Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, reportedly shut down Twitter’s employee resource groups (ERGs), including Twitter Women and Blackbird, which supported underrepresented employees. Blackbird was an impactful group started by Shavone Charles, according to Yahoo!. Usually, Human Resources has some role in either organizing or supporting ERGs.
ERGs often are a vital part of a company’s culture. When structured properly, ERGs can also contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. At the 2022 HR Exchange Network’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion online event, Rayshawnda Madison, then Head of DEI at Invitae, explained how to ensure these groups support certain goals.
Disbanding established ERGs seems like an effective way to demonstrate that transformation is on the horizon and a new group of people likely will take over. Here are reasons Musk might live to regret shutting down ERGs:
Trust Is Broken
ERGs are usually launched and driven by employees themselves. They are their way of discovering those with shared interests and goals, so they can provide a sense of belonging. When effective and truly supportive, these groups help build trust among colleagues and can be a strong retention tool, too.
Retention is important to organizations because recruiting, hiring, and training new employees is costly and time consuming. ERGs often create a sense of belonging organically, and helping employees forge emotional bonds with their colleagues aids in retention. Having ERGs is a promise to stay committed to employees wellbeing. Closing them sends the message that trust is broken. This could reduce retention.
WATCH: Elevating Employee Resource Groups to Impact DEI Goals
Less Influence on Community
When structured properly, ERGs can extend their reach beyond the walls of their organization. For example, at Invitae the LGBTQ+ ERG helped revise medical forms to be more inclusive for patients. Without ERGs that are sharing their truth and making change, the community will suffer. The business is not the only entity that benefits from their work.
Madison had created guidelines to ensure that ERGs remained focused and dedicated to DEI goals of the greater organization. These kinds of groups also contribute to the increase in employee activism that leaders are witnessing. Removing ERGs from an organization at this time seems like a step backward.
The most obvious consequence of shutting down ERGs is the negative press attention. Musk is already experiencing it for a number of actions he has taken, including laying off half of his employees. Many took to social media to criticize him for this move. At best, this looks like an affront to employees’ desire to create collegiality. At worst, it’s a signal that employee engagement and ERGs are seen as frivolous and unimportant. Therefore, the message is that DEI is not a priority of the organization. Certainly, those on social media talking about Twitter’s decision seemed to get that impression.
REPORT: The Business Case for DEI
The Work Never Gets Done
ERGs can serve as a motivator and an enabler of DEI. When they are dismantled, those who are passionate and leading the charge no longer have an outlet or process for effecting change. Therefore, the work never gets done. Without the ERG, no one makes the medical forms more inclusive. No one works on social justice issues. Equal pay becomes less of a priority. And so on and so on.
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