Diversity & Inclusion is a topic on the minds of many companies and organizations. If you are new to the topic and start casting around for ideas and potential areas of focus, you will no doubt find a raft of articles and insights covering strategy, use of data, benchmarking and D&I best practice.
And one that you may see oft-mentioned are Employee Resource Group, Affinity Groups or Employee Networks. For the sake of this article I’ll call them Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). So what are these? And what might the value to your organization be?
The majority of ERGs focus on supporting employees from particular communities who are be under-represented in the organization as a whole – or less represented at more senior levels. These groups have typically had a focus on gender, disability, LGBT+, ethnicity and culture, faith, early careers, parents, carers and veterans as examples.
These have often been built from the ground up, based on the drive of passionate individuals and, as such, have focused on creating visibility, raising awareness and providing a space for colleagues who want to connect the opportunity to do so. Typically this begins with a focus on events, talks and promotion of ‘awareness days/months’. Over time however, HR and diversity & inclusion leads have recognised the potential importance of these groups and structures have been built around them to support – from governance to budgets to learning and development.
A good starting point for ERGs is to get them thinking about what they might look to focus on. This could include:
• Colleagues: Creating a community peers who associate with the group (including allies), building awareness of the group – often via events and cultural awareness programs
This is evolved from the 4C model of ERGs by Dr. Robert Rodriguez of DRR Advisors LLC (https://www.drradvisors.com/)
There are a few things to consider as you look to either support, or set them up as a first step:
• An ERG cannot change everything! Recognise that these will be volunteers, from all grades in your organization. They will be doing this role as an optional extra on top of their day job – so help them set realistic goals so they don’t become frustrated
• If you are not ready to change, or to accept challenge, don’t be surprised if your ERGs become frustrated – which will then harm your efforts to build a diverse team with an inclusive culture.
• Be clear with your ERGs on the support you will give them, what your expectations are, what governance structures are in place and how they fit within the organization