What Are Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)?

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated August 7, 2023

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become key pillars for organisations across the globe. And for good reason. Companies with diverse workforces and inclusive practices tend to perform better, innovate more, and enjoy enhanced employee engagement. All of this leads to lower staff retention rates and better business results. As a result, employee resource groups (ERGs) have emerged as a powerful tool for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

This guide explores everything employers need to know about ERGs, including:

  • Employee resource group meaning
  • Benefits of employee resource groups
  • Best practices when setting up groups in your company


What Is An Employee Resource Group?

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are employee-led organisations that aim to connect staff members with similar backgrounds and life experiences. These voluntary groups offer employees a space to connect, support each other, and create a sense of belonging.

ERGs are a powerful tool for empowering employees from underrepresented groups, such as people from racial minorities, the LGBTQIA+ community, or those with disabilities. By creating a supportive space for these employees, organisations can help promote workplace diversity and inclusion.

Employee resource group members participate in many activities like networking events, training workshops, community outreach programmes, cultural events, and other awareness-raising initiatives. 


Benefits Of Employee Resource Groups

Setting up employee resource groups in your organisation can reap many rewards, leading to significantly improved employee engagement. Here are some of the most notable advantages of workplace ERGs.

Employee resource groups:

  • Promote inclusion by creating a supportive space for employees from typically under-represented communities. 
  • Provide valuable networking opportunities for staff members to hone their skills, build relationships, and connect with their peers.
  • Offer learning opportunities in the form of mentorship programmes, educational workshops, and training resources so employees can grow professionally.
  • Create a platform for members to advocate for more inclusive company policies, practices, and decision-making processes. 
  • Encourages a more diverse range of perspectives and voices to be heard.

In short, ERGs can boost employee engagement by building a sense of belonging, empowering staff to use their voice, and creating career development opportunities.

Next up, we look at some best practices to follow when starting employee resource groups in your business.


How To Start Employee Resource Groups: Best Practices

Despite the many benefits of ERGs, they can actually be counterproductive when not implemented correctly. For example, a recent study by McKinsey & Company revealed that employees tend to feel excluded when ERGs are ineffective.

With so much at stake, properly implementing employee resource groups is vital. To guide you, we’ve rounded up six best practices to ensure your ERGs are effective and inclusive.

1. Get buy-in from leaders

The first step in creating successful ERGs is obtaining the support of the leadership team. Securing executive buy-in will ensure ERGs receive the necessary resources and visibility in the company. 

The best way to win over leaders is to define clear goals for ERGs and demonstrate how these objectives align with the company’s broader diversion and inclusion strategy. Doing this will ensure that management fully understands the why behind the initiative.

2. Perform a Needs Assessment

Next, you’ll need to establish employee interest levels in specific ERGs. That way, you’ll gain insight into the needs and preferences of diverse employee groups in the company. You can do this by running employee surveys and focus groups.

Once you have defined which ERGs employees are most interested in, it’s time to gauge if the organisation is ready. To do this, start by reviewing company policies and existing resources. How prepared is the business to support ERGs? What more needs to be done?

3. Create an ERG Task Force

You’re now ready to assemble your dream team. The key here is to form a task force of diverse staff members from different backgrounds. That said, these employees should have one thing in common; an interest in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Once your team is assembled, you must assign roles and responsibilities to ensure everything runs smoothly. For example, you’ll need to appoint leaders, event planners, and champions to spread the word.

4. Define your mission

At this stage, developing an ERG charter is critical because it outlines the purpose and objective of each employee resource group. Start by collaborating with ERG leaders to write a clear mission statement for each group. Then, establish roles, responsibilities, and how the group plans to promote inclusivity.

In addition, it’s important to set clear governance guidelines. How will the group be led? What will be the decision-making process? How will the group report to HR, executive sponsors, and other relevant stakeholders? Document the answers to all these questions and consider how best to communicate this information to the wider organisation.

5. Allocate resources and support for employee resource groups

Employee resource groups will require a number of resources to thrive in your company. For instance, a budget, tools and software, communication support, and meeting areas. Therefore, the next step is to understand what resources they need and how you can best facilitate them.

A good way to empower ERGs is to provide opportunities for cross-collaboration with other task forces and groups in the company. That way, they can pool resources and integrate with other well-established initiatives. 

Furthermore, supporting ERGs in promoting their group and raising awareness is essential. Firstly, collaborate with employee resource groups to develop a communication strategy. This will raise awareness and encourage membership sign-ups. Then, hosting a kick-off event will give ERGs a chance to market themselves, communicate their purpose, and encourage employees to get involved.

6. Measure the impact of employee resource groups

Once ERGs are up and running in the company, checking in regularly is essential. That way, you can gauge the impact of the groups and what ongoing support they require. In order to effectively measure the impact of ERGs, you will need to establish key metrics like employee engagement and membership growth. 

Additionally, running regular employee surveys will provide a deeper insight into the impact these initiatives are having on the workforce and how you can improve them.


Final Thoughts

Setting up employee resource groups in your business can be a decisive step towards becoming a more inclusive employer. First, however, it’s important to lay the groundwork to ensure ERGs have the resources and support to flourish. Following the best practices in this guide will help you on your journey to a more diverse and inclusive company and drive change.

If you’re on the journey to being a more diversity-positive employer, browse our specialised employer packages. Our team of experts offers a range of services to support you in becoming more inclusive, accessible, and successful.

Join our network and advertise inclusive job postings on our inclusive jobs board to reach a pool of diverse applicants and top talent.

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Last Updated: Sunday June 4 2023
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