By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon
If you’re seeking ways to build community in your business amongst your employees and offer opportunities for them to grow and develop, it’s time to consider creating employee resource groups (ERGs).
ERGs are employee-led groups that foster inclusivity and belonging within an organization and promote personal and professional growth and advancement. While the premise is simple, the overall, measurable difference they can make in recruiting and retaining worthwhile talent is invaluable.
What Defines an ERG?
To be an ERG, the employees who are members share a common background. For example, an ERG can be formed with members who share a race, ethnicity, LGBTQIA+ orientation or identity, military or veteran status, socioeconomic background, home or regional background, religion or even those who live with a disability. The purpose is not to be exclusionary. On the contrary, the intent is to help members integrate into the larger organization through advocacy and mutual support and encouragement.
Allyship is also a key component of ERGs, and, sometimes, those who don’t share the same commonality of the ERG members are still offered an invitation to join as an ally within the company. Some companies will pay employees to lead ERGs; however, that is usually not the case. Leaders typically volunteer for the opportunity to make a difference in their workplace atmosphere and culture.
Some excellent ERG examples are:
• Working Parents group
• Race/Ethnicity group:
o Black, African, Caribbean
o Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI)
o Native, Indigenous, First Nation
• Professional Women’s group
• Interfaith group
Why Have an ERG?
It’s simple. ERGs create pockets of safe space and understanding between those with a shared identity. An underrepresented group in your company might face specific obstacles or concerns. Having an ERG allows the group members to confide in one another, problem solve and choose a course of action that will enable them to advocate for themselves and express their needs. They can also share resources and support each other in their career advancement or offer advice or mentorship on navigating company policies and procedures. Furthermore, ERGs build a culture of community and belonging within the framework of the larger company.
How to Support an ERG?
There are many ways to support your company’s employee resource groups. Start by encouraging new hires to join; mention the benefits of the group at initial orientation or during training. Follow up the formation of ERGs by providing them with free professional and personal development courses to help them gain valuable skills. Since many of your workers may have limited time between professional and personal responsibilities, allow them to form their employee resource group on the clock.
Meet with your accounting team to figure out how to provide financial resources to assist them with materials needed for advertising and holding meetings. Also, you can create a diversity council that works with the ERG leaders to develop equity and inclusion goals for the company to make a better workplace culture and atmosphere for everyone. Finally, hiring more diverse employees makes it easier to promote practices, policies, and changes that encourage understanding and empathy.
Employee resource groups are an excellent tool to recruit and retain competitive talent. It’s time for your organization to consider creating or finding ways to better support ERGs in your business.