In order to build healthy diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in the workplace, all employees need to feel a sense of belonging, that they have the same opportunities for career advancement, and that they are heard and valued. One effective way to continually adopt these workplace traits is to invest time and resources into employee resource groups (ERGs). ERGs are employee-led groups focused on inclusivity and community among employees, particularly among commonly underrepresented groups.
Budgets for ERG support vary widely among companies, but the average annual budget is $7,203 per 100 ERG members according to a study from Bentley University. ERGs and DEI go hand in hand when it comes to defining and boosting company culture. Because the primary objective of 53% of organizations is promoting DEI, it is no surprise that “promoting cultural activities” ranks as the highest social responsibility activity.
ERGs are intended to be a resource for support, not exclusivity. Most companies with ERGs have between six and ten different groups, each with its own defined purpose and goals for supporting those who may have different needs and concerns than others. They also serve as a way to connect members to the larger community of the workplace as a whole and bridge the gap between cultural differences.
To put it into perspective, 91% of executive sponsors feel a sense of belonging at work, but only 76% of ERG leaders say the same. ERGs help build high-trust relationships that foster a sense of belonging and, in turn, help companies flourish. Some of the key benefits of ERG support include:
No matter how small your business is, you can still create ERGs. The first step in doing so is connecting with employees and gauging their interest. If employees feel that they could benefit from an ERG, it immediately holds value for your company.
The next step is to get executive buy-in. Without support from leadership, the substantial benefits of an ERG can fall flat. Many companies report that DEI initiatives are an extremely high priority, so it’s important to demonstrate how ERGs are a critical extension of that goal.
With support and interest from both employees and leadership, you can then define your group’s mission. What is it that you aim to achieve through an ERG (or multiple)? Members of an ERG should have clearly defined roles and responsibilities in order to serve as a strategic resource for the organization.
From there, you can recruit members and host a meeting. This is the golden building block in creating successful and strategic ERG initiatives — it is where you will lay the foundation for fostering a sense of belonging, supporting career advancement, and connecting your community.
The final step that cannot fall to the wayside is maintaining organizational support. While ERGs are employee-led, they still need organizational support. It’s important to define how the company will continue to advocate for each ERG, its initiatives, and its members. This often includes providing a sufficient budget to allow the groups to execute their goals. Another great way to continue to support ERGs is to periodically bringing multiple groups together to share ideas, be more inclusive, and get to know new people in different departments.
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