Now’s the time to celebrate our differences and find ways to support each other. One way to do so, at work, is to implement Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
So what is an ERG? Let’s break it down.
Employee - Employees act as members and are group leaders.
Resource - These groups are a safe space for those who feel alienated, challenged in some way, or simply want a community to lean on. The group is meant to foster support, networking, professional advancement, and community building for these people.
Groups - These are collectives made up of employees who share a characteristic, like an ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, or religion. Allies who may not share that characteristic, but want to connect, learn and show support to their colleagues can also join.
Here are 5 tips to help you create successful Employee Resource Groups at your workplace.
TLDR: Finding ways to practice diversity, inclusion, and equity is integral for a better workplace and society at large. Here are 5 tips on how to create successful employee resource groups so you can celebrate and support diversity in your team.
- Determine Group Purpose and Participants
- Create an Application Process
- Establish Leadership
- Clarify Expectations amongst the Team
- Empower your ERGs to Take Action
1. Determine Group Purpose and Participants ❓
First things first, you need to determine your group’s purpose. Ask yourself, why are you coming together? And, who are you coming together for?
- Why: In his TedTalk, Simon Sinek discusses his powerful model for inspirational leadership. And it comes down to one very simple question: why? Asking yourself why helps you get to the cause, belief, reason, and purpose for starting an ERG. Knowing your purpose can help you stay aligned as you move forward with the initiative.
- Who: ERGs are for employees. So, while you’re asking why are we doing this? you also need to ask: who are we doing this for? Are there people on your team that might need support or want to feel more empowered? Who may feel alienated? Reach out to your staff to find out if an ERG is something they want to be involved in.
2. Create an Application Process 📝
For a functional and flourishing ERG, you need to find committed members who are willing to put in a bit of work. To help determine serious candidates, implement an application process.
- Group description. The application should include a description of the group’s purpose, so everyone understands why the group is being formed and who it is serving. Text on what is expected from participants, like time commitment and potential duties, should also be included.
- Application form. Now that the applicants understand the expectations of being in the group, they need to let leadership know who they are and why they want to be involved. Include a few questions about their role in your organization (e.g., title, department, years of employment, etc). And open-ended questions about why they want to be involved.
- Make it approachable. Don’t create an onerous application process. It’s just a simple exercise to ensure participants are genuinely interested and willing to put in some effort.
And don’t leave people out. There should be space for allies who want to support the cause.
3. Establish leadership ☝️
Employee Resource Groups are made up and led by volunteer employees. This is an excellent opportunity for staff to gain experience as leaders in planning events and working towards goals they’re passionate about.
- Having a leadership structure in any group is important to help maintain organization, decision-making, and getting things done. Appoint a leader or co-leaders from the get-go for a strong start.
- Being an ERG leader is an excellent opportunity for experience and empowerment. Make sure to select a leader who is passionate about the group’s purpose and is reliable, so things will get done.
4. Clarify Expectations amongst the Team 🧑🏻🤝🧑🏾🧑🏾🤝🧑🏿🧑🏻🤝🧑🏻
Depending on the size of your ERG, you may only have a small group with one leader and a handful of members. Larger organizations may have space for a variety of leadership roles.
- Establish a group structure with clear duties and expectations from the start.
- You can provide titles to clarify roles. Maybe someone’s in charge of the budget (i.e., finance lead) and another person wants to help plan social events (i.e., social lead).
LinkedIn suggests the following structure for an ERG:
- Culture and social
- Professional development
- Marketing and communications
- You are likely to have members join for social reasons who don’t want to take on a leadership role. Make space for these more passive participants and encourage them to provide support and input where needed. They should still be as committed as everyone else and attend all meetings and events.
5. Empower your ERGs to Take Action 🔌
Empower your ERGs to host events and make positive changes within your organization. Set your ERGs up for success by providing resources so they can thrive.
- Provide a budget. Put money aside in your budget because your ERG is going to need it. They will be planning events, workshops, running meetings, and more. If your ERG becomes integral to operations you may even need to compensate leads or factor in paid volunteer days for ERG events.
- ERGs typically run events. Offer resources to make planning and hosting events run smoothly, like the Epoch app.
- Autonomy. Step back and let your ERGs get to it. Allowing the group to self-govern is empowering in itself. So let them take action and do the work they set out to do.
By putting these steps to practice, you can help establish Employee Resource Groups for your staff, so you can work towards a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace.
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