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Employee Experience

8 Tips for Starting an Employee Resource Group

One Minute Takeaway

  • Employees who are natural leaders or who are from underserved communities may benefit from involvement in Employee Resource Groups (ERG) or an Inclusion Council.
  • ERG/IC programs provide professional development, networking, and leadership opportunities and increase employee recruitment, retention, engagement, and productivity.
  • Look to those in the rank and file who keep the company’s heart beating for help with diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Allow them to share and be willing to listen and learn from what they have to say.

Every level of an organization has individuals seeking professional growth, career development, relationships, and camaraderie. The best leaders and managers seek to meet these professional and emotional needs and enrich the experiences of their employees through mentorship and sponsorship programs.

Employees who are natural leaders or who are from underserved communities may benefit from involvement in Employee Resource Groups (ERG) or an Inclusion Council.

Employee Resource Groups (ERG), also referred to as business network groups or affinity groups, and Inclusion Councils (IC) can be a vital part of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program. Employee Resource Groups are employee-led groups that meet in the workplace and assemble based on specific characteristics and shared life experiences. An Inclusion Council is a group that includes employees and senior executives. Both ERGs and IC offer open forums of discussion and a support system in a work environment. They help improve company culture and create a more inclusive workplace and a sense of belonging and fellowship.

ERG/IC programs provide professional development, networking, and leadership opportunities and increase employee recruitment, retention, engagement, and productivity. Program members are empowered to manage dedicated company resources to benefit employee education, community building, and social impact initiatives.

Leaders, please keep these 8 tips in mind:

  • Make a decision, then listen, and act.
    If an employee has previously expressed an interest in establishing a group, revisit the idea! Make the business decision to support and endorse such an open forum for discussion. C-Suite leaders should plan on attending meetings and listening to conversations.
  • If it hasn’t been explored before, find out if it is wanted and needed.
    Not every company needs an ERG/IC. Consider hosting a focus group or a survey of employees before taking additional steps.
  • Be a sponsor and meet with leaders.
    If an employee hasn’t already self-identified as wanting to lead such an endeavor, work with management to identify someone in the rank and file (not a manager) who might be interested in forming a group(s).
  • Mentor ERG/IC leaders and share templates.
    Take a special interest in the employees who are taking leadership roles. These new leaders may need assistance in certain aspects of group management, such as facilitation, event management, and communication. Providing guidance and sharing templates can make groups more functional and worthwhile. These leaders may be future leaders in your company.
  • Help them along.
    Meetings about diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives should connect goals with business-driven results-oriented strategies.
  • Maintain a calendar.
    Ensure ERG/IC activities aren’t scheduled on the same days or using the same meeting rooms.
  • Help inform junior and mid-tier employees and encourage their participation.
    Make sure ERG/IC member involvement feeds into performance reviews. Managers should make sure that time is given to employees to attend ERG/IC meetings.
  • Leverage ERG/IC leadership and membership knowledge and talents.
    As opportunities arise, be sure to look to the ERGs to fill leadership pipelines and focus group opportunities.

Employees should know they are not alone, that you and your leadership and management teams, and employees, will ensure everyone is treated fairly and with respect. People from underserved communities don’t want special recognition; they want acceptance and deserve equity based on merit. Meeting in company-sponsored small groups with others who share similar experiences or characteristics can help them feel seen, less alone, and more supported by the organization.

ERG/IC can help jumpstart, sustain, and promote company-wide healing and community-building.

Look to those in the rank and file who keep the company’s heart beating for help with diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Allow them to share and be willing to listen and learn from what they have to say.

Your company has motivated employees who want to succeed and advance. Reach out to them, mentor, and sponsor them. Your company will be better for it.

For more free resources and tools that promote DE&I best practices in the workplace, visit Perspectives+. It’s Paycor’s online knowledge library designed to help our partner network drive change, empower colleagues, and foster new leaders.