Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led communities that provide a platform for their members to foster connections, develop skills, and enable organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) objectives.
ERGs are typically focused on a specific demographic, identity, or shared lived experience — often those that are historically and currently marginalized in society. Often, you’ll see workplace ERGs for women, BIPOC communities, 2SLGBTQ+ folks, disabled people/people with disabilities, veterans, newcomers, or religious groups, but the list of options is endless.
ERGs are exceptionally common in the workplace. 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs in place. The average number of ERGs for a single organization ranges from six to eight, with many of those ERGs having sub-entities based around geographic chapters or nuanced intersectional identities (i.e., a Transgendered employee community within a larger 2SLGBTQ+ ERG).
In simplest terms, I often refer to ERGs as “student clubs, but for adults.” Yes, it’s cheeky, but there are a lot of parallels. If you choose to engage, these often unpaid and totally optional extra-curriculars tend to be the most memorable part of your campus/workplace experience.
What Value Do ERGs Bring?
ERG impact varies. From almost no-existent to glorified social committees, many ERGs are often sequestered to the “nice to have” or “not worth the investment” corners. This strategic sidelining is often warranted, but as a DEI practitioner specialized in ERG enablement, it’s frustrating to hear because ERGs can be so much more. High impact, established ERGs do exist and have the capacity to both inform and catalyze business priorities across functions, not just DEI.
Here are three examples of how ERGs can drive meaningful business value:
Inform more innovative offering development and delivery
ERGs can provide a unique perspective on customer needs and preferences. ERG leaders are usually members of marginalized communities or deeply connected to these communities and bring forward diverse, often overlooked perspectives. Their input can lead to the…