Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) has become a hot topic in conversations across many industries. There are many tools and strategies used to increase D&I. One that continues to gain steam is the Employee Resource Group (ERG). Sonia Gittens-Ottley, who leads Asana’s D&I efforts, describes ERGs as “voluntary groups of employees that have traditionally existed to support communities with similar identities (for example gender, race, sexual orientation).”
Catalyst.org describes them as “voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives.”
According to Global Head of Diversity at Bloomberg LP, Erika Irish Brown, “Most people, especially millennials, seek some sense of belonging, engagement, development and access, so why wouldn’t we invest in creating the proper forums and acknowledge intersectionality through collaboration and inclusion? The alternative is likely the emergence of informal or ‘rogue’ groups formed to serve the same purpose with outcomes that may not align with company goals and values.”
Here are some ways that ERGs can help your company with D&I and other goals.
It’s always helpful to find a sense of community in whatever environment you may be in - neighborhood, school, work, etc. It can be much harder to find that sense of community if you feel that you can’t relate to others around you in certain ways because you’re a minority. ERGs are one way to build a strong sense of community among people from underrepresented backgrounds - such as single parents, women, and LGBTQ+. When people have a strong sense of community and belonging at work, they show more engagement and commitment to their teams and companies.
ERGs allow people to find support from those who understand what it’s like to be in their shoes and those who want to be strong allies. For example, veterans can use ERGs as a safe space for emotional support and professional advice/help from those who can deeply empathize with them. Support allows others to feel less isolated and more comfortable in their work environments, which leads to higher job satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
3. Job/Leadership Opportunities
ERGs can offer a lot of professional opportunities for members. They can provide strong sources of internal job leads. They can offer members great intra-group leadership and networking opportunities that can help them with professional growth and mobility. For instance, employees who don’t have managerial responsibilities in their regular roles can gain leadership experience by volunteering to manage groups or projects within an ERG, which can help them transition into formal management roles.
ERGs can offer employees opportunities to be mentors or mentees within these groups - creating a strong support system for those who feel they need a special type of support as members of a minority group, which they can best get from others of the same background. These mentorship opportunities also allow employees to develop professionally through career advice, leadership roles, and practice giving and receiving feedback effectively.
According to survey data across several companies, employees in ERGs seem to show more engagement than those who aren’t. And, research implies that higher engagement tends to lead to higher productivity.
Of course, turnover’s expensive - with it costing up to twice a person’s yearly salary. When you’re trying to strengthen diversity & inclusion at your company, you definitely want to minimize turnover of employees belonging to underrepresented groups. ERGs can serve as useful resources for these employees for emotional and professional support, which can lead to higher engagement, job satisfaction, and retention.
ERGs can be valuable recruitment tools in many ways. They can attract minority applicants by showing them that the company cares about supporting employees like them . Also, if ERG members see benefits from being a part of the group, they’re more likely to recommend their companies to other minorities. In addition, ERGs can serve as recruitment liaisons, through hosting targeted events at the company and outreach activities.
Please share this post with your networks using hashtag #nextplaymentoring. You can email me at Charu@nextplay.ai if any of this resonated with you - and especially if you have a mentorship success story to share!