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Employee Resource Group (ERG)
Employee resource groups (ERG) are an important tool for creating a more inclusive workplace and promoting a sense of belonging for underrepresented employees. Read on to gain a comprehensive understanding of what ERGs are, why they're important and how they can look in different companies.

What Is an Employee Resource Group (ERG)?

Employee resource groups are organized groups of employees within a company who come together based on shared characteristics such as race, gender, sexual orientation or veteran status. The purpose of these groups is to promote diversity, inclusivity, a sense of belonging within the workplace and to serve as a resource for employees. ERGs provide support, networking opportunities and a platform for employees to discuss important issues and advocate for change within their organizations. ERGs can be employee-led or sponsored by the company, and they often work closely with HR and diversity and inclusion teams to ensure that their goals align with the company's overall diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.

Benefits of Employee Resource Groups

Employee resource groups provide a sense of community, serving as a resource for HR and diversity and inclusion teams, advocating for change, and providing valuable networking opportunities. ERGs play a crucial role in creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all employees. Companies that prioritize the development and support of ERGs not only benefit from the increased engagement and productivity of their employees, but also position themselves as leaders in the drive towards a more diverse and inclusive society.
  • Foster belonging. Some minority groups have challenges when navigating their workplaces. ERGs provide a sense of community and belonging for employees who may feel marginalized or underrepresented in their workplace. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and a sense of engagement with the company, which can result in higher levels of productivity and retention.
  • Create DEI strategies. DEI shouldn’t be just the next buzzword for organizations, they should be a detailed plan on how to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. ERGs can serve as a valuable resource for HR and diversity and inclusion teams, providing insight into the experiences and perspectives of underrepresented groups within the company. This information can then be used to inform and guide the company's diversity and inclusion efforts, helping to create a more inclusive workplace for all employees.
  • Change and innovation. The workforce in 2023 is very diverse, and as organizations become more diverse, the needs of their employees change. Employees want to feel included in their workplaces. Employee resource groups can be a catalyst for change within the company, serving as a platform for employees to advocate for policies and initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion. For example, an LGBTQ+ ERG may advocate for the adoption of policies that support transgender employees, or a disability ERG may advocate for increased accessibility in the workplace.

Downsides of Employee Resource Groups

While ERGs have many benefits and can play an important role in promoting diversity, equity and inclusivity in the workplace, they can also have some downsides. These can include:
  1. Potential for division. ERGs can create a divide within the company, as employees may feel like they have to choose between their ERG membership and their work team. This can lead to feelings of exclusion and division within the workplace.
  2. Exclusivity. ERGs can sometimes foster an exclusive or cliquish culture, as they may only attract and serve a specific group of employees. This can lead to further division and exclusion and may limit the potential for cross-group collaboration and understanding.
  3. Lack of representation. In some cases, ERGs may not be representative of the diverse experiences and perspectives of all employees. For example, a women's ERG may not be representative of the experiences of all women in the workplace.
  4. Challenges with resources. ERGs often operate on a volunteer basis and may face challenges with securing adequate resources, such as funding and support from the company. Without these resources, ERGs may not be able to effectively carry out their mission.
While these downsides of ERGs are important to consider, they can be mitigated through effective leadership and communication. It's important for companies to establish clear guidelines and policies around ERG operations, and to involve all employees in the development and implementation of diversity and inclusivity initiatives. It‘s also helpful to remind employees who are not included in an ERG that they can be allies to groups to learn more about their respective needs and help raise awareness within the organization.

Examples of Employee Resource Groups

There are numerous ERGs in different companies. The specific focus of an ERG will vary depending on the company and the needs of its employees. Generally, ERGs host events and workshops, advocate for policies that promote diversity and inclusion and provide mentorship and networking opportunities for their respective groups. It's also worth noting that companies may have multiple ERGs, each focused on a different aspect of diversity, equity and inclusion. Here are some of the most common ones you’ll find in the workplace.
  • Women in leadership ERG. This group focuses on supporting female employees to advance their careers and promoting gender equality in the workplace.
  • Veterans ERG. This group is composed of veterans and military personnel who have transitioned to civilian life. Its purpose is to provide support, networking opportunities and a platform for advocacy on behalf of veteran employees, as well as to promote a better understanding of the unique challenges faced by veteran employees.
  • BIPOC Employee ERG. This group focuses on supporting employees who identify as Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color in the workplace, and addressing issues specific to their community.
  • LGBTQ+ ERG. This group is focused on supporting and advocating for LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace.
  • Ability/Disability ERG. This group is focused on supporting employees with disabilities and advocating for policies that promote accessibility and inclusivity for employees with disabilities.
  • Multicultural ERG. This group is focused on promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace by fostering understanding and appreciation of different cultures and backgrounds.

