With the advancement of technology, more people are working remotely. The benefits of remote work are undeniable, but the lack of face-to-face interaction makes some employees feel like their managers are out of touch with their needs.
Employee resource groups, commonly known as ERGs, are essential in forming tight bonds among employees. Companies should consider ways to set up virtual ERGS, particularly for employees working away from the office.
What are examples of successful virtual ERGs? Why are ERGs important to a company, and how do employees benefit from joining or starting them?
This article provides information on successful virtual employee resource groups. It also discusses the importance of ERGs to companies and why employees should join or start them.
Send your ERG events invitation via a newsletter to increase employee engagement and reduce email overload. Use FindPostOffice.org to locate post offices near you.
Virtual Employee Resource Groups Ideas
Technological advancements allowed companies to attract and employ global talents. Remote working benefits both employees and employers.
However, virtual recruitment and hiring processes have created a tight job market. Today, companies compete to hire and retain the best workers.
Although a virtual work setup has benefits, it also has setbacks.
For instance, some employees may feel negatively toward their work due to isolation and exclusion. Not being physically present may make virtual employees feel like their company views them as less committed.
A virtual employee resource group is vital to improve business results and culture. To keep ERGs engaged, you need to develop activities that will ease isolation and allow employees to work closely together on specific tasks to stay in touch.
For example, you can schedule the following activities to foster a more inclusive work culture:
- Virtual work lunch
- Virtual workouts
- Group chats for volunteer resources, share care and other helpful information
You can also set up a virtual mentoring program. Virtual mentoring is an effective way to improve communication in the company.
An article published in Harvard Business Review in 2021 stated that online mentoring sessions help eliminate the bias that comes with face-to-face meetings.
Providing opportunities for advancement and actively monitoring employee morale can help your company's retention rate, and ERGs are helpful tools.
Employee resource groups support employee growth by promoting fair practices and free career training.
Training employees online is another way to maintain employee engagement while increasing competence at work. The flexibility of online training gives employees more opportunities to work around their schedules.
Virtual skills training may include harnessing your employee’s negotiation skills or sharing professional growth advice.
You can also initiate cultural awareness workshops to guide the company in making an appropriate decision based on employees' culture and heritage. This kind of workshop creates a sense of community among the members.
Consider organizing virtual parties and celebrating religious functions with equal enthusiasm with cultural awareness.
Why Are ERGs Important?
Workers need a sense of connection and community belonging to thrive in the workplace. Hence, a virtual employee resource group, also known as an affinity group, is important to increase employee engagement and foster a sense of belonging.
Effective ERGs benefit both the company and its employees. Employees with shared experiences lead the organization of affinity programs. In addition, a successful ERG improves overall employee performance, decreasing turnover and absenteeism.
Here are several examples of employee resource groups:
- Mental health
- Aged-based groups
- Region or location-based groups
- Differently abled groups
- Parents or caregivers
- AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders)
The interfaith ERG is becoming one of the preferred models for huge companies. Spirituality is a significant dimension of diversity. So interfaith ERGs are an inclusive way for employees to learn about others and connect with their beliefs.
The tension that arises when spirituality and religion enter the workplace may be reduced when a company establishes an interfaith ERG where all religions are celebrated.
For example, Uber’s Interfaith Employee Resource Group empowers those individuals with spiritual and religious beliefs to be their real selves.
A 2020 article published in Harvard Business Review mentioned that about 70% of 1,200 surveyed U.S. employees said the pandemic was the most stressful time of their careers.
One of the best practices that the human resource department can do is to create an ERG with mental health as the core focus.
When workers have a safe space to share their stories, they can help one another and reduce the stigma surrounding people with mental health conditions.
A study from World Psychiatry mentioned that mental health-related stigma is inherent across social structures that make up society. The researchers suggested that education, peer group, and social contact may help reduce such ignominy.
Examples of mental health ERGs include Accenture’s U.S. Mental Wellness ERG, Johnson & Johnson’s Mental Health Diplomats, and Standard’s Partners in Mind.
Experiences in dealing with racism, discrimination, and injustice may be individual. Still, they’re a huge part of systematic oppression.
Hence, it’s important to connect with other ERG leaders to acknowledge the shared pain that every member experiences and mindfully advocate for justice.
An article from National Public Radio mentioned that there were more than 9,000 cases of anti-Asian incidents in the United States since the pandemic.
According to Pew Research Center, about 63% of Asian adults said that violence against Asian Americans in the U.S. has increased. Many also believe that the rising Asian hate is attributed to the following:
- Former President Donald Trump
- COVID-19 and its impact on the nation
- Blaming Asian people for the global pandemic
AAPI employee resource group addresses the unique needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander workers, including visitors, interns, and volunteers. This group can support its members by helping them process and navigate the trauma caused by recent events.
For instance, at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, the AAPI ERG has created a safe space for AAPI employees by encouraging conversations on fostering inclusivity and fighting hate.
Importance of Employee Resource Groups to a Company
Retention and recruitment of your company can benefit from affinity groups.
Your employees, especially competent ones, are more likely to stick around if you have a thriving ERG that supports their career advancement.
An organization that celebrates inclusivity and diversity has a higher chance of recruiting and retaining talents.
Since engaging new hires can be challenging, An ERG can be a helpful tool to help newbies feel a sense of belonging, particularly in a remote setup. The human resources department can collaborate with ERG leaders to help onboard new employees.
Supporting an affinity is a way to invest and empower your team. Giving your team a platform to voice their concerns benefits their well-being. It is an effective communication tool to let you know the needs of your employees and support the values they hold dear.
Employees crave social interaction, whether it is physical or virtual. Unfortunately, a remote work setup makes creating social connections in the workplace difficult.
An affinity group can help your employees find and connect with colleagues with shared characteristics or similar interests, such as ethnicity, parental status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and financial status.
Reasons to Join a Virtual Employee Resource Group
The murder of George Floyd ignited the world’s attention to systematic racism and police brutality in the U.S. Despite social restrictions because of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protesters swamped the streets, decrying racial biases in society.
More and more people want to be seen and heard for their distinctiveness. Hence, joining a virtual employee resource group can be a perfect avenue for individuals in the minority to bring their unique selves to work.
Employee resource groups can increase visibility and allow minority groups to have a voice in the company.
In corporate America, Black ERGs were the first established affinity groups in response to the racial unrest in the country. Xerox spearheaded the first corporate ERG for Black employees in the 70s.
Meanwhile, in the wake of Floyd’s death, Amazon’s BEN (Black Employee Network) assisted in identifying the recipients of the $10 million funds to fight social justice and aid Black communities.
Affinity groups are as beneficial to companies as they are to employees since inclusive cultures can lead to better business outcomes.
Connection and visibility among employees are crucial, especially now that a remote work setup has increased. That’s why creating a successful virtual experience is important. You should listen to your staff’s needs and incorporate them into your programs.
Begin to develop a clear purpose, prioritize, and diversify topics for a successful virtual ERG. This way, everyone will feel safe sharing their authentic selves with colleagues despite the distance.