Is one of your priorities when looking for a new job the existence of an employee resource group (ERG) in the company? As part of a minority demographic, whether that is based on age, nationality, disability, or any other protected characteristic, the work experience can be isolating at times. With an ERG to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace, employees can benefit from a safe space where they can receive help and support throughout their careers.
If you are thinking of starting an ERG in your place of employment, you may be wondering what you can do to make it a success. Or if you have been invited to be part of one, you may be looking for suggestions you can throw in to improve group processes.
In this article, we share with you some best practices of employee resource groups you can follow to make sure yours succeed!
Understanding Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are led by employees, and participation is entirely voluntary. They are often based on protected characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or even a shared interest. Employees who share this characteristic gather to provide help and support to each other, whether that is regarding problems they face in their personal lives or to do with their careers. Employees who may not necessarily belong to this protected demographic can also join as allies in supporting their coworkers.
Black employee resource groups are the very first examples of ERGs to exist. Back in the 1960s, black workers from Xerox created a group to discuss racial-based tension they experienced in the workplace. From there, the idea grew and today you can find ERGs in many workplaces that promote inclusion and diversity.
Goals and Aims of Employee Resource Groups
There are many reasons you may have for wanting to start an ERG. Below are some of the most common goals and aims of ERGs:
- To make the physical workplace a more inclusive one for all workers, such as improving accessibility for disabled employees
- Ensuring that minority groups can feel connected to the wider workplace through a common or shared interest
- Providing employees with a safe space where they can voice out their concerns and ensure that everyone is comfortable sharing their experiences
- Keeping management-level staff informed of the needs and concerns of ground-level staff, allowing better company-wide decisions to be made
- Making sure that any issues can be tackled in an objective manner before it has the chance to escalate and contribute to a toxic work environment
Best Practices for Employee Resource Groups
Now that you know some of the benefits ERGs can bring about, it’s time to start putting them into practice. Below are some best practices to follow within an ERG for the best results:
- Set Clear Goals and Guidelines
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of an ERG over time, clear goals and guidelines will need to be set from the very start. This includes equipping groups with the tools they will need to measure their success, such as budget tracking tools or a communication platform.
Some important questions to ask at this stage are: Why have you decided to start this group? Do you have any data you can share regarding the representation of minority groups within the workplace? It is important to tie the goals and aims of any ERG back to existing company values.
- Ensure that Everyone, Especially Underrepresented Groups, Has a Voice
One of the main purposes of starting an ERG is to ensure that minority groups have the chance to be represented within the workplace. All members should be encouraged to maintain open communication with each other. This will help to promote better accountability.
To ensure that everyone has a voice, one good idea is to create an application process to join the ERG. This way, you can be sure that everyone who is part of the group does want to be there. Leadership positions can also be assigned based on nomination, whether that is self-nomination or being nominated by other members. Of course, the process should not be so complicated that it becomes a barrier to join, but it should be there nonetheless.
- Maintain Employee Autonomy
Although senior management staff will need to be involved with an ERG, it’s important to allow employees to maintain autonomy in the running of the group. This includes deciding who is eligible for membership, what the group is setting out to achieve, as well as the metrics by which they will track this. Of course, senior management staff can always be available to provide guidance and structure, but be careful not to turn this into micromanagement.
- Support Group Members and Leaders
There’s no doubt that being part of an ERG requires a lot of time and effort. This is alongside existing work responsibilities. To ensure that members and leaders are able to take on this work, they have to be supported in the right ways. While membership may be voluntary at first, you may want to consider providing remuneration to leaders or allowing them to use some of their paid working hours to fulfill their duties as the group grows.
- Encourage All Employees to Participate
While the ERG may be focused on a specific protected demographic, all employees should be encouraged and invited to participate where possible. When all is said and done, you do not want your ERG to end up causing further division in the workplace instead of promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels.
Search for Jobs that Promote Inclusion and Diversity
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