diversity and inclusion

11 Employee Resource Group Guidelines for Building Inclusive Workplaces

Learn how ERGs contribute to organizational success, and discover 11 essential employee resource group guidelines for effective management of ERGs.

Matthew Reeves

CEO of Together

Published on 

December 27, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Remember those hushed conversations at the water cooler? Tales of untapped potential, unvoiced concerns, and yearning for a more inclusive workplace? 

They weren't just whispers in the wind. They were the embers of a movement, waiting to be fanned into a blazing flame. They led to Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) – vibrant communities with the potential to ignite positive change within your organization.

What are ERGs?

Imagine a space within your organization where colleagues come together, united by shared experiences, identities, or interests. This is the essence of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) – voluntary, employee-led initiatives promoting diversity, inclusion, and belonging within the workplace.

ERGs are vibrant communities where individuals can connect, network, and support one another. They create a safe space for open dialogue, where employees can share their unique perspectives and feel empowered to bring their authentic selves to work.

But ERGs are much more than just social platforms. They play a crucial role in driving organizational success

By cultivating a more inclusive environment, ERGs help employees:

  • Build strong relationships and networks - ERGs provide a safe space for employees to connect, share experiences, and learn from each other. This can be especially valuable for employees from underrepresented groups who may not have many opportunities to connect with colleagues who share their backgrounds.
  • Receive mentorship and career guidance - ERGs connect members with mentors and sponsors who can provide valuable support and guidance throughout their careers. For example, The Women’s Network at Ernst & Young provides professional development opportunities and mentorship programs to advance the careers of women at the firm. 
  • Develop leadership skills - ERG leadership positions offer members a chance to hone their leadership skills, such as organizing events, leading meetings, and collaborating with others.
  • Advocate for change - ERGs play a vital role in driving positive change within an organization. By raising awareness of important issues and advocating for policies that support diversity and inclusion, ERGs can make a real difference in the workplace.

To put all of it together, Employee Resource Groups are powerful tools that go beyond merely nurturing a sense of community. They serve as platforms for skill enhancement and mentorship, contributing directly to the professional growth of their members. As a result, their impact extends to the broader workplace environment, where ERGs become advocates for inclusivity and equality, influencing organizational policies and practices. 

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How do ERGs contribute to organizational goals and employee well-being? 

Cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment is no longer just an ethical imperative but a strategic necessity for organizational success.

This is where Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) emerge as potent tools, unlocking a wealth of benefits for both organizations and individual employees. 

By providing a platform for connection, collaboration, and empowerment, ERGs contribute significantly to various facets of organizational success and employee well-being.

Let's delve deeper into the diverse ways ERGs fuel both organizational and individual growth:

  1. Enhanced talent acquisition and retention - ERGs act as magnets for top talent, particularly from underrepresented groups. Companies like IBM, with its Global Women's Council, showcase their commitment to diversity and inclusion, making them attractive to a diverse pool of candidates. This aids in talent recruitment and ensures that the organization retains its valuable workforce.
  2. Boosted innovation and creativity - ERGs contribute significantly to organizational goals by nurturing diversity and, consequently, driving innovation. Take Cisco's Employee Resource Organizations (EROs), for example. Through these groups, Cisco taps into the diverse perspectives of its workforce, leading to innovative solutions that cater to a broad range of customer needs.
  3. Improved decision-making - ERGs ensure that all voices are heard and considered in the decision-making process. This diverse input leads to more informed and well-rounded decisions, minimizing biases and blind spots, and ultimately leading to improved outcomes.
  4. Enhancing employee engagement - When employees feel connected, heard, and valued, engagement soars. ERGs, like Microsoft's Blacks at Microsoft (BAM), create spaces where employees connect on a personal level. This engagement doesn't just stay within ERG events; it permeates the entire organization, contributing to a positive and vibrant workplace culture.
  5. Enhanced employer branding and reputation - By showcasing your commitment to diversity and inclusion through active ERGs, you strengthen your employer brand and attract a wider pool of talented individuals. This positive reputation can translate into increased customer loyalty, investor confidence, and improved community relations.
  6. Professional development and growth - ERGs offer more than just social gatherings; they are powerful vehicles for professional development. Accenture's Pride at Accenture is a prime example. This ERG advocates for LGBTQ+ inclusion and also provides opportunities for skill-building and mentorship, contributing to the career growth of its members.
  7. Leadership development and skill-building - ERGs act as incubators for future leaders. Engaging in ERG activities goes beyond daily tasks; it nurtures leadership skills that extend beyond individual roles. The Conexión LatinX Network's "Latinx Leadership Series" workshops are a good example. These workshops offer targeted leadership training and development opportunities for Latinx employees, empowering them to advance their careers and assume leadership roles within the company.

