Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) contribute to a more inclusive, engaged, and innovative workplace, ultimately benefiting both employees and the organization as a whole. Here's all you need to know about ERGs.
Employee resource groups herald a new age in the workplace culture. They go in one bucket with 4-day business week, flexible work hours, remote work opportunities, workplace transparency, and extended paid parental leave.
All of these adjustments are meant to enhance workplace productivity and job satisfaction by putting employees in the center of attention, making them a higher or at least an equal priority next to the company's commercial success.
Employee resource groups have been around for a long time and now that they are exponentially growing in popularity, more and more communities are recognizing their value both to employees and employers.
Let's find out why.
Employee resource groups are voluntary employee-led communities that aim at uniting people in the workplace depending on their shared interest or characteristic, like lifestyle, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc.
In their core, employee resource groups are all about developing a sense of belonging, diversity, and inclusion. These groups serve many purposes and are being promoted by leading market employers. They help people unite around a common denominator, giving them support, safety, and a sense of belonging.
In fact, the first ERG dates back to the 1960s. It was a race-based employee group created during the time of racial tensions with the support of Xerox and the company's CEO at the time, Joseph Wilson.
According to McKinsey, 90% of Fortune 500 companies already have ERGs, which are key for ensuring inclusion at work. ERGs are not just a valuable place of belonging for employees — it is also a way for employers to identify the special needs of their people and find ways to meet them.
With the long way they have come, many EGRs today tend to be well-organized, driven by specific missions and strategies.They also help companies achieve their DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) goals.
So how do these groups work?
It all starts with the volunteers who either initiate the group or choose to join an existing one. In these groups, you have participants and their leader elected by the group or appointed by the supervisor. Such groups organize events and activities, participate in recruitment campaigns, assist in employee engagement plans, and act as advisors in business decisions and activities. They also act as advocates for social change, throwing light on the topics that deserve more attention within the organization.
The value of employee resource groups is multi-layered, and it is both the ERG leaders and the ERG members that benefit from them.
Now that it's clear just how much value well-organized EGRs can bring, where do you actually start with one and how do you ensure its continuous success?
For any kind of EGR to be successful, it needs the buy-in from all the stakeholders involved. In other words, employees should be genuinely interested in joining the groups, while senior management should be able to see clear value in funding and promoting such groups. This means that the type of groups should, before anything else, be tailored to properly support employees and tend to specific company goals, like improving employee retention or increasing productivity in the workplace.
In order to be able to measure the impact of your EGR, you need to set clear purpose and goals. For this, you need to see where the starting point is using an employee survey. This survey usually helps you figure out what the current employee experience is like and what you can do to improve it. On top of that, the survey will help you identify the shared interests or characteristics people have, the type of communities they would want to join or are already missing in the workplace.
For example, if you are an IT company and you run this survey, you might find that women feel underrepresented in the workplace (which is not uncommon in this specific industry). With that in mind, you could initiate a group "Women in Tech", where all the female employees can come together to talk about their experiences at work and the daily challenges they need to tackle. At the same time, you can use their help in your next talent acquisition campaign to give priority to female applicants and bridge that gender gap in the workplace.
Get clear on the group's mission, vision, purpose, and goals. What does it take for someone to join the group, do they need to meet a specific set or criteria? After all, group admission can be as broad or as niche as you decide. It's important to talk to the group's members, or potential members and see what expectations they have from it, how they imagine governance and leadership development, daily operations, etc. Here you can also define the target audience, activities, and how the ERG will align with the organization's values and objectives.
Coming back to the previous example, you need to make it clear whether the goal of the group will be to give a voice and a safe space for female employees to talk in front of the people they trust or bring about a larger organizational change, like a shift in gender representation within the company. Once those goals and expectations are aligned, it will be easier to plan relevant activities that will help the group see their desired outcomes.
One of the best practices you will encounter when starting an ERG is ensuring that it's not only junior-level employees that participate in it, but also senior management and maybe even a few representatives from the C-suite.
Having senior leaders as participants will help bridge the gap between different managerial layers, make it easier to get leadership buy-in, and reduce the levels of hierarchy within the workplace. Employee resource groups are always meant to be an inclusive environment, welcoming all employees that want to become part of the community.
The activities that go into you ERG agenda can range from training sessions and upskilling courses to parties and team building activities. You need to fill up the calendar with events and activities that will help the group reach its goals, raise interest from potential members, and increase participation from existing ones.
Once some progress is made, it's important to revisit the journey and see if some adjustments need to be made. It's a good idea to gather feedback from the members of the group and make an improvement plan accordingly.
However, keep in mind that the whole concept of EGRs is that they are voluntary-led and voluntary-participated. People need to have the time and reason enough to attend all the planned events without them stealing from productivity time or eating into their personal space.
Finally, measure impact of the work done. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the impact of the ERG over time. You should also consider evaluating its influence on employee engagement, diversity initiatives, and overall organizational culture.
According to recent research, 80% of workers want be employed by a company that values diversity, which means that ERGs are also a major asset for businesses that want to attract and retain top talent.
Employee resource groups satisfy one of the most basic human needs — social interaction (with like-minded groups). At the same time, they promise to bring about a happier and more devoted workforce, responsible employers, and a culture of overall cultural respect and awareness.
So, whether you're considering launching a new ERG or enhancing an existing one, remember that these groups are not merely initiatives; they are vibrant communities that hold the potential to reshape the very fabric of how we work, interact, and thrive.
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