Employee Resource Groups (ERG), or workplace affinity groups have been around in the workplace since the 1970s when they evolved in response to racial tensions in the US. Since then, the primary role of ERGs where to host networking events and served as a safe space for employees. Since the 70s ERGs have come a long way and have expanded their influence and impact.
Now, ERGs are employee-led or voluntary groups that provide employees with further support, education, mentorship and career-support. These groups are typically created around shared characteristics, interests and personality traits such as for women employees and members of historically underrepresented groups, LGBTQ+ employees, veteran employees and more. Business Leaders recognize the value ERGs can bring as key allies and strategic partners. In fact, about 35% of companies have added or expanded their support for ERGs since the start of 2020, according to a 2021 study by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org of 423 organizations employing 12 million people.
3 ways that having ERGs benefits your company:
According to The New York Times, “The boards of 3,000 publicly traded companies remain overwhelmingly white with African-Americans making up just four percent of that total.” There needs to be more diverse voices in those spaces. ERGs are a legal and safe space for company leaders to connect with individuals who have self-identified as belonging to underrepresented groups. Leaders have to acknowledge that with ERG groups, it is not about them being in control of the conversation but to listen and receive information with an open mind. ERGs are also an opportunity for leaders to identify potential leaders who come from diverse backgrounds.
ERG creation within a company says to employees “we see you.” According to The United States Census Bureau, employees with diverse identities are expected to reach majority status by 2044 due, in part, to the projected growth of Latin-X, Asian, and multiracial populations. Supporting employee’s efforts to create an inclusive space shows them that company leaders see them as individuals and value their voice and sense of belonging in the company. Living in a society where individuals are often over-generalized, ERGs allow employees to participate in an environment where their unique identity is praised and different perspectives are welcome.
ERGs allow employees to network with each other. Networking builds relationships and creates opportunities for employees to connect and share innovative ideas. ERGs can increase employee productivity. Employees are likely to stay with the company longer and produce a better product/service because the company has shown that they not only care about the work, but also the employee’s overall wellbeing.
These are just some of the many reasons ERGs are a crucial part of building a culture of belonging. These groups raise cultural awareness, and are a great way for allies and employees who do not belong to minority groups to support underrepresented groups within the workforce. Ultimately, ERGs promote Allyship and sets the standard for companywide norms. We talk about systemic change? empower and give resources to your ERGs and change will inevitably happen.
If you are a company that is just now starting to build these groups or has ERGs that are establish but working in isolation from each other. You will want to talk to our team, a big part of our business is to help you build a strategy and diversity content calendar that supports and elevates your culture. Make sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how we can support your vision!