What is an Employee Resource Group?
An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a group led by employees of an organization that promotes an inclusive and diverse workplace. They are different from other company initiatives because they are most commonly led and attended by people who share a common background and/or identity, for example: culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, etc. Unlike other company initiatives, ERGs are also a place where employees can gain skills for professional development and career development. ERGs also differ in that they are completely voluntary, and can bring recognition to traditions and holidays through celebrations and programming for a whole organization.
There are an endless amount of possible ERGs.
Some of the different types of Employee Resource Groups include:
- LGBTQIA+ groups
- Asian Pacific Islander (API)
- Mental health advocacy
- Young professionals
- First-generation college graduates
Having a variety of ERGs in your organization can help ensure your employees feel represented and have a safe space to connect with others of a shared identity in the workplace. This in turn benefits the organization, as it assists in loyalty and talent retention. Fostering belonging in your organization is important now more than ever, and ERGs are a great way to promote feelings of belonging and inclusion in the workplace.
Why should companies create ERGs?
ERGs are important because they foster a healthy work environment that provides employees access to opportunities. Many times, minoritized people feel out of place, othered, and like their voice is not heard–this is a shared experience across many different identities that do not often find themself as the majority group. This negatively impacts their work and performance at companies. With ERGs, marginalized individuals can feel in-group membership, and the fact that the ERG lives within the company means they are part of something greater and can contribute to making a difference. As mentioned previously, ERGs offer a strong value proposition for career advancement, recruitment, retention, and networking. For example, it may give an employee the opportunity to explore public speaking or project management in a low-risk way. ERGs can also provide opportunities for mentorship and leadership to employees of any level. Belonging to an ERG can boost employees’ self-esteem and improve their drive and work performance. Everyone wants to be heard and to feel appreciated; ERGs do just that. Overall, ERGs provide opportunities to employees who may not receive them through their day-to-day work duties and ERGs can improve productivity and morale among employees.
ERGs can impact internal and external stakeholders.
ERGs have the potential to greatly impact the workplace and the future of work because they can directly influence company policies. ERGs have been responsible for developing new products, helping companies understand potential consumers, and making sure that services are delivered in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way. An ERG can be utilized as a marketing tool; for example, it can help an organization with market research of a marginalized community.
Employee resource groups can also build connections with diverse suppliers and share opportunities about how to become a vendor or how to be certified as a minority, woman, LGBTQ, or veteran-owned enterprise. This is a way to expand the supplier diversity pipeline for institutions and corporations in a natural and long-term way.
Companies can also leverage ERGs to support outreach and connection with consumers to win marketplace share. An example was the colorful Brita filters: this special line of their classic water filter jug was launched in conjunction with the major celebrations of Lunar New Year and Diwal. The product was immensely popular with East Asian and South Asian consumers, as the colors of red and orange are auspicious for these communities. Another example comes from Hallmark, who partnered with their LGBTQ+ ERG to come up with a line of inclusive greeting cards that pictures same-sex couples and non-binary identities. This launched in conjunction with merchandising at the CVS pharmacy located in the Castro district in San Francisco. This was so well received by the community in the local area that it brought tears to people’s eyes in deep recognition of being seen, understood, valued, and represented in these products. [from The Power of ERGs]
ERGs are great for companies’ business endeavors, but most importantly, ERGs are good for employees. With ERGs, more voices are heard and more opportunities are made available. They also provide a place of acceptance and solace amongst marginalized groups. ERGs can positively change an organization therefore enabling it to create an even greater impact on society.
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