Employee resource groups (ERGs) have been a part of corporate life since the 1960s, but they are growing in popularity. In fact that number of ERGs at companies rose more than 20% between 2021 and 2022, according to The Rise Journey. As employees look for support within their organizations and companies aim to foster engagement, ERGs create a sense of belonging and advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals. With all this, it’s becoming more and more apparent how valuable these internal communities of employees really are in today’s workplace.
This article explores what employee resource groups are and how they benefit companies, as well as offer ERG examples and best practices.
What are Employee Resource Groups?
Employee resource groups are networks for employees who have common interests or identities, offering them an opportunity to come together for community-building and support. ERGs tend to be grassroots, formed by volunteer employees within a company, but they are often officially sponsored and supported by the organization. These groups can also be called business resource groups or affinity groups. Employee resource groups are often centered around underrepresented groups such as women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, workers with disabilities and beyond. However, ERGs have grown to include groups focusing on many other areas, such as parenting, caregiving, physical and mental health and more.
At a time when companies are struggling with challenges such as quiet quitting, high turnover, and disconnection due to remote work, employee resource groups are an effective way to increase employee morale, engagement and a sense of community. Fortune 500 companies recognize these benefits—90 percent of them have employee resource groups in place to support employees.
What Does an Employee Resource Group Do?
The purpose of employee resource groups is to offer their members support, community and a psychologically safe space. That can come in many forms. Typically, they have regular gatherings that can include opportunities to socialize and build relationships as well as discuss common challenges and solutions. But the activities and initiatives they offer are as unique as their members and based on their needs.
Benefits of Employee Resource Groups
ERGs provide valuable resources for employees, but they offer clear advantages for employers as well. When employees can turn to an employee resource group for a strong community and meaningful relationships at work, the freedom to be themselves and trusted help when they need it, the results for companies include:
- Improved employee engagement and job satisfaction
- Increased productivity and innovation
- Enhanced recruitment and retention efforts
- Strengthened company culture
Employee Resource Group Best Practices
In order to realize the full benefits of ERGs, it’s important to set your organization up for success. Follow these employee resource group best practices.
1. Establish Clear Goals and Objectives
It’s difficult to accomplish your goals if they’re ambiguous. For each employee resource group, the mission and objectives of the group should be clearly spelled out so everyone—from company leaders to ERG members—knows exactly what the group wants to accomplish.
2. Encourage Leadership Support and Participation
Leadership support is key for a successful employee resource groups to ensure an effective flow of communication and resources. At Airbnb, for example, each of its employee resource groups is led by employees but sponsored by a member of the company’s executive team.
3. Create an Open and Inclusive Environment
While ERGs often are formed around a specific population, it should be clear that anyone is welcome to participate in them. This can be an effective way to educate and develop allies. For their part, allies need to recognize that their role is to support members according to their needs.
4. Develop a Structured Communication and Feedback Process
Communication is crucial to an ERG’s effectiveness. It can be helpful to have a set process for feedback and communication to create clear channels and transparency. These processes can apply to feedback between members of the group and employee resource groups leaders, as well as between group management and organizational leadership.
5. Ensure Accountability and Measurement of Success
An employee resource group’s goals should be SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When you define the goals, you should also determine measures of success and who will be accountable for progress. Establishing this at the start will make for smoother sailing as the ERG evolves.
Examples of Successful Employee Resource Groups
ERGs can be found at a wide variety of organizations. Here are some examples of high-profile, successful groups.
- Google Women Techmakers Group – The motto of Google’s Women Techmakers program is “We’re building a world where all women can thrive in tech.” The group provides visibility, community and resources for women in technology. Members have access to curated resources and events, as well as information and tools from Google, its partners and the global tech ecosystem.
- Airbnb’s Black@ Employee Resource Group – Black@ is the employee resource group for Black employees and allies at Airbnb. In 2022, the group released an ERG Manual designed to help increase the impact of Black employee resource groups in the tech community. The manual is designed for people considering starting an employee resource group at their company, as well as members of existing Black ERGs.
- Microsoft Disability Employee Resource Group – The Microsoft Disability ERG drives internal visibility and collaborates with product teams to design, develop and build accessible, inclusive products. The Microsoft Disability Scholarship seeks to empower students with disabilities to achieve more through access to education leading to a career in technology.
- Warriors at Amazon Employee Resource Group – Warriors at Amazon includes current and former active military personnel, their families and the Amazon employees who support them. This group provides members with a professional network, organizes community outreach programs and assists veterans during their transition into civilian life within Amazon.
Challenges & Solutions for Employee Resource Groups
Employee resource groups offer many rewards, but establishing them can also pose challenges. Some common roadblocks to watch out for include:
- Overcoming resistance and skepticism from leadership or colleagues
- Ensuring representation and inclusivity within employee resource groups
- Addressing potential conflicts or tensions within employee resource groups
Careful planning and good communication can go a long way toward solving many of these issues—hopefully before they begin. Before they start operating, employee resource groups should have strong leadership backing, clear goals and protocols for inclusion and representation and processes for feedback and conflict resolution.
Providing the resources and support needed for employee resource groups to thrive is another challenge that can be addressed when the ERG is created. You need to be aware of what the ERG will need in terms of funding, physical and human resources, mentoring and development structures and more—and make a clear commitment to provide the support needed for success.
Enhance Your Employee Resource Groups with Chronus
Employee resource groups are on the rise for good cause. They provide employees—especially those populations that traditionally have had greater challenges in the workplace—with a community where they can be themselves, build relationships, and receive support. For companies, employee resource groups offer an opportunity to promote DEI and increase employee engagement. The number of ERGs will only continue to grow as organizations and employees recognize their value.
The goals and benefits of employee resource groups and mentoring are closely linked, and taking advantage of both can make each more effective. Chronus mentoring software can help you create mentoring programs that can enhance the relationships that are formed within an employee resource group in one-on-one or group formats.
Mentorships can also be a great tool to bring together members of different ERGs or connect ERG members with organizational leaders. Ultimately, mentoring helps achieve ERG goals of supporting employees and helping them develop.
Find out how Chronus can help you make the most of mentoring to support employee resource groups.