Dear Sam: My company lacks affinity (or employee resource) groups to celebrate and support diverse populations. How would I go about creating such a program? — Mark
Dear Mark: I have to tell you that when I speak with clients who are a part of ERGs, they are deeply passionate about supporting a workplace culture that is not only diverse but inclusive and empathetic. For readers who are not familiar with ERGs, these are employee-led groups that are formed based on specific traits and are joined by those possessing said characteristics or engaging as allies with them. For example, an ERG could focus on gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, societal identity, or interests.
According to wforce.org, 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs, and studies show employees involved in ERGs feel more engaged, connected, and supported. ERGs also provide connectivity following initial onboarding processes, allowing an additional opportunity for a new team member to join with and access the knowledge of more experienced peers. As you can imagine, an ERG can yield a multitude of benefits not only for the participating employee but also for the organization as a whole. Some of the most popular ERGs include those for veterans, LGBTQ+ employees, women in the workplace, working and single parents, cultural diversity, generational groups, and people with disabilities.
Once you have identified what sort of ERG you would like to launch, there are a few steps you must take. First, secure executive sponsorship of your idea. You will want to have a leader involved who buys into the group and can provide operational oversight if required by your organization. Second, establish the goals and bylaws of the group. What it is that your group will do? Who is the ERG for? How will your ERG benefit the cultural fabric of the organization? Define what you are hoping to achieve with the ERG—especially important if this is your company’s first ERG—so your enterprise can clearly define the value of talent engaging in this group at work. Of course, once you have your ERG identified and ready to launch, promote the group to your organization, securing your inaugural members and beginning to realize the mission and vision of your ERG. Try to maintain qualitative and quantitative evidence of your group’s work, the impact it has on the organization, the retention of the talent involved, and perhaps how the ERG positively impacts culture and engagement.
Hopefully, the ideation and realization of an ERG will provide your peers and yourself with the opportunity to come together around a shared interest or cause, not only resulting in higher engagement of ERG members, but also increased chances to problem-solve, innovate, and join forces to drive organizational development, diversity, and inclusion.