veterans erg meeting in office

How ERGs Create Belonging in the Workplace

As workplaces focus more on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), many organizations are realizing the importance of the “I” in that equation—inclusion. Representation is key, but ultimately, employees need to feel valued and included in order to live up to their full potential and remain at an organization. Building and supporting Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) is one tried-and-true way that companies can foster a sense of belonging among workers. The Rise Journey’s 2021 State of the Employee Resource Group Report found over 50% of organizations survey had three to six ERGs. The rest, a little over 20%,had seven to 15 ERGs. In terms of most
popular ERGs, the top three were:

  • Women
  • Black & African American

Employees who feel a high sense of belonging are far more likely to be engaged, loyal and to promote their organizations as good places to work than those who feel lower levels of belonging, according to research by Coqual.

What is an ERG?

An ERG is often a voluntary group that offers an opportunity for people with common identities or interests in the workplace to come together. These groups, which may also have other names, including affinity groups, Business Resource Groups (BRGs) or Business Resource Networks (BRNs), offer forums in which employees can share experiences, information and resources in a supportive environment. ERGs often focus on underrepresented or historically disadvantaged groups, for example women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, veteran or disabled employees. But they’ve also evolved to focus on working parents, mental health, wellness and beyond.
black women employees at ERG meeting in conference room
Among Fortune 500 companies—such as Amazon and PNC90 percent utilize ERGs as an employee engagement strategy. While ERGs are most often employee-led, formal company support is crucial for them to thrive and contribute to the organization as a whole.

How Do ERGs Support Employees?

ERGs foster a sense of belonging in several ways. These groups offer a psychologically safe space for discussion, solidarity and support, in which people can feel free to self-identify and be their authentic selves. They create a sense of community, which can have a huge positive impact on employees’ feelings of trust and engagement.

In surveying 400 women, online community platform Fairygodboss found top policy changes achieved by women’s resource groups included:

  • 55% of the women we surveyed said their women’s network helped improve parental leave benefits
  • 53% said their group advocated for better and more flexible work schedules or vacation policies
  • 44% said their women’s ERG helped establish a mentorship or sponsorship program at work

ERGs also provide opportunities for participants to simply be heard, not only by other members of their group, but by the larger organization. Group members can also learn from one another and take advantage of resources for personal and professional development, whether formal and informal.

How Do ERGs Benefit Organizations?

By supporting ERGs, companies foster a diverse, inclusive work environment and cultivate a culture of allyship. Working with these groups can help companies:

  • Better understand employee needs and perspectives
  • Glean important insights on company processes, products and performance
  • Foster employee development and identify potential leaders
  • Enable important conversations such as those around race, gender, etc.

These results not only cultivate employee well-being and engagement, but benefit organizations as a whole with a higher level of internal awareness and cohesion, which can lead to greater employee retention.

Types of ERG Groups

ERGs can be found in a wide variety of company. The ERG groups can center around demographics, personal experiences, general interests and more. Here are some examples of what ERGs focus on.

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Nationality
  • Sexuality
  • Neurodiversity
  • Accessibility
  • Military Service
  • Parental status
  • Pets
  • Hobbies


Examples of Best Practices for ERGs

While ERGs are a valuable tool for increasing inclusion, not all are created equal. Companies can increase the effectiveness of these ERG groups by following employee resource group best practices to maximize impact.
black woman speaks at ERGs for working parents

Establish Accountability

ERGs should be established with a clear sense of mission and specific goals connected to business impact. Goals can include priorities such as growing employee engagement, increasing retention, or deepening diversity among leadership and management. Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based), and progress should be measured regularly, using defined data, to demonstrate impact. This ensures the program proves impactful, and the ERGs will stay aligned with organizational objectives.

Furthermore, it’s essential to have individuals who can step into an ERG role within employee resource groups to ensure that these groups are well-represented and effectively cater to the needs of all participating employees. In addition to this, ERG leaders help keep the employee resource group accountable, ensuring that it operates in alignment with its goals and objectives. Their commitment encourages inclusivity and strengthens the group’s impact within the organization.

Build in Mentoring

Mentoring and ERGs go hand in hand as proven tools to increase a sense of belonging within the workplace. ERGs bring together a select pool of likely candidates for both mentors and mentees, and mentoring forms relationships that contribute to accomplishing the overall goals of the ERG.

Mentoring offers ERG participants deeper opportunities to build skills, engage in crucial conversations and build accountability. This can be in the form of one-on-one mentoring relationships or group formats that appeal to the existing setup of ERGs such as mentoring circles or group mentoring.

Provide Flexibility

ERGs have been an important resource for employees battling isolation and seeking to maintain connection during the pandemic. With remote and hybrid workplaces seemingly here to stay, it’s important for ERGs to be just as effective virtually as they are in person. Any technology platforms used should offer the flexibility to facilitate the kind of communication that best serves ERG members’ needs.

Support with Resources

ERGs need organizational support in order to live up to their potential. While ERGs should determine their own missions and parameters, executive sponsorship and stakeholder involvement can set ERGs up for success by demonstrating the importance of such ERG groups to the company. Executive sponsors can help ERGs on an ongoing basis by providing support in the form of visibility, vocal recognition or networking.

Company funding and resources are also important. These can include dedicated budgets, administrative resources, company-provided staffing, financial rewards for group leaders, formal onboarding programs and direct influence on business decisions and more.

Examples of Companies Using ERGs

From tech companies to manufacturing, ERGs are in play at more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies. They are used to improve employee connection, drive satisfaction and upskill the workforce. Here are a few examples of the ERGs that exist at the following companies:

  • GEICO – The company has eight ERGs focused on “a collective mission to further promote belonging and equity, and in doing so, strengthen our relationship with associates and customers.”
  • CVS Health – Representing a variety of personal, professional and cultural interests, the company has 40+ Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs) across their locations such as Asian Professional Network Association, CapAbilities, Mental Well-being, PRIDE and beyond.
  • Home Depot – The company’s Associate Resource Groups (ARGs) are championed by executive sponsors and advisers, each highlights a commitment to “diversity by engaging associates in professional development, awareness activities and community outreach.”
  • Nielsen – the company focuses on building ERGs across many forms of diversity (age, veterans, LGBTQ, etc), while connecting engagement, especially from senior leaders, to their performance each year


Centralize and Manage ERGs with Software

ERG software can play a crucial role in supporting enterprise organizations looking to run impactful ERGs focused on fostering belonging, connection, and development. Here are several reasons why ERG software is important in this context:
ERG Software ERG menu for employee participants

  • Streamlined Management – ERG software provides a centralized platform for managing various aspects of ERGs, including membership data, events, and communication. This centralization streamlines administrative tasks, making it easier for leaders to oversee and coordinate ERG activities.
  • Seamless Communication – Features such as chat, forums, and messaging tools enable members to engage in discussions, share ideas, and build a sense of community, contributing to a stronger sense of belonging.
  • Event Scheduling – For ERGs focused on connection and community building, software helps in planning and coordinating events. From virtual meetups to in-person gatherings, ERG software provides tools for scheduling, RSVP management, and event promotion, ensuring a smooth planning process.

With the help of software, ERGs can scale across your organization with a standardized approach for all your employees, providing a better experience for culture and belonging.

In Conclusion

With the help of ERGs, companies can put a greater focus on employee belonging and support. Long term, this kind of investment offers big rewards in terms of both employee well-being and organizational success.

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