Employee resource groups (ERGs) can play a significant role in developing an inclusive workplace. These are employee-led groups which strengthen teams, foster leadership skills, and encourage networking.
When ERGs are effectively implemented, they have the potential to elevate the company culture by cultivating a productive, diverse, and inclusive work environment.
Keep reading to discover employee resource group benefits, the different types of ERGs, and more.
What are Employee Resource Groups?
ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups formed to bring employees together based on a common identity, interest, or purpose. ERGs foster a sense of belonging and support within a company. They contribute to an inclusive workplace.
ERGs can be formed around multiple different interests or identities, including:
- Sexual orientation
- Mental health issues
- Social or economic causes
- Anything else that brings people together
Some companies refer to these employee-led groups as affinity groups. If employees share an affinity for any trait or hobby, they can create an ERG for it.
An ERG’s primary purpose is to offer resources and support to employees, boosting their well-being and enhancing the business as a whole.
Why Do Companies Value Employee Resource Groups?
According to compiled data by the Amica Center for Career Education, more than 80 Fortune 100 companies offer ERGs to their employees. However, you can find ERGs in companies of all sizes.
While the first purpose of employee resource groups is to benefit employees, businesses also find value in them. ERGs are a resource that Human Resources (HR) and other departments can use to monitor employee morale, get useful feedback, and identify untapped leaders.
The overall benefits of ERGs are multifold.
Employee Resource Group Benefits
Employee resource groups benefit both employees and the companies that foster them. Affinity groups first started forming in the 1960s to boost feelings of inclusion for underrepresented workers, giving them a sense of belonging in the workplace. This remains a primary benefit of many ERGs today, though their purpose and scope have expanded considerably since then.
Here are five employee resource group benefits.
1. Improved Employee Engagement
Whether formed around a common identity, interest, or cause, affinity groups bring people together and help them form social bonds that might not happen during the normal workday.
Social connection is a powerful motivator. It transforms the workplace for individual employees, contributing to a shared sense of mission and purpose.
2. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)
Fostering diversity in the workplace can result in better products and services. A spectrum of viewpoints produces more robust solutions. ERGs help companies both attract and retain a more diverse workforce.
Healthy affinity groups offer a safe and inclusive space for individuals who might otherwise feel excluded. They provide an opportunity to share experiences. If the organization is unsupportive of inclusion, the employees can be heard as a group, banding together to improve conditions for everyone.
3. Professional Development
Beyond friendship and inclusivity, ERGs provide employees with opportunities to develop skills. These can come in the form of mentorship, organizational responsibilities, and leadership opportunities.
Individuals from different departments and various roles work together as a team. This cross-collaboration fosters personal and professional growth.
4. Recruitment and Retention
What is good for the employees is good for the business. A strong social network, a feeling of belonging, and a shared purpose all improve the working environment.
A vibrant, committed team means your organization is more desirable to talented prospects. Nearly 80 percent of workers say they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
In addition, a positive company culture makes it easier to retain top talent and reduce attrition. A Salesforce study found that 75 percent of companies with ERGs listed employee retention as a benefit.
5. Robust Creativity and Innovation
When a relatively homogenous group creates a product for a national or international consumer base, they risk creating something that works for them but misses the boat for many others.
Diversity in the workplace means more perspectives, backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking. While this can come with challenges, it also brings robust creativity that results in solutions that work.
One fundamental of creativity is novelty. Exposure to team members and coworkers with diverse experiences and perspectives is a source of innovation and business growth.
Types Of ERGs
There are no limits to the types of potential ERGs. They can form around any shared interest, purpose, mission, or experience. Here are six common types of ERGs.
Identity-based ERGs connect employees on shared characteristics, such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability status, or parental status. The most common type of group, these ERGs can provide a safe and supportive community to help employees feel more included and valued in the workplace.
Interest and Passion-Based ERGs
Employees passionate about gardening, environmental issues, politics, cycling, or any other interest or passion can form an ERG based on these interests.
Volunteer groups can be connected to a corporation’s social responsibility focus or based on the employee’s desire to give back to the community or contribute to a cause. These groups may raise funds, organize events, or support community organizations.
Volunteer groups offer employees meaningful ways to get involved, build relationships, and expand their networks. They can also enhance an organization’s reputation.
Diversity groups promote DEIB in the workplace through a variety of approaches. Some focus on the recruitment and retention of diverse talent. Others help to educate employees about bias awareness or expose employees to different cultures to improve cultural competency.
If you would like to improve DEIB in your organization, check out our DEIB training programs.
Mental, Emotional, or Physical Support ERGs
Unavoidable life events impact work performance. ERGs that provide employees emotional, mental, and physical support to employees during difficult times can help ease the burden of these challenges. These ERGs can focus on challenges such as:
- Improving mental health
- Dealing with physical illness
- Surviving divorce
- Experiencing grief
Or any other challenge facing employees.
Professional Development Groups
In large organizations, professional development groups can connect emerging and potential leaders with mentors. These ERGs focus on helping employees develop their skills and advance their careers through training, mentorship, and networking.
These groups may be based on department, job function, or industry.
ERGs Are Good for Employees and Businesses
Employee resource group benefits range from boosting morale and employee retention to sparking creativity and improving an organization’s reputation. Everyone wants to belong, and nurturing a safe space for diverse employees is a win-win.
At Insight Global, we’re here to help. Connect with us about increasing diversity and inclusion in your workplace.