Building a strategic plan for your employee resource group requires more than good intentions. Knowing the right steps to take when planning to launch an ERG program can change the game of your employees' engagement and retention.
In this article, we outline the steps to take when building an ERG plan. Read on to also learn about the benefits of ERGs.
How do employee resource groups benefit organizations?
According to Jane Hyun, on the Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast, "[ERGs are] a wonderful way for organizations to connect like-minded people who are navigating different experiences; who may feel marginalized in some way."
Below are the compelling benefits organizations stand to gain if they develop strategic plans for their employee resource groups.
1. Creates an open forum for employees who share a common identity
ERGs provide employees with a space to express a common identity (race, gender, nationality, or religion) and to feel connected with their coworkers within the organization.
These groups also provide organizational support to their members and serve as an avenue for learning among themselves.
2. Helps to establish a clear line of communication between managers and minority groups
ERGs enable minority groups to build collaboration and connection with top managers, which helps break the communication barriers that might have existed.
3. Serves as an active voice for change
ERGs are an effective way to give employees from marginalized or underrepresented groups a unified voice.
Through ERGs, employees can highlight their needs, demands, and concerns to leaders. They can more successfully advocate for policies or changes.
4. Contributes towards a more open and humanized work environment
Every employee wants to feel safe in their workplace. ERGs promote a more open workplace that attracts talent, fosters belonging, and develops workers.
These employee-centered groups contribute to developing a work environment conducive to productivity.
5. A multicultural employee resource group aids the development of cultural competence and reduces workplace discrimination
According to a 2021 State of the Employee Resource Group Report, it reduces workplace discrimination as it is a safe place for employees from different walks of life. It encourages the members to share their experiences, culture, and values.
A multicultural ERG helps reveal hidden biases affecting workers' career advancement. Also, it helps to promote the understanding of diverse cultures.
Now that we’ve outlined the benefits of employee resource groups, let’s unpack how to develop a strategy ERG plan.
How to create a strategic plan for your employee resource group
The entire organization stands to benefit from a successful ERG plan and not just the employees who participate.
Below are the 13 best strategies for executing a successful employee resource group plan.
1. Gauge employee interest
When planning an ERG program, the first step is to check if employees are interested. If employees aren’t interested, you should reconsider your assumptions for starting a program.
- Are you reaching the right audience?
- Is your company culture supportive of diversity and inclusion initiatives?
- How have you communicated the purpose of the ERG? Does it resonate or fall flat?
When you understand what employees really want out of an ERG, you can increase awareness and buy-in through a series of campaigns and events.
2. Set clear goals and objectives
Once you know there is demand for your employee resource group plan, aligning on clear goals and objectives that guide the program is important. These goals can ladder up to the company's goals as well.
Without clear goals at the onset, measuring the program's effectiveness will be difficult. This should entail establishing a clear policy and procedure.
Graciela Meibar, a thought leader on diversity and inclusion, a business leader with 20-plus years of experience managing sales and marketing teams, put it clearly on the Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast saying,
"There were goals that everyone had to establish every year. In most instances, there were five performance-related goals that each individual in the company had to have…I recommended that one of the goals that leaders are measured against in their yearly performance review was related to their leadership of the ERG."
3. Define the group's mission and structure
Meibar feels there needs to be structure to have an effective ERG program:
"Having structure, having guidelines for ERGs or BRGs is important because it's not that everyone is going to do their own thing. How do you manage all of that? How do you manage not one group but 10 if everybody's doing their own thing, without a structure, without a guideline to guide them?"
Having and using a resource management software will help you with this task. Use it to your advantage and you can come up with a structure for your team in no time.
The group's mission should reflect the program's purpose and how it will aid staff and advance the organization's goals. It must be well-defined and written down for reference. For example, the ERGs mission statement could be related to supporting the DEI strategy, or creating a sense of community for employees of minority groups.
Your department could set a guide that helps the group in defining its mission in line with the organization.
4. Get executive buy-in
To get the executive buy-in, you need a compelling reason and zero in on the most impactful benefits.
To ensure a successful program, top executives should provide financial support and other forms of assistance. Without their support, the program will have a hard time growing out of a casual gathering.
With that said, there’s a caveat. Although their support is essential, top executives should give the group autonomy and avoid interfering and allow it to function independently without undue influence or pressure from top executives.
5. Recruit members
Your team needs to create awareness for the group and reach out to employees who are passionate about the cause of the group.
You should recruit group members based on the specific terms and conditions stated in the policy. The members could be from different organizational departments with common interests and goals.
6. Include mentorship programs
Organize different mentoring programs for each employee resource group. This is where employees in positions mentor members of the employee resource groups. You can choose from the various mentoring models for your ERG program. Each model can support professional development in a different way.
The model depends on what the groups want to achieve. Group mentoring enables a group of senior members from an ERGS in the organization to share their experience and advice with a junior member.
7. Develop a strong leadership team
You should internally develop a strong leadership team to champion the employee resource group’s strategic plan.
Within the employee resource group, the members themselves make up the leadership team. The team will have leaders with different roles and functions depending on the group size.
The roles could range from chairperson, to communication lead, to volunteer lead. However, members should alternate leadership roles to ensure the group benefits from a steady flow of fresh ideas and viewpoints.
8. Foster a culture of inclusivity by encouraging participation
Build a culture of inclusion that promotes a safe space for everyone in the group and the wider organization. While participation should be based on interest, it’s essential that no one should be left out of the program.
Every member of the organization should be encouraged to participate in their own little way. Create a flexible policy that allows anyone interested in joining ERGs to do so.
For example, employee resource groups for women could organize an event where they invite male colleagues to come and learn about their lived experiences through a panel or live Q&A.
9. Provide support and resources
Your ERG plans should support learning and development. It should be a platform that helps in training competent leaders and successors.
Ensure to provide essential resources that promote the professional and personal growth of the members.
10. Measure and track progress
The progress of every ERG program needs to be measured and tracked with reliable tools to determine if it’s following the best practices of successful employee resource groups. It becomes difficult to determine the success of a thing when it is not measured or evaluated.
11. Collaborate with other ERGs
Another strategy that ensures the success of any employee resource group strategic plan is collaboration. An employee could be a member of more than one group.
Collaborating with other ERGs through mentoring programs or ERG events that encourage members to share their goals and challenges is essential for promoting their development.
12. Align with corporate social responsibility (CSR)
As a best practice, the employee resource group strategic plan must align with the company's corporate social responsibility strategies.
CSR can be achieved by funding community efforts or hosting workshops. It is the employee's way of giving back to society while driving awareness. These initiatives shouldn’t be separate but collaborative.
13. Communicate and celebrate successes
Every little win of the group should be celebrated among the members. The successes of every member of the group should be communicated to others.
For your employee resource group strategic plan to be successful, the organization must gauge employee interest, set clear objectives, employ a mentoring program, gain support from senior leaders and build a strong team of ERG leaders.
Once employees feel connected to their company, they are more likely to be committed to their jobs.
It is in the company's best interest to follow carefully the steps above and find the right context to create an effective ERG program that promotes achieving organizational goals.