By investing in ERGs and encouraging a culture of leadership development and skill-building within these groups, organizations unlock a wealth of benefits, from enhanced talent acquisition and innovation to improved employee engagement and well-being. Therefore, nurturing a strong ERG program is not just good practice, it's a strategic investment for sustained success and well-being.

11 ERG guidelines to consider 

ERGs are powerful engines of growth, both for organizations and individuals. But just like any engine, they need the right fuel and guidance to run smoothly and efficiently. 

That's where Employee Resource Group guidelines come in! 

These guidelines steer the formation and management of ERGs and also contribute to aligning these groups with broader organizational goals. 

Let's explore the 11 ERG guidelines to consider, each designed to cultivate a thriving environment where everyone can contribute their best.

1. Mission and purpose 

Clearly articulate the goals and purpose of your ERG. 

What drives your ERG? Is it enhancing diversity and inclusion for a specific identity group, promoting professional development, or connecting around shared interests? Having a clear purpose attracts the right members and guides your activities.

Also, make sure that your ERG aligns with the broader objectives of the organization. By aligning ERG initiatives with company goals, you enhance the group's impact and also position it as an integral part of the organizational strategy

2. Membership criteria 

Specify clear criteria for joining the ERG, while making sure that your ERG is open to all who share a common interest or experience, promoting inclusivity. 

For example, if your ERG focuses on gender equality, take a cue from IBM's Global Women's Council. Their approach involves welcoming all employees, irrespective of gender, who support the mission of advancing gender equality within the organization. 

This clarity in criteria invites a diverse range of individuals and ensures that those who align with the ERG's mission feel a sense of belonging.

3. Leadership structure 

Implement a leadership rotation system within the ERG to provide opportunities for different members to take on leadership roles. This practice cultivates a sense of ownership and ensures diverse voices are heard.

Some ERGs also benefit from a structured leadership hierarchy that encourages accountability and ensures stability and clarity in roles. Key roles such as President and Vice President are responsible for setting strategic goals and representing the group to the larger organization, and are supported by the secretary, treasurer, event coordinator, and others for the day-to-day management of the group.

4. Meeting frequency and format 

Decide how often your ERG will meet to keep the momentum going—whether it's weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. This consistency ensures members can plan and actively participate.

Next up, decide how these gatherings will happen. Whether in-person, virtual, or a mix of both, defining the format is key. Virtual meetings bring flexibility, while in-person ones build personal connections. A blend of both offers the best of both worlds. 

5. Communication channels

Maintaining a steady flow of communication within your ERG is important to create a sense of unity and shared enthusiasm. 

Start by identifying official communication channels, be it a dedicated newsletter or an online platform. This clarity ensures that everyone knows where to look for the latest updates and happenings.

Once you've chosen your channels, think about how members will stay informed. Will it be through regular emails, push notifications, or updates on the ERG's designated online space? Make it easy for everyone to access information about ERG activities, achievements, and upcoming events. 

6. Budget and resources

Consider your ERG as a dynamic engine fueled by both budget and resources. If there's a budget allocated, be sure to specify it. 

This transparency keeps everyone on the same page and empowers your ERG to plan and execute initiatives effectively.

