How to Improve the Effectiveness of Employee Resource Groups, Key to DCI Strategy and Workplace Culture Formation

One of the greatest assets of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy and organizational success is the strength of the company’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Also known as corporate network groups or affinity groups, ERMs can multiply their impact on workplace culture by collaborating on a common challenge at work: fairness.

ERGs are typically built around race and ethnicity, ability, women, LGBTQIA+, religion and age. Age-related ERGs typically focus on specific early career, late career, or multigenerational goals. What makes age-related ERMs unique is their applicability to all dimensions of diversity. After all, everyone gets old.

However, intersectionality is not unique to age. Does an older Asian American woman belong to the Women in Business group, the Asia American or the multigenerational ERG? This overlap is one reason for ERG’s collaboration – involving as many employees as possible to create a work culture where people feel a sense of security and belonging.

How collaboration improves equity outcomes

Since most ERG leaders do this work in addition to their regular work, they rely on active support from members and executive sponsors to help them achieve their respective goals. Since ERMs generally fall under the umbrella of DCI and are all focused on creating a culture of inclusion and equity, collaboration is a given.

Here are four suggestions for doing this.

Bring leaders together in the conversation

Whether it’s informal quarterly meetings or an annual ERG conference, it’s essential that ERG leaders talk to each other. By bringing them together with their executive sponsors, it’s easy to share their respective strategies, brainstorm solutions, and agree on how leaders can support each other’s goals.

In other words, what would it take for each ERG to:

  • Demonstrate that Black Lives Matter?
  • Train as LGBTQIA+ ally?
  • Advocating for gender equity?
  • Defend yourself against age-related prejudice and discrimination at all ages?

Create executive sponsor ambassadors

Executive sponsors do more than provide funding and leadership advice. They are mission ambassadors at all levels of the organization. Help them carry the banner by providing key messages, proactively providing key information and insights and making sure they play a key role in all organized events.

Co-organize events with other GREs

It takes a lot of time and energy to plan and execute an event. Sharing responsibility is more effective, shows solidarity and increases the visibility of the message in the workplace.

Be inclusive of all employees

ERGs are created to support its members, but this is not the only goal. Education and training of all employees is essential to ensure fairness in the workplace and ERGs play a critical role in the messages of the DCI. That said, DCI is not just the responsibility of diverse employees; it is everyone’s duty.

Many employees who may not share an affinity are looking for ways to support themselves and make a difference. When ERG membership includes all employees, they actively create allies in the workplace who understand the importance of mission and vision and who preach.

Increase impact and success

Attracting diverse candidates, creating a multicultural and multigenerational work culture, and improving overall retention are just some of the contributions of ERGs. Collaboration with other groups can increase organizational impact.

It takes a deliberate intention to develop and cultivate an inclusive and equitable workplace. Proactively designing an employee culture and encouraging specific behaviors not only creates fairness; it is also an attempt to reshape, change and, in some cases, reverse an existing work culture. Because ERGs play such a vital role, their success is everyone’s success.

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Sara H. Byrd

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