DEI: 4 Best Practices for Organizing Effective Employee Resource Groups


Employee resource groups (ERGs) are a fundamental part of effective diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies set by Human Resources leaders. However, to get the most out of them, organizations must be mindful of certain guidelines and parameters. After all, ERGs run the risk of becoming mere mailing lists or clubs for people with similar hobbies rather than activist groups that can make a difference and help define the workplace culture. 

Recently, Susan Hunt Stevens, CEO of WeSpire, an organization that helps employers implement ERGs and a veteran diversity leader, spoke to HR Exchange Network to share some advice on how to maximize ERGs to ensure they help in meeting DEI goals. Here is what she says to do: 

Provide Structure

By empowering ERGs with governance and a set of expectations, HR leaders are providing people with a road map and the capacity to meet certain standards, says Stevens. This subject also came up during the most recent HR Exchange Network Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion online event, when Rayshawnda Madison, then DEI head for Invitae, shared her case study. 

Madison stressed how important it is for DEI leaders to be transparent and inform the heads of ERGs and those who join about what is expected of them. She suggests providing a timeline. Stevens recommends defining projects for the groups, too. For instance, the ERG could be responsible for activities and education around Black History Month. What’s most important is to communicate and be explicit. 

READ: 5 Key Takeaways from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leaders

Gain Leadership Buy In

The executives at the company must believe that diversity and inclusion are vital to the organization’s success. They should recognize the connection between a diverse and inclusive team and positive business outcomes. In the HR Exchange Network report, The Business Case for DEI, Farzana Nayani, author of a book on ERGs and a diversity consultant, says that HR leaders must continuously assure executives that these efforts reap rewards. They must support the greater diversity strategy and employee resource groups as part of that plan. Stevens calls the concept executive sponsorship of these groups. 

READ: 4 Reasons Elon Musk Will Regret Shutting Down Employee Resource Groups

Nurture ERG Leaders

Stevens recommends companies tie being a leader of an ERG with talent development and career pathing. Employers can demonstrate the value they see in people taking on leadership roles in these groups by offering bonuses or gifts to those who helm these groups. Some are actually offering the benefit of paid volunteer hours and including work in ERGs. Of course, HR professionals should provide support for these leaders and members of groups to ensure they can carry out their duties and meet expectations. 

Insist on a Plan

Even after the employer provides clear expectations and opens the lines of communication, ERG leaders and members must write their own plan. It should describe their goals and how they are going to accomplish them. They should include deadlines and specifics. There should be follow up and monitoring. 

Remember that the primary purpose of ERGs is to create a sense of belonging, and they can greatly contribute to a positive workplace culture

Photo by MART PRODUCTION for Pexels

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