How Employee Resource Groups Strengthen Inclusion in the Workplace
According to Pew Research Center, over half of workers think it’s good for companies to focus on increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at work, but only a quarter say their workplace has affinity or employee resource groups (ERGs).
Organized by workers who share similar interests or backgrounds, ERGs tend to focus on promoting DEI change, so they’re crucial for helping all staff feel heard and included at work. ERGs also typically advise leadership and HR on how to create this sense of belonging.
This is particularly important for employees whose identities are typically underrepresented in the workplace. Black (78%), Asian (72%) and Hispanic (65%) workers, and women (61%) place a much higher value on DEI at work compared to White workers (47%) and men (50%).
With ERGs, your organization can foster safe spaces for all employees, which in turn helps attract and retain employees who care about belonging and inclusion. This article will also dig into other benefits of ERGs and the steps to setting up ERGs effectiveness.
What Is an ERG?
An ERG comes together around a common attribute or interest—such as race, gender, or belief—with the goal of supporting employees and ensuring that they feel included. An ERG group may come together on its own due to the voluntary efforts of multiple employees or be formed at the request of company leadership.
What Are the Most Common Types of Employee Resource Groups?
Some of the most common ERGs are based on characteristics like:
- Ethnicity or culture
- People with disabilities
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Caregivers to others
“Affinity groups” refers to groups centered on a common interest rather than a life circumstance or inherent characteristic. These include community service, employee wellbeing, or environmental advocacy.
Included. Supported. Retained.
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Who Can Join an Employee Resource Group?
Those identifying with the group's main attribute or interest should join and lead the employee resource group. Employees who consider themselves allies of those in the resource group may also be welcome. This allows members to discuss issues and solutions effectively.
What Are the Best Channels for Employee Resource Groups?
Here are some of the best communication channels for employee resource groups:
- Microsoft Teams: If your organization uses SharePoint or Microsoft 365, meeting over Teams allows you to take advantage of currently available resources while having a place to store and access shared files.
- Zoom: This platform allows you to schedule recurring meetings in advance and take advantage of virtual breakout rooms for segmented discussions.
- Slack: Slack lets companies create separate channels for each group and use the built-in Huddles feature to meet via audio or video calls.
- In Person: This is a popular choice for companies with in-office staff and those who allow groups to meet during the workday; if everyone can agree on an off-site location, you can also meet after work hours.
Whatever you choose, make sure you’re including remote employees or those who can’t attend in person due to location, schedule, or lifestyle needs.
Why Are Employee Resource Groups Important?
What are ERGs if not a way to encourage diversity in your employee initiatives, leadership focus, and customer outcomes? Businesses in the top quartile of gender and ethnic diversity on executive teams outperform fourth-quartile businesses in terms of profitability by 25% and 36%, respectively.
Here are some of the ways you’ll benefit from creating a culture of belonging.
ERGs promote diversity, leading to greater innovation and increased success. Companies whose leaders exhibit both inherent and acquired diversity traits are 45% more likely to report a growth in market share and 70% more likely to have captured a new market in the previous year.
Aligning with DEI Initiatives
Employee resource groups serve company-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In a 2022 report on ERGs, executives said ERGs support the following priorities:
- Creating community in the company
- Organizing educational events for employees
- Supporting both general and diversity recruiting efforts
Helping Employees Thrive
Employee resource groups boosting morale and wellbeing even beyond work. In a Great Place to Work survey of ERG leaders, over 90% feel like their organization is “taking meaningful action to create a better society for all.”
Employees who take part in an ERG are also much more engaged in company culture, and they’re more likely to recommend their organization and know what their company values are.
Would recommend the
organization to a friend
What Are the Steps to Starting an ERG Program?
Give your employee resource group the best chance of success and longevity with these steps:
- Ask for employee input. Employee resource groups are employee-led initiatives built on the idea of making employees feel included. Allow employees to have a say in which ERGs are available and who takes on roles in each group.
- Get buy-in from leadership. An ERG's mission should be connected to the larger company's diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
- Set goals and a vision for the program that aligns with company needs and seeks to fill gaps in your current strategy.
- Outline the ERG structure, complete with roles and responsibilities, leader expectations, and executive sponsors.
- Spread the word about the ERG through company newsletters, organization-wide meetings, and special event invitations.
- Secure and allocate resources for financial and in-kind resources, especially stipends for those taking on leadership roles and funds for professional development activities.
- Ask for feedback from your ERG teams to ensure you meet their needs and implement viable suggestions to better serve ERG members and company-wide employees.
With the right team and commitment from company leadership, taking these actions can help ensure your ERG has maximum impact across the entire organization.
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