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6 May, 2021by Team Included
Employees are the heart of any organization. Their diverse personalities, backgrounds, and experiences help shape the spirit and culture of your organization. Celebrate what makes your workforce unique by supporting employee resource groups (ERGs).
An employee resource group is an employee-led group that brings together individuals from diverse backgrounds to share ideas, make connections, and accomplish business goals all while providing a safe and inclusive space. ERGs are instrumental in improving workplace culture and are supported by the Chief Diversity Officer, the diversity, equity, and inclusion department, and/or Human Resources. Some examples of ERGs are: women’s groups, veterans, LGBTQ+, BIPOC, LatinX, disability, neurodiversity, Women in Tech, Black Employee Network, Parents at Work, religious faith, plus Allies.
For companies with DEI-B (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) goals, ERGs create an opportunity to discuss company-wide DEI initiatives all while enhancing the work environment in a positive way.
ERG creation within a company says to employees “we see you.” According to The United States Census Bureau, employees with diverse identities are expected to reach majority status by 2044 due, in part, to the projected growth of Latin-X, Asian, and multiracial populations. Supporting employee’s efforts to create an inclusive space shows them that company leaders see them as individuals and value their voice and sense of belonging in the company. Living in a society where individuals are often over-generalized, ERGs allow employees to participate in an environment where their unique identity is praised and different perspectives are welcome.
According to The New York Times, “The boards of 3,000 publicly traded companies remain overwhelmingly white with African-Americans making up just four percent of that total.” There needs to be more diverse voices in those spaces. ERGs are a legal and safe space for company leaders to connect with individuals who have self-identified as belonging to underrepresented groups. These meetings are not a time for formal leaders to take control of the conversation, but rather a time for them to listen and receive the information with an open mind. An effective and empathetic leader strives to understand their employees beyond the work they do. Employers can also identify potential leaders who come from diverse backgrounds.
ERGs allow employees to network with each other. Networking builds relationships and creates opportunities for employees to connect and share innovative ideas. ERGs can increase employee productivity. Employees are likely to stay with the company longer and produce a better product/service because the company has shown that they not only care about the work, but also the employee’s overall wellbeing.
ERGs are a great way for Allies and employees who do not belong to minority groups to support underrepresented groups within the workforce as they raise cultural awareness about what taking place within their communities or in society at large. ERGs will often acknowledge holidays and other cultural traditions that often go unnoticed in the U.S. They can provide collective support to individuals when major (sometimes traumatic) events happen in the community. In larger companies, ERGs also raise awareness of initiatives that are occurring within the organization such as mentorship and leadership development programs.
Allyship is important and should be encouraged in the ERG space. Even though an ERG may be created with one specific interest in mind, it does not mean that the group is closed to others outside of that group. There is power in numbers. Being an ally curates an environment for employees to come together and support one another on issues that impact everyone. Company leaders should openly and actively support ERGs as it sets the standard for companywide norms.
ERGs create a way to maintain a sense of community in the virtual workplace. Many ERGs hold monthly meetings during lunch which gives employees the flexibility to attend. For organizations that have many branches (domestic and/or international), the ERG space is a way for employees to connect and share what is happening in their part of the world. Permanent remote workers may also opt to create their own ERG.
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