When you run ERG and Employee Network events, do you find events have the same people in attendance? No matter how hard you try to drum up support? And do leaders show up, but that seems about as far as their commitment to change goes? And do you feel like you work tirelessly, only to feel deflated after so much effort doesn’t always deliver quite what you want?
Whether they are celebrating and raising profile during the days, weeks, or heritage months that are relevant to them, driving skills or careers sessions, or planning ways to connect the community, events are usually a ‘go to’ tactic as they can be planned an delivered in isolation by a small group.
When asked what plans they have for the year ahead, it is usually events that take up the vast majority of the focus for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). But if you start by attempting to fill your diary with events for the coming year, you may be biting off more than you can chew.
Events can be very powerful. But they can also be time consuming to plan and deliver, challenging to get attendees to, difficult to measure the impact of and draining – especially for those tasked with planning and delivering what can feel like a thankless task. And if you are feeling a touch drained about how much time and effort they take to organise, you are not alone.
Moving from running events and celebration months to challenging what value they can add to an organization and ERG members is a step-change in committee members thinking. Many events will be regular fixtures on the calendar and there will be expectations from the community that these events happen. They have also typically been ways to raise profile - and give an excuse to extend invitations to senior leaders to attend and show their commitment/support.
But let’s think about it. As you look back at the last few events you have held, what have they actually achieved? Apart from attendee numbers, how are you measuring the impact they have?
So if you run an ERG, what other options do you have? Below are a few simple questions and ideas you might want to work through with your sponsor, chairs or committee members:
1. What are we actually trying to achieve as an ERG this year?
2. Where might events play a role in helping us work towards this?
3. Are we putting ourselves under pressure to put on events for the sake of it, or because we feel we have to?
4. What other options might we have? Could we achieve what we want through other means?
a. Working behind the scenes with HR/Diversity and Inclusion colleagues on specific challenges the business has that impact ERG members specifically
b. Choosing a priority project in the business to align to and feed in ERG perspectives
c. Offer your perspective to both the communications and L&D teams – to work to embed inclusivity more directly into the organization’s DNA
d. Work specifically on a career, or talent acquisition project to drive representation of your under-represented group
e. Might a lower number of collaborative events with others that have greater impact (perhaps where multiple ERGs have similar challenges, or requests of the organization)
f. Small can be great! If you do run regular events, be comfortable with what you might want to achieve from those who do attend – don’t always feel pressure to have the highest number of people as your key metric. You can make a major impact with very small groups, so you don’t need a stadium-full to drive change or improve a group’s experience with your organization.
Don’t get caught in the cycle of feeling that the hamster wheel of planning and delivering events if your only options. Employee Resource Groups have lots of other options.
Impetus is a consulting firm dedicated to helping organisations across the world understand and build leading-edge cultures, with diversity & inclusion at their core. Find out more at www.impetusandmomentum.com.