Creating Committed and Engaged ERGs

Some companies already have employee resource groups (ERGs) but don’t quite know how to support them or keep them engaged. Other companies know that ERGs are an important and current aspect of business, but don’t quite know how to start and then sustain these groups so they are not only viable, but also bring real value to both the employees and the company as a whole. 

Whether you are in the first or second category, or somewhere in between, below you’ll find ideas to help you support meaningful ERGs that will enhance every aspect of your organization and increase employee engagement.

Demonstrate Value for Employees

Employee Resource Groups should foster employee engagement. While ERGs began in the 1960s as a way for minority groups to gather within an organization, they now also serve as an opportunity for diverse employees to have a real impact on a company. It’s key that these groups are set up in such a way so that the employees see the value in joining. This value can take many forms, but for employee engagement to be real, the value must also be real. 

While the social component of specific groups is attractive and compelling for employees, real sustainability for these groups and true engagement comes from clear incentives. Incentives might take the form of the possibility for career advancement, or some specific outline of compensation for the extra time and effort an employee devotes to an ERG and its tasks.

Connect Your ERGs to Opportunity in the Company

Executive sponsorship of ERGs can be a great way to connect the group(s) to the company leadership, and provide mentorship to group members. ERGs often come up with unique ways to tie in their concerns to the mission of the organization, and an executive sponsor can bring the group’s ideas right into the c-suite. 

A structure of mentorship allows ERGs to be pipelines for career growth. With leadership buying into the importance of ERGs, employees then see them as not only gathering spaces that highlight diversity, but also as an important space within the company and a place where they could very well advance their careers. When ERGs become a training ground for employees to learn new skills, develop leadership acumen, and see their ideas taken seriously by executives, then these groups become, along with their celebration of diversity, real opportunities for employee and corporate growth.

ERGs Should Be Inclusive and Achievements Should Be Celebrated

While it may seem a bit redundant to point out the need for inclusivity within DEI groups, having clear onboarding processes for joining ERGs ensures these groups maintain open arms. While the point of an ERG is to embrace diverse groups, any collective can fall prey to the Groucho Marx axiom: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member!” 

ERGs should build connections between existing members and potential new members, creating modalities for new members to learn about the group. These connections can be particularly important when people are working remotely and fostering employee engagement of any kind presents challenges. 

Another way to promote connections and engagement is for leadership to celebrate not just the achievements of their ERGs, but also any stand-out accomplishments of individual members. The benefits to celebrating ERGs are many: companies emphasize their DEI goals through highlighting their ERGs, employees see how participating in ERGs can promote their careers within the company, and teams become more engaged in a company’s purpose by celebrating the diversity and achievements of the people within the organization.

Dig Deeper

Download the Kindred guide “Best Practices for Launching Your Organization’s ERGs” for more on how employee resource groups help improve employee engagement and tips for launching and maintaining successful groups.

Peter Smith

Published on April 05, 2022