Tips for Running an Employee Resource Group

Running an ERG can be a challenging but rewarding experience, as it provides an opportunity to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace and to support and empower underrepresented employees. By following these tips, you can ensure that your ERG operates effectively and has a positive impact on your company and its employees.

Tip 1: Engage All Members

Make sure all members of the ERG feel engaged and valued. Encourage members to participate in events and initiatives, and create opportunities for members to provide feedback and ideas. It’s important to understand that members join ERGs to feel included in the workplace, so engaging them will help members establish a sense of belonging.

Tip 2: Establish Clear Goals and Objectives

Clearly articulate the goals and objectives of the ERG and make sure all members understand how their work fits into the broader picture. Regularly evaluate the ERG's progress towards its goals and refine its operations as needed.

Tip 3: Communicate Effectively

Regular and effective communication is key to the success of an ERG. Make sure all members are kept informed about upcoming events, initiatives and important updates. Consider using a variety of communication channels, such as email, slack, or in-person meetings to reach all members.

Tip 4: Foster Collaboration and Partnership

Encourage members to collaborate and partner with other ERGs, as well as with other departments and teams within the company. This can help build relationships, promote understanding and foster a sense of community.

Tip 5: Build Relationships with Company Leadership

Build strong relationships with company leadership and HR, and work closely with them to ensure that the ERG is aligned with the company's overall diversity, equity inclusion and belonging initiatives. If ERGs are going to be successful, leaders need buy-in. Without leadership’s support, many initiatives fail, no matter how well planned or supported they are.

Tip 6: Provide Training and Development Opportunities

Offer training and development opportunities to members of the ERG, such as workshops, webinars or mentorship programs. This can help build skills, expand knowledge and promote personal and professional growth. ERGs are sometimes the only opportunity for some employees to receive meaningful mentorship. For example, a woman who aspires to senior leadership in the organization needs to learn the skills for the role, but understanding how to address unconscious biases she will face in the workplace is equally helpful to achieve her goal. This is something she can gain from mentorship from a senior leader in an ERG.

How to Start an Employee Resource Group

Starting an ERG within your company can be a valuable tool for promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, as well as for providing support and resources for underrepresented employees. Here are the steps you can take to start an ERG in your company.

Step 1: Assess the Need

Determine if there is a need for an ERG in your company and identify the specific group of employees that the ERG will serve. You can do this by conducting surveys, focus groups, or town hall meetings to assess the needs and interests of employees.

Step 2: Gather a Core Group of Supporters

Find a group of employees who share your vision for the ERG and who are willing to contribute their time and resources to getting it off the ground. This core group will serve as the foundation for the ERG.

Step 3: Secure Support from Company Leadership

Work with your HR department and company leadership to secure support and resources for the ERG. This may include funding, space and access to company resources.

Step 4: Define the ERG's Purpose and Goals

Clearly articulate the purpose and goals of the ERG and how it will contribute to the company's overall diversity and inclusivity initiatives.

Step 5: Develop a Plan of Action

Create a plan of action that outlines the activities and initiatives the ERG will undertake to achieve its goals. This may include hosting events and workshops, conducting research and advocating for change within the company.

Step 6: Launch the ERG

Once you have a solid foundation in place, launch the ERG and promote it to employees. Consider hosting a launch event to introduce the ERG to the wider company and to build excitement and support.

Step 7: Evaluate and Refine

Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the ERG and refine its operations and initiatives as needed. This may involve conducting regular surveys, focus groups or town hall meetings to assess the needs and interests of employees.
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Remone Robinson

Remone Robinson

Remone Robinson is a high-achieving Human Resources professional with extensive experience and success in talent management, strategic communication, and regulatory compliance across several industries. He is a motivated self-starter who draws on strategic planning and change management skills to enhance HR policies and operations. He has an extensive background in performance management, training & development, and diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging. Remone earned a Master of Science (MS) degree in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University. His passion and vision for HR led him to become a SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) from SHRM and a Certified Professional in Human Resources® (PHR®) from HRCI.
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