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What is an ERG?

February 1, 2021

Organizations that aim to build an inclusive and diverse culture can use employee resource groups or ERGs to achieve their goals. These groups offer a space for employees to unite together and have a positive impact on the business. Research has found that about 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs

ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups. They are made up of individuals with similar backgrounds or characteristics such as parents, gender, etc. Groups provide support, empowerment, resources, and mentoring opportunities for members.  ERG goals will also align with the organization’s business objectives, which makes them a valuable resource to companies.  While company executives can act as sponsors, they are not the leaders of ERGs. 

Executive sponsors and ERGs

ERGs are often lead and run by volunteer employees. While executives are not permitted to be members, they can offer their support by sponsoring some groups. A sponsor will help the ERG access company funding for activities and events. They will also promote the group and their goals within the company. 

Purpose of ERGs

When employees decide to come together and form an ERG it is usually for one of the following reasons:

  • To find a place of support for employees who are a minority within the company
  • Build community and a sense of belonging 
  • Access resources such as financial, organization, or connecting to the company leaders
  • Find an outlet to voice concerns or solve problems
  • Cultivate an innovative company culture

Benefits of ERG

Belonging to an ERG can have many advantages for employees, including:

  • Connection - belonging to an ERG provides members with a safe space to share their ideas and thoughts. It can also be a great networking opportunity. Moreover, for employees who are new to a company, ERGs can make them feel welcomed and connected to the organization. 
  • Mentorship - ERGs are an excellent place for mentoring relationships to develop. This can be between members that already belong to the group, or it can also be executives who recognize the talent and potential of ERG members they interact with. 
  • Training - there are plenty of opportunities to sharpen your skills when you belong to an ERG. Group leaders are usually volunteers, which means if you are willing to put in the time and energy, you could significantly impact the group and the company. You’ll also be able to share your expertise and experience with others as well as learn from different members. 

While ERGs focus on enhancing the employee’s experience in the company, groups also have a number of benefits for the organization, including:

  • Innovation - ERGs are hotbeds of unique thoughts and ideas. By allowing ERGs some input into company policies and practices, an organization can enhance innovation and growth. 
  • Diversity - encouraging employees from different backgrounds to connect can empower them and lead to a more diverse workplace. We live in a world full of diversity, and consumers will want to connect to a company they feel represents them best. Organizations that promote diversity through ERGs will be best able to cater to customers with different needs and desires. 
  • Recruitment/retention - finding the best and brightest talent can be a challenge for any company. Organizations with ERGs are better positioned to attract and keep top talent. ERGs can also offer input to hiring managers about high performing members. 
  • Engagement - having ERGs plan and host employee activities throughout the year can boost employee engagement at your organization. Ensuring that employees feel connected and valued at a company can also reduce the turnover rate. 

Building an ERG at your company

Ensuring that ERGs thrive at your organization involves more than simply starting up groups. To build a successful ERG, they need to have support, be visible and have an impact on company culture. 

Companies should design ERG programs that identify the steps for creating groups, administrative processes and tasks, and documentation that can inform members of their responsibilities. Organizations should also strive to set aside funding for groups, even if it is just a modest amount. Support from executives in the form of sponsorship or mentorship should also be encouraged. Businesses that can hire someone to manage the administrative duties of the ERG will allow volunteer time to be better directed towards advancing the group’s goals. 

For the most part, ERGs should be left in the hands of employees. Members will need to decide amongst themselves who will join and what impact their group wants to have within the company. However, company leadership should offer groups tools that will help them reach their goals and measure their success along the way.  Some examples of this type of support include:

  • Charter documents
  • Workshops/training
  • Templates
  • Budgeting tools
  • Communication platform
  • Visibility
  • Access to executives

When done right, ERGs can be a powerful tool that benefits both employees and the company. Find out how to build and strengthen ERGs at your company with Together. 

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