Careers aren’t just about work—fulfilling jobs should also offer employees personal as well as professional development, a support network and a sense of belonging. That’s why Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), also known as affinity groups, have an important part to play in many organizations.
What are Employee Resource Groups?
An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a network within a company where employees meet up (in person or remotely) based on shared characteristics, experiences or goals. The groups offer a chance to network and socialize, work on professional development, and to raise awareness of relevant issues.
Typical ERGs include networks for women, people of color, LGBTQI+, veterans, those with disabilities and young professionals. Groups based on shared goals often focus on volunteering, mentorship or sustainability.
How Do Employee Resource Groups Work?
Every Employee Resource Group is different. In a small company, an ERG may simply be a few colleagues getting together socially. In larger organizations there is likely to be a more formalized process, with a regular calendar of events. In some groups the focus may be internal—aiming to support each other’s wellbeing and development. Other groups may put a stronger emphasis on advocacy and awareness-raising actions.
Those who run these groups are generally volunteers, but very large organizations—recognizing the importance of the groups to their overall company culture—may offer compensation. Running an ERG can be as time-consuming as a second job, so it’s essential than leadership acknowledges the time commitment and the value it brings to their company.
The Benefits of Employee Resource Groups
Thriving ERGs can be a great thing both for those involved and your organization as a whole. Let’s run through some of the key benefits.
People crave social connections. The problem is, in the rush of the workday there’s often no time to find friends—and with the rise of remote work, it’s got even tougher. Extra-curricular interest groups help employees find like-minded people with whom they can bond.
Having a strong social network at work—and friends with whom they have a shared sense of mission and purpose—can supercharge an employee’s engagement.
An Inclusive Environment
Diversity in the workplace is an important goal for many organizations. ERGs help companies achieve this ambition, by providing a safe and inclusive space for those who may otherwise feel excluded. Not only can employees meet others with similar experiences, they can have their voice amplified—when there are issues harming inclusivity, ERGs help employees act together to put things right and spread awareness throughout the organization.
ERGs don’t just offer friendship and inclusivity—they also give employees the chance to develop skills. These can come from leadership opportunities, organizational responsibilities and or mentorship. Working together as a team, with colleagues from different departments and various roles, can help provide employees with new perspectives and insights to boost their career (and personal) growth.
Retention and Recruitment
Employee Resource Groups don’t just benefit their members, but your entire organization. Having thriving ERGs means you have a thriving team and it’s only natural that when this is true, your top talent is more likely to stick around. Plus, you’ll find it easier to attract quality new recruits.
An organization that can show it celebrates diversity and inclusivity—and has ERGs which align with the company’s mission and values—will be able to successfully recruit from a more diverse talent pool.
In a large organization, there’s an ever-present risk of silos developing. Everyone has their own areas of expertise and teams becomes so specialized that they end up not talking to each other. Employee Resource Groups, comprised of employees from across departments and roles, offer a helpful corrective.
Creativity requires novelty, and meeting new people with different perspectives is the best way to guarantee new ideas. Whether projects are developed by the ERGs themselves or when ERG members offer fresh insights to their everyday roles, the result is the kind of innovations that companies require to develop and grow.
Paycor Can Help
Paycor builds HR software for leaders of medium & small business. For 30 years, we’ve been listening to and partnering with leaders, so we know what they need: HCM technology that saves time, powerful analytics and expert HR advice to help them solve problems and achieve their goals.