Building Stronger Workplaces Through Employee Resource Groups: Opportunities and Challenges – Part 1Mar 02, 2023
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), also known as Affinity Groups, Business Resource Groups, or Business Network Groups, are voluntary groups of employees who come together around a shared identity, experience, or interest.
The most common networks are for women, Blacks, LGBTQ, veterans, people with disabilities, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, working parents, religious orientations, specific generations (i.e., millennials), new employees, as well as allies who support these groups. Members usually join because they share a common purpose, interest, or background.
Nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies now have ERGs. In fact, in some of the larger companies such as IBM and PG&E, they have been around for many decades.
The Opportunities ERGs Provide
ERGs are a powerful tool for building a culture of inclusion and demonstrating the power of diverse teams who come together with a shared purpose. They are also a place where employees can find support, encouragement, or guidance when dealing with difficult situations at work. Some of the many opportunities ERGs bring about include:
- Promoting Diversity and Inclusion. ERGs can create a space for employees who share a common identity to connect, share knowledge and experiences, and support each other. They are a great forum for individuals to understand how diverse groups are experiencing the organization through the sharing of perspectives and experiences.
- Increasing Employee Engagement. ERGs help organizations increase employee engagement because they provide opportunities for employees to connect with one another, develop new skills, and pursue shared interests. Through ERG-sponsored events, such as cultural celebrations, networking opportunities, or professional development workshops, employees are able to build relationships that can help them feel more connected to the organization.
- Supporting Recruitment and Retention. ERGs can also support recruitment and retention efforts by highlighting the organization as a diverse and inclusive workplace. Members can serve as ambassadors for the organization, sharing their experiences and perspectives with potential candidates, and highlighting the organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
- Enhancing Business Outcomes. ERGs can provide insights and perspectives that can inform business decisions, such as product development, marketing strategies, and new recruitment initiatives. Members may serve as an in-house test market or focus group to ensure that the language, tone, and visuals used in the new marketing campaign are appropriate and resonate with the intended audience.
- Fostering Leadership Development. ERGs can also provide opportunities for leadership development, both for individual members and the organization as a whole. Serving in a chair or co-chair position can help members develop leadership skills, build confidence, and expand their networks. Needless to say, ERGs are an excellent way to identify and develop future leaders within the organization, which can contribute to the organization's long-term success.
- Creating Opportunities for Professional Development. When successful, ERGs offer unique professional development opportunities through skill-development workshops, lunch-and-learns, as well as guest speakers, which might start with an executive from within the company and eventually include other industry influencers.
Despite the many benefits ERGs can bring to an organization, there are also some challenges that need to be overcome.
In the next blog, I will go over the main reasons ERGs fail and what they need to do to become successful.
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