For companies today, diversity and inclusion are often listed as the top priorities. It is great to see several organisations mobilizing their efforts towards diversified and inclusive hiring practices. However, companies focus exclusively on bringing in employees without creating a haven where they feel a sense of belonging and equity.
As a result, it can hamper productivity and result in low levels of employee engagement at the workplace. For a company to succeed and thrive in the long run, it should maintain a culture that embraces belonging and community.
One effective solution is to create Employee Resource Groups.
This initiative instils a sense of belonging and helps to maintain a culture of empowerment, thereby prioritizing employee experience.
But, What are Employee Resource Groups Exactly?
Employee Resource Groups or ERG are voluntary employee-led associations where members come together with common interests, background, or demographics. They foster a respectful and caring community that supports each other actively and creatively to resolve issues.
Such employee resource groups are vital for companies to maintain diversity as well as the overall employee experience at the workplace.
The concept of ERG started initially when employees of the same race and gender came together… however, it has globally evolved into offering employees a united front.
Some of the popular ERGs today are:
- People with Disabilities
- Single or Working Parents
Why are Employee Resource Groups Important?
Work relationships tend to evolve organically in any workplace. It takes time for new employees to get accustomed to any organisation or a team. In due course, employees form informal groups, which influence various aspects of an organisation.
By providing a convenient means in the way of ERGs, you can encourage ‘official’ groups. In turn, these groups can positively impact your organisation’s success.
Here are some real reasons why should encourage Employee Resource Groups at your workplace…
1. Gives Employees a Say
It can be cumbersome for employees to approach management to bring attention to their concerns. They run the risk of being singled out in the process. Offering a medium to collaborate in a formal group, helps employees to address concerns promptly without any fear.
There are even chances that their concerns are mitigated even before they reache high up the ladder. Ultimately, employees will be able to voice their concerns, be heard, valued, and remain engaged.
2. Improves Alignment
ERGs are a great way to facilitate connections that are both positive and productive. Members can liaison with others who work in other departments or teams, thereby fostering greater cooperation across departments and even encourages cross-team collaboration.
When such cross-team interactions happen, company culture gets a boost and the organisation works as a collective entity towards a common goal, rather than separate parts of the whole.
3. Increases Employee Engagement
Positive relationships correlate to happier employees, and happier employees are better engaged. They enjoy an exceptional level of support and have a high level of trust in company leadership. Subsequently, employees will have a stronger drive to excel and be satisfied with their work.
4. Fosters Greater Innovation and Creativity
When interactions happen across different departments and teams, multiple viewpoints factor into the key business drivers and strategies. These multiple points of view illicit new ideas and newer strategies fostering improved innovation at the workplace.
Employee Resource Groups are not just a big support system for the employees. When structured and supplied adequately with the right resources, these groups can serve as the most exceptional support system for the organization as a whole.
How to Get Started with Employee Resource Groups?
Here are some guidelines on how ERGs can be implemented in an organisation to reap its maximum benefits and create an inclusive culture:
1. Involve Senior Management
While it is not mandatory to have buy-in from senior management, it will certainly help a great deal. Having an executive sponsor who holds a leadership position will help to propel the ERG in the right direction. Formal support from the top management can be more impactful for employees by allocating the right resources and setting an open communication channel.
2. Assess Needs and Set Goals
Assess the organisation needs and decide which ERGs are needed. Which groups are represented or misrepresented? Are women being treated fairly? Are there retention issues with millennial employees? Once you clearly know your current needs, you can start forming groups and then it’s time to set goals.
Setting goals of the group should be done in tandem with the greater goals of the organisation so that there is better alignment.
Universal themes like recruitment, retention, awareness, community engagement, career development, impact on business decisions, intersectionality can be some unique goals to focus.
3. Start Small and Grow Gradually
You don’t need to have big numbers to start a group. It may be tiny in the beginning. Don’t get discouraged with the initial numbers, it will evolve in time.
It is also perfectly fine, and at times beneficial, to have individuals in the group who do not necessarily share the characteristics of the group. If they are passionate and willing to extend their support, they can add great value to the group.
4. Advertise the Group
To create awareness about the group’s presence, spread the word via the company’s intranet, internal newsletter or website and gain visibility. This will help to earn new members and be open to everyone. With a focus on intersectionality, employees can be members of multiple groups as well.
5. Dedicated Support
Having dedicated support for ERGs will help to empower the network and take some burden off the group leadership. Special roles, including executive sponsors, HR business partner liaisons and full-time employees can be valuable to extend support to ERGs. This will enable direct channels of support to contribute and influence key business decisions.
ERGs are Huge Already….
Some of the larger and noteworthy employee resource groups that exist today include:
- Ernst and Young Professional Networks – Recognized by Diversity Inc. they are the pioneers of ERGs that consist of distinct groups for working mothers, veterans, cancer survivors, speakers of French, and many others.
- Women at Microsoft – Referred to as W@M, this group aims to inspire women to break through the glass ceiling and expand their skills
- Google ERGs – There are 15 ERGs at Google, all targeted at multiple networks of people. Some of them include ethnic ERGs, Women at Google, Trans at Google, Google Veterans and more.
Given the benefits of employee resource groups, all companies should divest more efforts to inculcate these groups to enhance employee experience, diversity and inclusion initiatives.
If executed in the right way, these formal networks within the company have the power to foster a sense of belonging and create healthier and innovative business excellence.
Start developing a plan to implement employee resource groups at your organizations to help your employees win and in turn, propel your growth.