Planning · April 01, 2021

Employee Resource Group Best Practices: How to Support Existing Affinity Groups

Employee resource groups, or ERGs, can help your company build a more diverse, inclusive culture. But once you have ERGs up and running within your organization, it's important to provide support to help these groups succeed.

From cultivating leadership and internal buy-in to creating space and time for ERG members to achieve their mission, here are some employee resource group best practices.

Build executive buy-in

It's important for ERGs to set ambitious goals, whether revamping your company's recruitment strategy to make it more inclusive or increasing diversity within your company's executive ranks by a set date.

Executive support and buy-in are crucial components to ERG success and ensuring these groups are setting the right goals. One way to achieve this is to ensure each ERG's goals are aligned with business goals and will impact company performance in some way. Leaders care about driving results, so looking at your company's annual strategic plan or inviting leaders to an ERG meeting to talk about the company's overall objective is a great way to get them engaged.

Another approach is to make sure someone from leadership or a manager is a member of the ERG or is willing to be an executive sponsor. An executive sponsor should be invested in the issues the ERG focuses on. They can serve as a liaison between the ERG and your company's leadership team, relaying the group's ideas and feedback in meetings—and building internal and budgetary support for the ERG's initiatives.

It's important to create a direct line of communication with leaders in the organization because their endorsement can lay the foundation for each ERG's success.

Foster more engagement among employees

While executive support can help build momentum for ERGs, growing the membership and engaging other employees is what will help sustain these groups.

Once an ERG is established, members should use every channel available to promote the group, including company newsletters, email blasts and networking with other internal affinity groups. Events can also be effective outreach strategies, such as brown bag lunches, welcome breakfasts for new employees or a sponsored webinar where subject matter experts within the group share their skills with the wider community.

ERG leaders should develop their own marketing materials and communications to ensure a consistent message about the group's mission and goals. Working with the company's human resources department can help get the word out about ERGs and potentially help them recruit new members.

Give ERG members the flexibility to do their work

One concern some employees have about ERGs is balancing the group's work with the day-to-day responsibilities of their roles.

This is where executive buy-in and manager support are critical. As members create the structure for their ERG, communicate these details to managers, including how often and when ERG meetings and events will occur. Providing advance notice will allow managers to work more collaboratively with ERG members to make time and space in their workday for these activities. It's also a good idea to create a plan with managers for how many hours each month ERG members would like to dedicate to the group so they can allocate team bandwidth to accommodate.

Get feedback from ERG members

To ensure ERGs are making progress toward their goals, your organization also should create ways for members to share feedback about how things are going. These feedback channels should allow members to choose whether they'd like to be anonymous or share their insights with their names attached.

You need to know if the support strategies you've enacted are working, including whether managers are giving ERG members enough time to focus on these activities, whether the organization is doing enough to support membership growth within the ERG, and whether members feel the organization is invested in achieving diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Creating a space for open and honest dialogue can help your company understand what's going well and where you can make improvements.

Creating an ERG is only the first step. To ensure it supports your company's diversity, equity and inclusion goals, it's critical that your company embraces these employee resource group best practices and provides all the resources necessary to improve their chances of success. ERGs aren't affinity groups that are just nice to have for the sake of diversity—they can help you build a more inclusive, thriving company that's around for years to come.


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