Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) (often also called employee networks) have a really important role to play in organisations committed to driving equality, diversity and inclusion.
This article is a great explanation of what ERGs can contribute and how best to go about setting one up. Interestingly, it charts the origin of these groups – something frequently overlooked. It also makes clear that, at their best, ERGs have a dual function to play:
Absolutely they provide a community for people who share similar interests (including – but not limited to – people from minority groups). Alongside that, though, they should make an active contribution to the success of the organisations they sit within. They should ideally be aligned to the organisation’s objectives and actively support them – by, for example, influencing/ contributing to recruitment, onboarding and retention initiatives and policies, to help achieve workforce diversity and inclusion. In other words, ERGs should be strategic and have access to, and sponsorship from, leadership teams.
I heard a great example of this in practice recently from Essex County Council – which used its BAME ERG to help shape its response to protecting the vulnerable (both colleagues and members of the wider community) when it comes to Covid-19. This shows perfectly how an ERG can help organisations understand not just current and future employees, but services users/ customers too.
If your organisation has employees who have expressed an interest in establishing an ERG, or you want to better support and engage existing groups, this is definitely worth a read.
For many organizations, the benefits of ERGs have evolved from their primary intent – to provide a forum in which members of an organization who share common interests, issues or concerns can meet to address those issues – into multifaceted benefits that influence an organization’s strategic diversity and inclusion efforts in recruitment, retention, mentoring, leadership development, marketing, customer relations and return on investment.