Employee resource groups, or ERGs, instill a sense of belonging and understanding in the workplace. For those reasons, they’re also an effective retention tool, and if you’re like most companies right now, any retention advantage should be welcome. So, what are ERGs, and why should you help employees organize them?
90% of Fortune 500 companies support their own employee resource groups. In large organizations like those, they’re a great way to make the workplace feel a bit smaller, more communal. Even though smaller-to-mid-sized organizations have an easier time bringing their people together, ERGs offer unique benefits beyond the typical team gatherings.
As diversity, equity, and inclusion become key sticking points for employees everywhere, employee resource groups provide companies with a helping hand. In this blog, we’ll outline the case for encouraging ERGs in your workplace and how to go about that.
What are employee resource groups (ERGs)?
Employee resource groups are like workplace clubs, most often formed by employees with specific characteristics in common. Some characteristic examples include ethnicity, gender, generation, religion, and more. However, groups also base themselves on special interests like the environment, health and wellness, volunteering, and more. Their goal usually involves improving diversity, equity, and inclusion at your company, but they can also touch on other initiatives.
By creating these groups, employees have an outlet to share experiences and advice, expand their network, and contribute to their career and personal growth. Employees take charge of their ERGs, but management stays involved as sponsors or advocates. These groups have existed for a while, but they’ve taken hold as employees become more attracted to values-driven employers. Remember, 75% of applicants want to work for diverse companies.
How do ERGs benefit employees and employers?
McKinsey found that diverse and inclusive workplaces outperform their competition by around 35%. As such, ERGs can play a big part in fostering greater inclusion at your company because they are dedicated spaces for people to connect with peers and have their voices heard. In addition, employee resource groups afford your employees the opportunity to build community at work. That’s a huge win for employers trying to improve employee engagement organically.
Additionally, your employer brand experiences a positive bump by advertising employee resource groups at your company. They communicate your commitment to building an inclusive workforce, which attracts a more diverse pool of applicants. When job boards like Glassdoor implement DEI filters for applicants, these groups really help you stand out.
Moreover, ERGs provide valuable insights to leadership when executives choose to hear them out. Diversity in the C-Suite is still problematically low, and though ERGs can’t replace that kind of career advancement, they can provide supplemental guidance through diverse lenses. This is especially important in companies that commit to DEI initiatives. What better way to assess the efficacy of your initiatives than hearing directly from diverse groups in your organization? Also, you may find some future leaders among those in the ERG.
How do you establish an ERG at your company?
You can take a couple of approaches here. Many employee resource groups form organically out of shared interests, but sometimes HR plays a hand too. Your employees could benefit from a gentle nudge because they may not even know it’s an option. If a group emerges on its own, be quick to support them and provide resources if it helps the cause.
If HR or leadership want to get involved in creating these groups, the most important thing is empowering the employees in the group to take charge. With that in mind, you can take a few steps on the employer side to get things rolling.
First, see how an ERG could play into your current initiatives. For example, what groups are underrepresented in your company and in leadership? Are you having retention issues with certain groups? That could signal problems with inclusion, and an ERG might help there. Do you need help attracting diverse applicants to your workforce? Employee resource groups signal that your company would be a welcoming environment for those candidates.
If a need exists, gauge interest among your employees in participating. Next, determine a group sponsor or advocate from leadership at your company. This person would assist with growing the group and acquiring any additional resources needed from the group. In most cases, it’s good to start small with your ERG.
Bring in a few teammates who are passionate about that group’s goals. Give them a sense of ownership over the progress of the ERG, and let them bring others in over time. If the group needs administrative help when it comes to organizing spaces for meeting or coordinating calendars, see how you can step up. Finally, spread the word! Make sure folks in the office know what the ERG is, what it hopes to accomplish, and why they should join.
How do you encourage participation in ERGs?
Almost all leadership advocates for ERGs feel they encourage participation at their company, but only 52% of actual ERG leaders would agree. As with any other initiative, employee resource groups need resources. Sometimes, that means a solid budget. Members of these groups are quick to notice when companies make big donations to a racial justice organization but won’t invest more than a snack budget into their ERG. Instead, consider your role as a leader to put the “resource” in ERG. Ideally, these groups can be active forces for positive cultural and business change, and you need to take that seriously.
Additionally, consider offering small stipends to participants or perks like better parking spots, company dinners, or even development opportunities. As much as the social element is important, employees who participate often do real work for your organization through those groups. While that’s generally done out of genuine passion, it doesn’t hurt to recognize and reward that work. \
ADDA is here to help!
Whether you’re hoping to encourage employee resource groups at your office or dive into other cultural initiatives, ADDA’s HR experts have your back. Schedule a call today to discuss your HR and culture needs.