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Building a successful women’s employee resource group

January 11, 2021

Employee resources groups(ERGs) offer networking and support opportunities within companies. They have been successful for companies that want to enhance the employee experience for minorities. ERGs play a significant role in diversity and inclusivity for today’s workplace. In particular, women’s employee resource groups give women in the workplace extra support. They can also help women find mentors to guide their careers to the next level.  These mentorships could be with a more experienced employee or even a peer mentoring opportunity. 

These groups can boost engagement, retention rates, and productivity levels in an organization. Moreover, allowing employees to develop resource groups can create opportunities for skill and leadership development. Employee Resource Groups are also an ideal tool for improving diversity in the workplace.

Why Formalize ERG?

Employees will naturally form connections with each other, particularly those with similar backgrounds or life experiences. So, why should an organization formalize these informal groups? 

Formalizing an ERG for your company can bring several benefits for both your employees and your organization. It will allow you to give your employees added benefits for working at your company, improving their loyalty to your organization. This, in turn, will result in higher retention rates and increased productivity. 

ERGs also give employees a place to find answers to their questions. Having their concerns meet at this level means they may not need to go through formal processes to voice their concerns. It can also give minority employees a feeling of solidarity.  Through the ERG, an organization can hear employees’ concerns helping them feel valued and engaged at your company. 

Creating connections that are positive and productive, such as those made through an ERG, can enhance teamwork and the workplace atmosphere. 

Here are some companies that have built successful employee resource groups inside their organizations. 

Women at Microsoft

This ERG is one of the busiest and most successful ERGs. Participants are kept busy with year activities that help them expand their skills and reach for their goals. At Microsoft, this group is put in charge of various aspects of the business, including recruiting at all-women colleges and cultivating connections with female suppliers. 

AsanaWomen

Asana has spent the last few years building a useful and structured ERG for its female employees. Participants have the opportunity to join various internal and external events, such as group discussions. Women who have been a part of the ERG at Asana say it makes them feel empowered and has been a valuable resource for all women who work at the company. 

Docusign 

Female employees at Docusign started to meet together informally for dinners to connect and build support. While the meetings began as fun social gatherings, employees say that they soon became more of an asset. Women who were part of the group said that the gatherings reduced anxiety, building confidence, and building solidarity. The group soon formalized itself into the company’s first Employee Resource Group. They made it a mission to ensure Docusign was an equal opportunity workplace for women. Since that time, the group has grown across the company’s various locations, including San Francisco and Seattle.  They send out emails to congratulate female employees for a job well done. It offers encouragement for women throughout the company. They also organize an annual event to develop their vision, mission, values and goals. 

Ernst & Young 

With more than a dozen ERGs and employee support groups, Ernst & Young focuses on building diversity and inclusivity into their workplaces. They have even received many diversity awards, including Top Global Champion by WEConnect for 2020. In the U.S. alone, the company has racked up several other awards and recognition for its work on equality in the workplace.

Red Peg Marketing

The Women of RedPeg was created just a few years ago to help mentor future female leaders. The company has a pretty even number of male and female employees, but they wanted to give the women a little extra support. The ERG also gives female employees a safe space to connect and get answers to the challenges they face. 

Tips for Building ERGs

Building an effective ERG requires your organization to take some steps to gain employee trust. These include

  1. Transparency - Communication is vital to help employees in ERGs feel like their voices are heard. It creates trust between the group members and the employer. 
  2. Foster connection between groups - The goal of ERGs is not to create alliances that cause division in the workplace. Instead, encourage communication and fellowship among groups. Different ERGs may even be able to find they can support each other.
  3. Develop goals - ERGs are best cultivated when built on goals, which give the members a mission. Don’t assume that all members of a demographic will have enough in common to unite together in an ERG. Rather, let employees decide what ERG they want to belong to based on the groups’ goals or mission. For example, female employees may not be interested in social groups. However, if the ERG is aimed at helping develop skills and leadership potential from women at the company, it is more likely to attract more female employees. 
  4. Leadership support - It is essential for company executives to be part of the conversation with ERGs. While they are not expected to participate as members of the group, they can offer their support and encouragement. 

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