By: Katt Silver on February 21st, 2024

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How Employee Resource Groups Can Benefit Your Company


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives are a great way to build a welcoming work environment for everyone on your team, regardless of demographics. But even the best DEI programs can’t solve the day-to-day issues facing some groups of employees.

This is where Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) come in. ERGs are a way for employees to help each other, offering mutual support and mentorship to other team members. By supporting ERGs, you’ll take a huge step towards building a truly inclusive work environment.

Understanding Employee Resource Groups

Employee Resource Groups are employee-led groups within an organization that are formed based on shared characteristics or experiences, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Your employee resource groups might support:

  • Black employees
  • LGBTQ employees
  • Women in leadership roles
  • Working parents
  • Veterans
  • Mental health advocates
  • Young professionals

These are just a few examples of typical types of ERGs. An ERG can involve any group of people with similar backgrounds or interests, allowing those people to connect, share experiences, and support one another.

ERGs serve as a valuable resource for employees by offering networking opportunities, professional development, mentoring programs, and a platform for voicing concerns and advocating for change. Through ERGs, employees can find a sense of belonging, build relationships, and gain access to resources that can enhance their personal and professional growth.

What are the 4 C's of employee resource groups?

DEI expert Dr. Robert Rodriguez created the 4 C’s model, which explains the nature and purpose of employee resource groups. They are:

  • Community: ERGs create a sense of community and belonging for employees with shared characteristics or experiences. They provide a safe space for individuals to connect, support each other, and celebrate their identities.
  • Connection: ERGs facilitate connections and networking opportunities among employees. They help build relationships, foster collaboration, and promote a sense of camaraderie within the organization.
  • Career development: ERGs offer resources, mentoring programs, and professional development opportunities to help employees advance in their careers. They provide guidance, support, and access to valuable networks and knowledge.
  • Change: ERGs play a crucial role in advocating for change within the organization. They raise awareness about important issues, influence policies and practices, and drive initiatives that promote diversity, inclusion, and equity.

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How do employee resource groups benefit a company?

ERGs are a popular approach to inclusion, with 90% of Fortune 500 companies supporting resource groups within their organizations. This is partly because ERG programs are a cost-effective way of supporting DEI, as much of the group's work is done on a voluntary basis.

On top of that, ERGs offer some tangible benefits, such as:

  • Improved employee engagement and retention: SHRM says, “ERGs can help reveal employees' pain points that, left unaddressed, increase absenteeism and lower productivity or drive workers out of the organization altogether.”

  • Better DEI outcomes: ERGs allow group members to discuss their experience of the overall company culture. Groups can provide feedback, which helps your human resources team to understand where DEI is succeeding and where it needs to improve.

  • Improved innovation and problem-solving: ERGs help bring together employees from different backgrounds and perspectives, fostering creativity and innovation. By encouraging diverse viewpoints, ERGs can contribute to more effective problem-solving and decision-making processes.

  • Strengthened employee development and leadership pipeline: ERGs provide opportunities for professional development, mentoring, and leadership roles. They help employees develop valuable skills, expand their networks, and advance their careers within the organization.

  • Enhanced employer brand: DEI is a major part of your employer brand, especially as this is now one of the visible metrics on Glassdoor. By supporting an ERG program, you’re demonstrating a serious commitment to building a diverse workforce.

A healthy ERG program can help you build a durable team that will support your long-term goals. But how do you get started?

What can your organization do to build and support employee resource groups?

There are some active steps you can take to support employee resource groups within your organization. Here are a few ideas:

1. Provide clear organizational support

ERGs thrive when they have support from the top. Make sure that your HR team is ready to support any new ERGs, offering guidance on the best ways to get employees involved. ERGs need resources, too, such as meeting rooms and access to communication tools like an email distribution list or a Slack channel.

2. Appoint an executive sponsor

High-level sponsors can help ERGs make a real difference in the organization. Executive sponsors act as a bridge between the ERG members and senior leadership, which helps the group to advocate for change and have a positive impact.

3. Define each ERG’s purpose

ERGs are most productive when they have a clear mission. Work with ERG leaders to define the group’s core principles, such as membership eligibility, objectives, and ethos. The group can also outline how it intends to achieve those objectives, whether through a mentorship program, information sharing, networking, or advocating for change.

4. Listen to feedback from ERGs

Resource groups can offer valuable data about the employee experience for underrepresented groups. But it’s important that the group has a voice, either through executive sponsorship or by hosting regular meetings with leadership. Leaders, in turn, should take note of ERG feedback and work with them to refine your DEI strategy.

5. Invest in developing your ERG program

ERGs are inexpensive, but they’re not entirely free. Your organization will need to provide groups with resources they need to attract new members and achieve the group’s goals. You can also invest in other ways, such as offering each group a budget, paying a stipend to ERG leaders, or offering awards and bonuses for ERG participation.

Are you meeting your DEI goals? 

Employee Resource Groups are one part of a functioning DEI strategy. There's still more to think about, including your recruitment process, your professional development program, and your company culture. 

Need an expert to help with DEI? Book a call with a Helios HR consultant today and lets talk about creating the best possible work environment. 

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