Employee Resource Groups generally form out of a need for community and can be focused on race, gender, religion, or any other defining characteristics that group members share. ERGs are known to provide a safe space for like-minded people and bring awareness to different perspectives within a company. They’ve been proven to have many positive effects on a business. From increasing productivity to improving engagement, the studies are pretty convincing on why ERGs are valuable.
How ERGs can Benefit Employees
As an employee, the great thing about ERGs is that you have the opportunity to foster an inclusive environment and make a difference at your company. Your primary role may not allow you to impact the company’s inclusivity, but starting an ERG gives you the chance to take on more responsibilities. Being a part of or even starting an ERG has many benefits that can help you grow in your professional life.
If you’re not in a leadership role already, participating in an ERG gives you the chance to show off your leadership skills. You could organize activities for a particular ERG and take the lead. It’s important to note that it can be challenging adding more responsibilities to your everyday role, but if you’ve got the passion for it, it can be very rewarding. It also gives you the chance to enhance your problem solving and management skills.
Projects Outside of Your Primary Role
Participating in an ERG can be a great way to get experience in different areas. For example, if your role was primarily in sales but you wanted to get a feel for coordinating company events, this would be an opportunity to help plan different ERG events and get real life experience.
You could always have the opportunity to volunteer for projects that showcase different skills that you don’t always get to use.
You’d have the chance to connect with people from different teams within your company. Getting involved with an ERG would be a great way to get to know more of your coworkers that you don’t normally see. You also don’t have to limit yourself to one ERG at your company. It’s a good idea to work with the other ERGs to grow your network even more. It’s also common to reach out to ERGs at other companies. For example, here at Justworks, the Black Leadership Alliance (BLA) is a part of a bigger ERG called the Black ERG Collective. It brings together black ERGs from different companies in the area. They all have a common goal of promoting professional growth of its members and positively impacting the community. But if there aren’t ERGs within your company or you see a need for a particular ERG, we’ve got some tips on getting one started.
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How to Start an ERG
Starting an ERG is going to take time and effort. It’s important that you’re passionate about the ERG you’re starting because it’s essentially like taking on a second job.
Check in with HR
Talk with HR about wanting to start an ERG. They can help guide you in the process and look into any resources the company might have. They can also let you know if there are already ERGs like the one you have in mind. If your company currently doesn't have an HR person, reaching out to your manager with your idea can be a first step as well.
Create a Leadership Committee
There is power in numbers, so finding more like-minded individuals to be involved with starting an ERG is ideal. You can start asking around your immediate team or start a Slack channel dedicated to getting a committee together.
Regardless of the goals, understand how success will look for your specific ERG before starting the process.
These goals could be about the number of members, how to track the engagement of members, participation in a mentoring program, or coming up with some sort of annual project. Measuring the success of an ERG can be tricky, but most times it comes down to the level of engagement and attendance. You can track attendance by having an RSVP list for events and you can track engagement by sending a virtual survey asking questions on how often they participate.
Engage with Execs
It would be great to get top executives and/or leadership teams involved on some level to show support for the group. It helps to have buy in from senior level people to show a clear indication to employees that inclusion efforts are important. Executive engagement can ensure well-structured progress and help ERG leaders align their goals with the company’s mission. They can also provide sponsorships and additional guidance to support the needs of the group.
Schedule Meetings and Plan Events
Organize regular meetings so prospective members and current members can come together, discuss relevant topics, plan events, and deliberate on any workplace initiatives they’d like to see come to fruition. The events and activities entice people to come, learn more, and find a community. Whether you're trying to start an ERG or join one, being a part of an ERG can help you be more involved with your company, gain additional professional skills, and contribute to creating a more inclusive workplace.