Schedule a Call

Building Stronger Workplaces Through Employee Resource Groups: Opportunities and Challenges – Part 2

Mar 10, 2023
Opportunity 2


In last week’s blog, I talked about ERGs as powerful tools for building a culture of inclusion and demonstrating the power of diverse teams. 

ERGs offer support, encouragement, and guidance, especially when employees are dealing with difficult situations at work. Despite their potential benefits, though, many ERGs fail to achieve their goals or sustain their momentum. 

The Four Main Reasons ERGs Fail and How to Ensure They are Successful 

1.    Lack of Leadership Support

One of the most significant reasons ERGs fail is the lack of support from leadership. Without the backing of senior executives, ERGs may struggle to secure funding, resources, or visibility. ERGs can also encounter resistance from managers who perceive them as a distraction from work or an unnecessary burden on company resources. 

To avoid this issue, it's essential for ERGs to build relationships with leadership and demonstrate the value they can bring to the organization. This could involve inviting executives to attend events or sharing success stories and metrics that demonstrate the impact of ERGs on employee engagement, retention, or diversity. 

2.    Lack of Purpose

Another common reason ERGs fail is because of a lack of clarity around their purpose or goals. ERGs may form around a broad identity or experience, such as gender, race, or sexual orientation, but without a clear mission, they can struggle to create meaningful programming or engagement opportunities. 

To be successful, ERGs must define their purpose and goals, establish a clear mission statement, and develop a strategic plan for achieving their objectives. Conducting surveys or focus groups will bring clarity to the needs and priorities of their members. 

3.    Lack of Participation

A third reason ERGs fail is due to a lack of participation or engagement from members. ERGs may struggle to attract members if they are seen as exclusive or not relevant to employees' needs.

To address this issue, ERGs should focus on creating a culture of inclusion, which could involve hosting events or activities that are open to all employees, promoting cross-ERG collaboration, or leveraging social media and other communication channels to reach a wider audience.

4.    Lack of Sustainability

Last, ERGs may fail if they lack sustainability over time. ERGs may struggle to maintain momentum if they rely too heavily on a few passionate leaders or if they don't have a plan for succession or leadership development.

ERGs can avoid this issue by investing in leadership training and development, creating opportunities for members to take on leadership roles or collaborate on projects, or establishing clear processes for decision-making and governance. Groups that mature must effectively establish their own organizational and leadership structures, delegate work to other members, and build strategic relationships across the business. 

Ensuring Success 

In most cases, ERGs start with a small group that comes together to talk about a particular pain point that seems unique to their experience or to celebrate a cultural event, such as Día de los Muertos or Chinese New Year.

In this stage, ERG members are usually working without clear accountabilities and their main focus is to build an internal community. Groups may declare an event a success if people simply show up. Unfortunately, most ERGs remain at this level.

To be considered highly successful, though, ERGs need to position themselves in a way so they can provide expertise not just inside the company but also to the community and other corporate stakeholders. 

The highly successful ERGs are involved in everything from marketing to professional development to research and development (R&D). They serve as a strategic resource to the organization and their input is valued and sought out. 

The groups that reach this level ensure that all activities are strategically aligned with those of the organization. Success is tracked beyond attendance to sponsored events. In fact, success is determined by how well their activities support the organization’s mission, vision, and values.



Subscribe to The DEI Minute!

Sign up to get weekly tips and strategies about diversity, equity, and inclusion to help you increase your DEI IQ. Emails are guaranteed short and to the point, hence the DEI Minute!