Establish a clear process for requesting and utilizing resources. Whether it's financial support for an event or materials for a project, having a defined pathway ensures that every member understands how to access the necessary tools. 

7. Inclusivity and non-discrimination policies 

By embedding inclusivity and diversity in your ERG, you create a safe space and set the tone for a community that thrives on respect and understanding. 

Emphasize this commitment by making it a cornerstone of your ERG's identity. Let every member know that diversity is not just welcomed; it's celebrated.

Also, establish a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or exclusion. This means creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their background, feels respected and valued. 

For instance, if an ERG focuses on gender equality, ensure that all discussions and initiatives are inclusive, welcoming individuals of all gender identities. If there's a case of discrimination, address it promptly and transparently.

8. Collaboration with the organization

Clarify how your ERG will collaborate with the broader organization. Will it involve participating in company-wide initiatives, providing input on policies, or engaging in joint projects? Make these collaboration avenues clear to ERG members.

Define channels for communication and collaboration with leadership, ensuring that there's an open dialogue. 

If your ERG is focused on diversity and inclusion, for example, this collaboration might involve regular meetings with organizational leaders to share insights and contribute to strategic initiatives. 

For instance, Microsoft's Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) actively collaborates with the company's leadership to drive diversity and inclusion goals, showcasing the impact of such partnerships.

9. Relationship with other ERGs

Encourage cross-ERG partnerships and shared initiatives to amplify the impact of diversity and inclusion efforts. This collaboration might involve joint events, knowledge-sharing sessions, or even partnering on initiatives that align with shared goals.

For example, if one ERG focuses on gender equality and another on cultural diversity, consider joint initiatives that celebrate the intersectionality of these themes. 

Cisco's Employee Resource Organizations (EROs) offer a real-world example. These groups collaborate on various fronts, creating a network that goes beyond individual ERGs, promoting a holistic approach to inclusion.

10. Evaluation and metrics

Define how the success of the ERG will be measured to ensure that its impact aligns with its goals. This involves establishing clear KPIs and metrics for assessment.

Consider metrics that reflect the diversity and inclusion goals of the ERG. 

For example, if the focus is on talent development, KPIs might include participation rates in skill-building workshops or mentorship programs. If the emphasis is on cultivating an inclusive culture, metrics could involve engagement levels in ERG events.

The aim is to quantify the positive influence of the ERG on both individuals and the organization.

11. Training and development opportunities 

Identify opportunities for ERG members to enhance their skills, providing a platform for professional and personal development. This might involve workshops, seminars, or mentorship programs tailored to the specific needs and aspirations of ERG members.

For instance, Accenture's Pride at Accenture doesn't just advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion but actively provides professional development opportunities. These can range from leadership workshops to skill-building sessions, creating an environment where ERG members are not just participants but active contributors to their own advancement.

By prioritizing training and development, your ERG becomes a catalyst for individual growth, contributing to the professional development of its members and enhancing the overall skill set within the organization. 

Unlock the transformative power of ERGs with Together

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are dynamic communities that nurture a sense of belonging and connection and are instrumental in shaping organizational success. They are transformative catalysts that contribute to talent acquisition, innovation, and enhanced decision-making by championing diversity and inclusion. 

Mentorship plays an instrumental role in amplifying the impact of ERGs. It transforms ERGs from mere social networks into support groups with a culture of of continuous learning and collective empowerment. 

Mentorship software like Together can significantly enhance the benefits derived from ERGs by providing a digital space that transcends physical barriers, making mentorship accessible to all members within ERGs, regardless of their location. This inclusivity ensures that the benefits of mentorship extend across the entire organization, maximizing the reach and impact of ERGs.

Together also facilitates the tracking and measurement of the impact of mentorship programs within ERGs. It offers valuable insights and analytics, allowing leaders to assess the success of their mentorship initiatives. This data-driven approach enables continuous improvement, ensuring that ERGs are achieving their goals and contributing to individual and organizational growth.

Book a demo to discover how Together can maximize the potential of your ERGs and cultivate a culture of learning, growth, and collaboration among employees.

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