HR Management & Compliance

What Are Employee Resource Groups?

Does your organization have and promote employee resource groups (ERGs)?

mentoring

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If not, you may be asking, what are ERGs??

ERGs are groups that are established so employees can voluntarily meet with others they have something in common with, others they would like to learn from, or others with whom they have a shared cause to support. These groups are usually sponsored and encouraged by the employer but are run by employees. They were originally created over six decades ago as a means of networking for minority groups but now have a much broader scope. In those days, there were often called workplace affinity groups.

Today, an ERG may be founded on a shared interest or issue. It’s no longer a prerequisite to belong to a specific demographic to join, though those groups also are still around. Here are some general characteristics of ERGs today:

  • They’re often sponsored (or at least formally recognized) by the employer and may have a senior staff member who is the sponsor or leader.
  • They may go by other names, like business resource group or team member network.
  • While they may still be formed based on common demographics (like race, gender, religion, or ethnicity) or common background or experience (veterans, caregivers, etc.), today, they’re just as likely to be formed around common interests or causes.
  • They’re more likely to be strategic and inclusive and focused on problem solving rather than networking for a small set of people.

Note: This list is not meant to be comprehensive, nor is it meant to be a set of rules. Some ERGs will not follow these typical rules of thumb.

Why Businesses Sponsor and Promote ERGs

Businesses like ERGs because:

  • They can help with recruiting and retention by showing that the employer is committed to helping employees get what they need in the organization. These groups are an outlet for people to have their concerns heard and addressed.
  • The existence of ERGs in the organization may also help to recruit and retain a more diverse staff.
  • ERGs can assist with employee development through the creation of informal mentoring relationships.
  • ERGs can be a way to help new employees feel they fit in sooner. This is especially relevant for organizations that have struggled with diversity and inclusion in the past.
  • These groups can be a great resource for the organization to learn about employee concerns and be able to take action.
  • They provide an outlet for camaraderie and engagement among coworkers.

Now that we’ve covered a bit more about ERGs and why organizations have them, is this something your business is considering? Or, perhaps it’s something you already have in place but it’s known by another name. Tell us in the comments about your experience with setting up and promoting ERGs and which groups you’ve found useful to your organizational culture and productivity.