Creating an inclusive and engaging company culture requires strategic planning. No matter the size or your company this can be difficult to achieve. Add in a hybrid or fully remote workforce and the challenge just became bigger.
Employee resource groups (ERGs), also known as business resource groups (BRGs), are voluntary, self-led groups aligned around an identity or shared experience (and may also include allies) that provide support personal or professional development opportunities for employees and help to create a diverse and inclusive work environment for all.
The first ERGs, originally called Workplace Affinity Groups, formed in the 1960s as a response to racial tensions and workplace discrimination. After witnessing the 1964 race riots in Rochester, NY, the former CEO of Xerox, Joseph Wilson, developed the idea to create these supportive employee groups and launched the National Black Employees Caucus in 1970, the first group of its kind. Since then, ERGs have grown in popularity as employers increasingly understand the importance of workplace diversification and equality.
Quartet, a platform for people to get the best mental health care, offers ERGs and has over 70% of teammates participating. The program is run by the head of learning and organizational development, Jes Ortez. Jes observed, “ERGs are a really scalable and cost-effective way to empower people…they are given a lot of autonomy and support to make an impact.”
These resource groups exist to encourage diversity and empower employees to achieve their personal and career goals. Generally focused on underrepresented groups, they give employees access to additional support they may not be able to get on their own. Company leaders use ERGs to learn how they can eliminate inequities and provide better support to their employees, while employees use ERGs to network and promote their goals in the workplace.
ERGs create business impact through supporting the brand image, improving retention, and increasing employee productivity. The future of these groups includes taking the concept --group of passionate individuals-- and working with these groups to create innovation groups to solve problems and present new ideas.
Some of the main functions of an ERG & BRG groups include:
- Providing a platform for group members to share concerns
- Connecting group members with mentors and organizational support
- Spreading awareness of how a certain identity intersects with workplace issues
- Increasing cultural awareness among staff
- Helping all employees feel accepted and valued
- Increasing employee engagement and overall job satisfaction
- Fostering better relationships between new and existing employees
- Providing professional development opportunities
Successful groups work toward goals that align with the overall company mission, objectives, and values. In two weeks, in Part 2 of this series, we will look at the benefits, types, best practices, and strategies for supporting ERGs in your organization.
ASE Members have access to over 100 McLean & Company tools and resources on how to form Employee Resource Groups. Your designated McLean & Company user can access these tools via the ASE Member Dashboard. For assistance contact Linda Olejniczak.