What are Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Employee Networks?
You’ve heard of Employee Resource Groups and Employee Networks but what are they and why should your organisation have one?
Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is a topic on the minds of many companies and organizations. If you are new to D&I and starting to cast around for ideas and potential areas of focus, you will find a raft of articles and insights covering strategy, use of data, benchmarking and D&I best practice.
And one that you may see often mentioned are Employee Resource Group, Affinity Groups or Employee Networks. For the sake of this article I’ll call them Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). But 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. Structures have been built around them to support areas ranging 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. Think through with them where they feel they might want (and be able) to make an impact.
Once you have a list of potential areas of focus, allow each ERG to present on these to the business and think through which align with what you are trying to achieve (as an organization and with your D&I strategies)
Your different groups may have some overlapping challenges, so consider how you might support them to work together to address these.
Setting up ERGs can be the easy step. To help ensure they are best placed to succeed over time, there are a few things to consider from the start:
• Be clear with your ERGs on the support you will give them, what your expectations are – and what theirs might be, what governance structures are in place and how they fit within the organization
• An ERG cannot change everything! Recognise that these will be volunteers, potentially from a range of 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 may well then then harm your efforts to build a diverse team with an inclusive culture.
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.