, HR, and Lilly Women’s Network—an ERG—met over two days to identify and understand barriers and brainstorm solutions because “This was not ‘just’ an HR issue—it was a business issue.”

Today, Eli Lilly monitors and addresses diversity challenges in real time, continuously aiming to improve the workplace equality experience for all Lilly employees.

Source: Tweet by Eli Lilly and Company (@LillyPad on Twitter)

4. Hilton’s Mission for Diversity and Inclusion

We are more than just a business.

Hilton’s diversity and inclusion statement says it all.

From 2010—when they established their D&I framework—through today, Hilton’s workplace diversity strategy has blossomed into a globally recognized initiative.

Team Member Resource Groups (TMRGs), part of Hilton’s diversity program, focus on

  • Inclusive and innovative business
  • Talent growth, professional development, and coaching
  • Nonprofit partnerships and services for diversely owned businesses.

Eighty-five of the senior leaders who serve on the executive council sponsor 50 TMRG chapters worldwide, which engage more than 7,400 employees.

Striving to “attract, develop, and retain the brightest talent in hospitality,” Hilton’s commitment to workplace D&I and positive community impact continues to nurture a thriving company culture and amplify business success.

5. Northrop Grumman’s Commitment to D&I

Recognized for their ERG program—plus many other top diversity rankings—Northrop Grumman remains steadfast in their commitment to every dimension of D&I.

With an emphasis on community outreach and a culture of open communication, Northrop Grumman employee resource groups share a common goal: to offer opportunities to every team member that

  • Raise awareness of diversity topics
  • Recognize and celebrate diverse talent
  • Develop and build leadership skills
  • Contribute to community partnerships.

Northrop Grumman firmly believes that accountability for a successful diversity and inclusion strategy begins with their chief executive and leaders at all levels.

And with D&I at the core of their overall business strategy, Northrop Grumman has seen increased productivity, performance, and profitability.

ERG Success Hinges on an Authentic Culture

Whether employee resource groups are new to your organization or well ensconced in your D&I initiatives, looking to leaders in ERG programming can be a source of inspiration and new thinking.

But because of their grassroots nature, it’s crucial that new approaches to ERG governance, management, programming, or measurement reflect your company culture.

Ultimately, your employees themselves will tell you what works.

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