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Employee Resource Group Best Practices

ERGs can be an advantage for both employees and employers when it comes to improving diversity in a workplace. Here are a dozen best practices we've observed helping ERG's grow.

January 25, 2021

Employee resource groups(ERG) are not just valuable tools for workers, but they have many benefits for employers too, including:

  • Increase employee engagement
  • Reduce turnover
  • Meet diversity goals
  • Talent development
  • Leadership training
  • Cultivate a positive workplace atmosphere
  • Foster innovation
  • Recruitment

These groups bring together employees from a similar background or minority group for support, encouragement, and inclusivity in the workplace. However, creating a successful ERG takes time, effort, and planning. As with every business goal, you’ll need a strategy for success. 

ERG best practices

There are several different things to consider when starting an ERG at your company. While employees at the grassroots level most often lead them, senior executive support is vital. Here are some of the key ways that you can help build a robust ERG in your organization:

  1. Define goals and a mission statement. A mission statement is essential to give an ERG direction and clarity of purpose. Define what issues or problems the group seeks to overcome. For a successful ERG, the mission statement should also align with business goals. Once a mission statement has been defined, you’ll need to define the steps to achieve it must also be developed. These are the goals the group has. They can be reviewed regularly and updated when necessary. 
  2. Develop structure and guidelines. These will help members know what is expected of them and set the boundaries for the ERG. Things that should be covered in guidelines include how funds will be handled when meetings will take place, the structure of the sessions, and how leaders will be selected. 
  3. Set a leader for the ERG. To steer the group in the right direction you’ll need a leader. It is important that this individual be willing to put in the time and effort needed to guide the ERG. While often these groups are developed at the grassroots level, organizations seeking to set up ERGs may opt to appoint a leader. 
  4. Have executive sponsors. ERG leaders should seek to find executive sponsors for the group because it offers many advantages. These sponsors can be advocates in the workplace for the ERG and can cultivate support among other executives. They can also serve as mentors to group members. Moreover, sponsors will be in the unique position of engaging employees directly and encouraging innovation and diversity in the organization. 
  5. Promote ERG membership. Let other employees know about the ERG, what it is focusing on, and what they can gain by being a part of it. Internal memos or emails are good ways to promote the group. Some companies may want to hold information sessions so potential members can find out more details about the ERG. 
  6. Measure ERG progress. Groups can tell how far they have come by looking back at the change in metrics over time. Some of the vital data to track include membership, attendance, participation, and budget. Keeping track of the ERG’s impact on company initiatives can also reveal its success level. Data on retention, turnover, employee engagement, recruitment, and promotion rates may also demonstrate the impact the group is having on the organization. 
  7. Collaboration. It is crucial that ERGs learn to work together rather than allow them to become isolated networks. Collaboration fits with the ERG goal of inclusivity for all employees. As such, groups are in the ideal position of working together for the good of all employees. Some of the practical ways to do this are to exchange information, encourage employees of different backgrounds to work together, and unite to achieve business goals. 
  8. Transparent communication. Clear communication with members and executives must underlay every aspect of ERGs. Invite members to offer feedback about ERG activities, suggestions for future actions, and ways to engage company leadership. 
  9. Training. Both ERG members and leaders should be encouraged to have some training to develop critical skills such as constructive communication. Training opportunities should cover areas like competency, teamwork, and outcomes. Efforts like these will help cultivate successful leaders within ERGs, which, in turn, can enhance the effectiveness of ERGs in an organization. 
  10. Mentorship. Workplace mentoring programs have been among the most effective ways of passing on information and developing new leaders inside a company. They are also key in promoting diversity within organizations.  The format of ERGs lends itself to mentoring opportunities. There are a variety of ways this can happen, including peer-to-peer mentoring or executive leadership mentorships. 
  11. Be realistic. ERG may start small and only hold social activities for the first little while. That is okay. Keep in mind that getting everyone in the group comfortable with each other is a crucial goal. For the group to be fully effective, each member should be willing to share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences. These things take time. 
  12. Access resources. ERGs are voluntary in nature, but there may be some company resources that you can access such as funds for activities and events. Once ERGs reach a certain level, some companies may want to hire full time staff or offer some remuneration to volunteer leaders. 

ERGs can be an advantage for both employees and employers when it comes to improving diversity in a workplace. But, it can take time and effort to develop a successful ERG plan. By employing some of the ERG best practices, companies can set themselves on the path to benefit from ERGs.

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