Employee Resource Groups Aren't Only Fun for Your Employees, but Beneficial to the Whole Company
Pic Source: Human Resources, University of Miami
As your office diversifies, it’s important to allow your employees to make the most of their strengths by giving them opportunities to engage in conversations and lead projects of their interest. One way companies are doing this is through Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) which ensure that all demographics, issues, and interests are being heard and considered. ERGs are “voluntary, employee-led groups made up of individuals who join together based on common interests, backgrounds or demographic factors such as gender, race or ethnicity” “that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives.”
While you’ll encounter many different kinds of ERGs, four common groups that you’ll see include:
Diversity resource groups - that form around marginalized identities and exist to provide a safe space for individuals to share their ideas, opinions, and even struggles with an audience of a similar background. Within diversity ERGs, members work to find solutions to cultural challenges faced in the workplace.
Volunteer groups - that form around community service and exist to provide employees wanting to give back to the community a space to pitch ideas and run events. Within volunteer ERGs, members work to build and maintain the social entrepreneurship of the company by connecting with the larger community.
Affinity groups - that form around shared hobbies and interests and exist to provide employees a space to build office relationships. Within affinity ERGs, members can improve employee engagement, communication, and teamwork.
Professional development groups - that form around a shared desire to network and exist to provide employees with connections. Within professional ERGs, members from all levels and departments can share knowledge and support individuals who might want to improve upon a specific skill (i.e. coding, leadership, public speaking, etc).
By allowing employees to work on projects of interest that are separate from their usual, daily work responsibilities, ERGs allow each employee the opportunity to engage with and invest in the company and its orchestration.
Specifically, volunteer groups can provide a company with a better understanding of its customer base while professional groups provide a company with a greater sense of employee performance. And the general benefits of ERGs include allowing employees the chance to form relationships with coworkers while also creating solutions and plans to better the company.
If you think your company might benefit from ERGs, consider the following steps:
Determine the type of ERG that’s best suited for your company - consider which of the four common ERGs your company might benefit from based on company demographics and dynamics. Ask employees which groups they might be interested in through surveys. Each possible ERG needs a specific purpose, so find a shared, concrete objective to form this group around.
Get support from leadership - Consider getting support from senior management. Not only will this upper-level support help validate the existence of the group, it will also ensure the maintenance and growth of the group as employees enter and exit the company.
Start with a small group - start with a singular ERG with a clear objective, allow it to grow organically, and find what works and what needs to be changed if you decide to make more groups. Consider questions such as: are objectives being met? Is the group retaining members? Are there resources that might be beneficial to the group’s success that haven't been offered?
Advertise the group - promote the existence of the group through emails and even in onboarding materials. Make sure to advertise the group's goals and objectives. Further, make employees aware that management welcomes other ERG ideas for future implementation.
As with all company initiates, it’s important to support the creation and maintenance of ERGs by connecting the groups with the Human Resources department, providing the groups a stipend with which to conduct group projects and outings, and assisting in the advertisement of the groups.
ERGs are not only fun and engaging for the employees involved, but they also benefit the company by furthering inclusion efforts, community outreach, employee relations, and professional development. If your company is looking to be more responsive to employee ideas, consider forming an ERG!