Employee Resource Groups: What They Are and How to Get Started

If you want to better connect with your employees’ needs, consider offering Employee Resource Groups.

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ERGs can improve recruitment and retention efforts — here’s how to create one

An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a grassroots-led initiative which aims to support various minority or interest groups. This group is typically employee-led, and offers resources to help its members feel supported and included. It also often provides an opportunity for growth within their organization. ERGs create a space for a group of people with commonalities to lean on and support one another.

As an example found in many organizations, you might find an ERG focused on women in leadership. If there are not many women in the organization, this kind of support network gives women an opportunity to work together, learn to overcome bias, act as mentors to one another — and create opportunities to help close the gender gap.

ERGs are an important part of your diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy and can help you connect with the needs of your employees. If you have interest in creating a structure around ERGs within your company, let’s dig deeper!

Benefits of supporting ERGs within your organization

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, having ERGs in your organization can make your employees feel more supported by the organization when they are going through the onboarding process. It can also help them feel a stronger sense of belonging and inclusion as they continue to integrate into their teams.

ERGs in your organization can make your employees feel more supported by the organization when they are going through the onboarding process.

ERGs can serve as a sounding board and collective voice for people within your organization and help shed light on potential blind spots that groups may be facing. When done right, ERGs can even help increase the likelihood of employees staying within the organization and will help your overall talent and recruitment efforts.

How to start

If you’re looking for some tangible first steps in creating an ERG at your organization, here are some components to help you get started.

Articulate the group’s purpose

Once an ERG identifies what community it will serve, it can create a formal mission statement or group charter to help the group form, storm, norm, and perform in the right direction.
ERGs can be categorized into 3 different themes, including social ERGs, advocacy ERGs, and external partnership ERGs. While some ERGs may serve minority groups like the LGBTQ+ community, they can also support your employees with common interests (like a group of people who love jogging, for example).

Once an ERG identifies what community it will serve, it can create a formal mission statement or group charter to help the group form, storm, norm, and perform in the right direction.

Create a group structure

Once the group of individuals have established the goal of the ERG, they can begin thinking about the group structure. Structure of the group can include things like leadership, executive sponsorship, membership requirements, membership responsibility, and recruitment.

Having an executive sponsor can help legitimize the group and allow people to feel comfortable taking time in their days to participate.

Plan for events

Planning forward for each quarter, the group must come together and decide what kind of events they would like to host. Common events include workshops, coaching sessions, networking events, and guest speakers. This may require the group to secure funding from the organization.

Socialize the group

Be sure to share the group with the organization and let people know how they can get involved and what the benefits for them include. You can do this through newsletters, new hire onboarding, and town halls.

Having a well detailed schedule of events is another great way to market the ERG and get people excited about participating.

Employee motivation: keeping the momentum going

While ERGs can have a very positive impact on the culture of your organization, there are certain challenges that may prevent their effectiveness and potential. One of the largest factors to keep a pulse on is your employee motivation.

While your employees might be keen to start a group, finding the motivation to keep momentum going can prevent the group from really taking off. Motivation can be affected by intrinsic factors like not feeling connected to the group or not feeling the real impact of participating, or more external factors like not having enough time to commit.

If the group fails to have any of their initiatives take off, or they raise concerns and your organization doesn’t address them, this may demotivate the group from trying to influence change.

To keep employees motivated to participate, your ERGs should be supported by managers and leadership across the organization and whenever possible, support your corporate objectives.

You can also share the wins and successes of the ERG with the rest of the organization in order to keep the momentum going and combat any demotivation.

As companies continue to operate virtually, you’ll have an opportunity to help employees who may be geographically dispersed create strong connections through ERGs.

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