The Benefits of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

Creating a cohesive work environment while placing a premium on diversity, equity, and inclusion during your hiring process can be a challenge.

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Creating a cohesive work environment while placing a premium on diversity, equity, and inclusion during your hiring process is a challenge, to say the least. While there is no “simple fix” or magic bullet solution to inclusion and belonging within your company, this first step can help: building employee resource groups (or ERGs).

What is an employee resource group?

First created by the CEO of Xerox in the 1960s with the goal of addressing racial tension, ERGs have come back into popularity in recent years as diversity and equity become more and more important in the workplace. ERGs are more or less what they sound like: a group that’s led by employees, aligned with your company’s mission and values, and created to foster a particular outcome that makes your company a better place to work at for all employees. It allows employees with a particular commonality (religion, ethnicity, shared interest, gender, etc.) to share a space and support each other and spread awareness.

An ERG can go a long way in terms of helping employees feel accepted and included in their company culture. All ERGs, in some way or another, should tie back into your company’s mission or purpose in order to move your business closer to its goals. Without this element, ERGs risk ineffective or alienating outputs.

What is the purpose of employee resource groups (aka ERGs)?

ERGs can be used to strategically address some of the cultural challenges your company faces.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you have been hiring rapidly the office is suddenly filled with new faces. A natural result might be the formation of a group or clique of employees who had been around longer and your office becomes a less than cohesive work environment. In this instance you could create an ERG designed to empower new employees and create a more equitable relationship between new and old hires.

What are the benefits of providing resources for ERGs?

Informal ERGs have naturally existed at many companies– coworkers who are friendly and support each other. Perhaps they even develop friendships outside the office.

While the concept is loosely the same (fostering a sense of belonging among employees in your workplace), the content between groups like these and a formal ERG can vary dramatically. Informal groups and pairs can end up resulting in little other than gossip– even if it’s productive brainstorming, it’s typical that your leadership will never be privy to these ideas.

If you offer structured ERGs designed to tackle a certain issue, you’ll be in the know about anything positive that comes out of them and the chances of conversations devolving into unproductive complaining are significantly less.

What’s more, if created correctly, ERGs are able to bring a diverse cross-section of your company together, spanning levels and departments and even offices if you have more than one, in order to accomplish business-wide goals. This can lead to increased employee happiness and engagement as well as give you the ability to identify up-and-coming leadership in the making.

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