Why Should YOU Belong To Employee Resource Groups?
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are company-sanctioned groups created out of concern for race, gender, sexuality, place/region of origin, upward mobility, and generational equality. ERG is a global term but may be called employee network groups, affinity groups, or employee interest groups.
ERGs have been around for a while. For detail and history of their formation plus what they offer companies and employees, read my previous blog The Power of Employee Resource Groups. This blog addresses why you should jump at the chance to belong one or several if available in your company.
I don’t know the exact number of groups in existence, but according to Forbes 90% of Fortune 500 companies have Employee Resource Groups. Many of them are probably top-notch in promoting diversity, inclusion and development. If your company’s ERGs aren’t quite there yet, don’t let that stop you from joining them. That just means you and your peers can help steer their improvement.
Here are my top five reasons for belonging to a number Employee Resource Groups.
- ERGs foster a sense of belonging and community within the business. They allow you to connect with colleagues who share your concerns or interests, as well as learn about colleagues who are different from you. For example, as a Black cis-gender woman I was a member of several ERGs that were obvious because they related to women’s issues or to being black. Additionally, I joined several other ERGs because I was interested in understanding issues that concerned colleagues like Native Americans, LGBTQ+, and the generational differences and experiences of younger/newer employees. Issues within ERGs run the gamut. Ultimately, the more ERGs you belong to the more you expand your outlook, understand diverse perspectives and see opportunities to collaborate for the good of employees and the company.
- When run properly, ERGs offer great opportunities for personal development. ERGs are autonomous so each will have its own set of programs, but you will find both formal and informal mentoring and training programs in most of them. Mentoring may be on a one-one or one-to-many basis, such as in a mentoring circle. Both arrangements can be valuable in building skills and finding a safe person (s) to express ideas/concerns that might seem risky in other environments. Plus, you will find no better place to broaden your relationships across functions and management levels than in ERGs.
- You get a top-down and bottom-up view of the business. Because corporate officers find ERGs helpful in managing the business, they frequently appear before ERG members to share corporate updates on product and service innovation, customer issues and financial position of the company. It’s not to say that officers share more in ERG settings than in others; but sharing there often gives you, the member, more opportunity to engage directly with leaders of the company. Discussions alongside peers from different parts of the business provides more insight and hopefully a broader view of how things appear from the bottom looking up.
- ERGs distribute professional opportunities. Most ERGs elect officers to lead the organization - president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, to name a few. Just like any other election - candidates must have a platform of ideas that serve the mission of the ERG and campaign to be elected. Serving in this capacity provides a different level of leadership for many members. The responsibilities for these officers can be complex. You will find this especially true while leading a group of peers, even superior managers, committees etc. through challenging issues. The experience can prepare ERG officers for leading in diverse functional areas of the business. A bonus is ERG officers have the privilege of spending time with their corporate officers- giving them a chance to showcase their own skills and sometimes identify other ERG members as emerging leaders.
- Lastly and most importantly, your involvement insures you are heard on important issues. ERGs are not social clubs. They are not a place to gripe about little things that bother you. The issues raised should be relevant to the success of the company’s mission, strategies, and policies from the collective view of the ERG members. Companies support ERGs with funds and
So, there you have it. There is no better place than ERGs to find co-workers who share common interests. Co-workers who have meaningful contributions that officers and leaders need and want to hear. The benefits outlined above are multiplied depending on the number of ERGs there are within a company and how you choose to participate in them.
If your company doesn’t have ERGs, stay tuned. I’ll share some tips for creating the first ERG at your company. But next, I will explore the challenges facing employees who belong to ERGs. Just as there are pros and cons for everything, there are likely cons to belonging to ERGs.
Feel free to share your thoughts and ERG experiences with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.