Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
This quote encapsulates the essence of employee resource groups (ERGs), employee-led teams within corporate organizations dedicated to important company initiatives.
While some companies have individuals who champion values such as diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), environmental awareness, and mental wellness, companies with ERGs dedicated to promoting these topics can make a larger inter-organizational impact than one person alone.
In this article, we explore ERG types, the benefits of ERGs, and the integral role they play in upholding the values, missions, and visions of organizations across the globe.
What are employee resource groups (ERGs)?
Employee resource groups are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with an organization's mission, values, and goals.
Typically run by passionate employees, ERGs provide a forum for members to connect, support each other, and contribute to personal and professional development. ERGs are often structured through a DEIB lens — such as women’s ERGs, BIPOC ERGs, and LGBTQIA+ ERGs. But there are also ERGs centered around interests such as sustainability, professional development, and more.
These groups work closely with departments such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and human resources to align their goals with company objectives and policies.
ERGs can help CSR and DEIB professionals promote social impact activities across the entire company.
What are the benefits of employee resource groups (ERGs)?
Employee resource groups bring a multitude of benefits to an organization. These include:
ERGs can enhance diversity and inclusion. ERGs provide a platform for underrepresented groups, contributing to a more inclusive work environment. ERGs can help employees who share similar identities feel a sense of belonging and support within their corporate environment. For example, if an employee experiences a micro-aggression in the workplace, they could turn to a company’s ERG for guidance and support.
ERGs improve employee engagement. ERGs boost morale and engagement by providing a sense of community. According to a 2022 McKinsey report, the majority of employees report that ERGs are effective at building community within their company.
ERGs can attract and retain top talent. Companies with active ERGs attract prospective employees and have higher retention rates. ERGs are particularly helpful in attracting diverse talent. “The participation of ERG members, for example, in diverse panels and recruiting events, shows potential employees that a welcoming community exists at the organization they are considering joining,” explains the McKinsey report. ERGs focused on professional development can also communicate to potential hires there is opportunity and support for career growth.
ERGs can increase innovation. Diverse perspectives in ERGs can lead to more innovative solutions and ideas in your company.
How companies can support their ERGs
It’s not enough for companies to simply have ERGs. In order to create effective ERGs that enrich employees and company values, executives must actively support ERGs.
Consider these following strategies:
Allocate budget to ERGs. Financial resources are crucial for ERGs to host events, programs, and activities for employees to get involved and feel supported. From paying for expert speakers to facilitating social impact experiences that benefit local and global nonprofits, a budget is essential for ERGs to expand the impact of their work. While many ERG board positions are voluntary, consider paying your ERG leaders to compensate them for their time. It can be a lot of work to manage an effective ERG — particularly at large, multinational companies.
Provide access to marketing channels. In order for ERGs to be effective drivers of change, ERG leaders and programs must be visible. Allow ERGs to leverage internal communication channels such as Slack, newsletters, and dedicated time during all-hands staff meetings to promote events and share upcoming initiatives.
Get executive buy-in. Without support from leadership, ERGs won’t be able to be an effective force for good within your company. Prioritize inclusive leadership by getting executive buy-in for ERGs. Try appointing an executive ambassador for each ERG at your company. When executives are invested in ERGs, these groups have permission to make their impact felt across the organization.
Partner with trusted social impact providers. ERGs are instrumental in promoting the values of your company. But it's difficult to organize and execute well-run social impact experiences for employees — especially if your company has dispersed employees in several countries. Encourage your ERGs to partner with a trusted social impact provider such as Visit.org. Experts from Visit.org can help ERGs manage relationships with nonprofits, organize impactful employee experiences, and measure the success of their initiatives. Bonus: Visit.org’s customized impact reports measure both the quantitative and qualitative impact of ERG activities, enabling organizers to better understand which programs resonate with their employees.
ERGs are an important force for good
ERGs are not just groups. They are powerful instruments for promoting diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace.
By understanding what ERGs are, recognizing their benefits, and supporting their growth, organizations can create a more inclusive, engaged, and productive work environment. ERG success hinges on commitment from all levels of the organization. Learn how Visit.org supports ERGs at some of the world’s most innovative enterprises. Schedule a call with a member of our team today!