5 Ways Employee Resource Groups Enhance the Workplace
Workplace diversity is growing faster than ever. Thousands of U.S. companies have committed to developing workforce diversity via solid recruitment and retention policies that focus on demographics (race, sexual orientation, gender), cognitive skills (how individuals approach problems and situations), and individual experience (skills, interests, abilities). While many companies have successfully achieved a good balance, others are still looking for the right path to reach their goal.
Some employers may be alarmed at the fast rate of change and wonder how to keep pace. But others – including you – can benefit by leaning into the flow and creating a workplace that thrives on diversity. Millions of organizations have established these Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices.
Many employers find that DEI practices are more easily incorporated when introducing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). An ERG is essentially a focus group of employees who research best practices to foster a workplace that aligns other employees with the people they serve. ERGs are not a new concept. They emerged in the 1960s when Black employees at Xerox came together to fight against race-based tensions in their place of employment. Since then, ERGs have grown in popularity and relevance as people have become ever more outspoken in their beliefs about politics, identity, gender, and other social issues.
Employees typically join ERGs because they are interested in current workplace issues. They provide support and opportunities to help employees exist comfortably and offer their best work.
ERGs can enhance the workplace in at least five ways:
- Facilitate the emergence of budding leaders among coworkers and grow their potential via training and career development.
- Improve employees’ feelings of safety and being seen by coworkers and employers.
- Provide employees with opportunities to express their concerns in a safe space.
- Create a sense of unity for the entire workplace, both in-person and remote.
- Identify and address problems in the work environment, allowing participants to experience a sense of accomplishment as they develop solutions.
Additionally, ERGs help ensure that employees are aware of the company’s benefits and can facilitate change by recommending additional benefits to support the company’s DEI policy. These include legal and identity theft protection plans or a combination of both.
The bottom line is simple: ERGs help unite the workplace, can help make employees feel safe and comfortable as their whole selves at work, and create opportunities for employees to grow as leaders and individuals. Research shows that companies, including many Fortune 500s and companies with a Great Place To Work Certification™, which encourage ERGs, have high success rates. As an employer, you can easily show support for your employees by funding the formation and development of an ERG. Schedule a meeting to get your executives and other employees on board. Send emails to find out who is interested in becoming part of an ERG. Let employees know you are part of the team and eager to make your workplace as welcoming and safe as possible!