How an ERG Can Foster Inclusiveness, Diversity & Equality 

July 19, 2022 | Maureen Frank

Does your organisation have an ERG?

ERGs are gaining popularity as more and more organisations focus their efforts on building workplace diversity and inclusion.  

When organisations support and encourage employee resource group (ERG) programs, their employees are afforded the opportunity to bring their whole selves to work to connect with others who are like them. 

This in turn fosters a sense belonging and as we know this makes a big impact on how included employees feel and can grow a diverse and positive workplace culture. 

So, although not a new concept within the D&I field, employee resource groups are growing in numbers and are becoming more sustainable given their success. 

But what exactly is an employee resource group (ERG)?  

An ERG is a group formed by people of a common identity. They’re also called ‘affinity groups’ or ‘diversity groups’.  

For example, you might have a group of people who unite on the basis of being of the same colour or race, or religion.  

Typically, ERGs are formed based on:  

  • Race, culture or ethnicity  
  • People with disabilities  
  • Gender: male or female 
  • Religion  
  • Sexual orientation  
  • Age  
  • Parenting 
  • Other common ground  

Bear in mind that an ERG is self-organised, and not created by force by senior management. It’s usually formed because someone takes the initiative to bring people together based on some common ground, which is their unique difference.  

It is this bottom-up approach that will drive the formation of an ERG, but it’s the support from leaders and management that helps ERGs to grow, champion change, and disrupt the way diversity is included and embraced within the organisation. 

What kind of impact can an ERG have on your workplace culture? 

ERGs are like small communities within your organisation.  

When people get together based on their unique difference, they have more power to create meaningful change, voice their opinion and access senior leadership.  

They give opportunities for minority groups and underrepresented employees to come into the limelight and make an impact.  

More importantly, ERGs create a sense of psychological safety among the employees who are a part of the ERG. In this way, employees might feel a sense of belonging, and share their concerns and long-term plans more openly with their peers.  

With an increased sense of belonging, employees are more: 

  • Innovative because they feel that their views will be respected and listened to. 
  • Collaborative with their colleagues to achieve success for the organisation as one team. 
  • Engaged with the organisation and customers alike, to deliver their best. 
  • Productive and focussed on their role rather than on toxic behaviours. 
  • Likely to stay in the talent pipeline for longer. 
  • Safe and well because they are more likely to speak up about unsafe work environments. 

Furthermore, with the support of inclusion allys from across the organisation, ERGs can work collaboratively to win the support they need from upper management to facilitate change.  

How can your organisation support ERGs? 

Organisations can support ERGs to foster a sense of inclusiveness, diversity and equality by: 

  • Formalising an ERG program. 
  • Your ERG program should provide each ERG with access to senior leadership in order to propose and then facilitate any change.  
  • Give ERGs the authority to decide the scope of the group, to define membership eligibility, and establish what success means to their group. These metrics should not be imposed upon them, but should be self-generated by the ERG.  
  • Provide executive sponsors to ERGs that provide mentorship. For example, the CEO could become an executive sponsor to an ERG for LGBTQIA+, to support their initiatives and visibility based on his/her experience. Such sponsors have to make the ERGs success a priority for themselves, and tie its success with their own goals.  
  • Provide ERGs with the tools they need for success like a platform for communication, leadership training and access to senior leaders within the organisation.  

The benefits of having ERGs 

Organisations that support ERGs have reported the following benefits:  

  • Employees are more likely to stay for longer periods of time because they’re provided a sense of community within the company. 
  • Employees feel more confident contributing their difference to the company, if they get the backing and support of an ERG by being a member.  
  • Employees get the chance to voice their opinions, openly and clearly, in front of key decision makers who hear them out.  
  • Earning the reputation of being highly inclusive, and supportive of diversity, and equality, attracting top talent.  

Keeping the above in mind, we recommend you put a formal ERG program in place. If you’re unsure of how to set up a form ERG program, involve a third-party facilitator or coach to work with your ERGs to bridge the gap between them and other senior leaders within your company. Ideally, your coach would’ve worked with ERGs at other companies on various diversity and inclusion initiatives.  

Disrupting inclusion and diversity delivery 

If your organisation has yet to set up formalised any ERGs then we suggest you take some time to research more about the groups. 

They are gaining popularity for a reason within inclusive organisations. 

If you’re interested in supporting your leaders to be more inclusive, take the first step today: complete our 2minute questionnaire to determine if our Inclusion Habits for Leaders Program suits your specific D&I goals. 

Take the questionnaire here. 

Related Posts