How To Start A Successful Employee Resource Group

Dec Connolly Editor

Email business@thebusinessjournal.co.uk

three women sitting on sofa with MacBook

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) bring together a group of employees with shared characteristics to achieve goals usually related to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. 

The first Employee Resource Group started in the United States in 1969 at Xerox in San Francisco. It was called BABE (Bay Area Black Employees). One of their main goals was to increase the number of Black people working at Xerox and help ensure that the best Black employees were hired. 

In 1970, BABE convinced management to follow a system when hiring black people. They had to have a Black Xerox employee present whenever White managers interviewed a Black candidate. 

What followed in the years to come were other groups being formed. For example, a Hispanic group and a Women’s group. 

Despite the value of Employee Resource Groups today, many organizations do not provide them with the right resources and training to be successful. 

Here are five tips on how to start a successful Employee Resource Group.

Define Your Goals

Employee Resource Groups must have defined goals, and it’s essential to define and communicate them. 

Here are a few reasons why goals are so crucial for ERGs.

  • Defined goals keep everyone on the same page – When you set clear goals, everyone knows exactly what they’re working towards.
  • Clear goals prevent ‘scope creep’ – Scope creep can happen when your ERG takes on too much and works on initiatives that don’t help you reach your goals. 
  • Clear goals help you gain supporters – ERGs need supporters and volunteers to thrive. They need to understand your goals and purpose in just a few sentences.
  • Goals help track your ERG’s success – Your goals should include how you will track and measure success. 
  • Clear goals keep the ERG aligned with business initiatives – Ideally, your ERGs goals should be tied clearly to current company objectives so that it’s easier to get buy-in from senior leadership.

Create A Clear Strategy

A strategy is one of the most crucial Employee Resource Group best practices.

An ERG strategy will support long-term planning, which will help the ERG reach its goals and stay on track. 

Create an overarching strategy with clear long-term goals, and then assign the specific actions you need to take to reach those goals.

Ensure you include success metrics in your strategy. You should be able to track your success – and your missteps – at every stage.

Find Members

Many ERGs fail because they can’t get members and supporters on board. 

Here are a few ways ERG leaders can engage employees with your company’s ERGs.

  • Reach out to your existing workplace networks
  • Get listed in your company newsletter and in-house social media pages
  • Place sign-up sheets in every common area
  • Tell people about the ‘why’ and the ‘how,’ not just the ‘what.’
  • Host exciting events that bring people value

While these tips are directed at ERG leaders, it’s worth noting that HR and DEI leaders need to support ERGs and champion them. Senior leadership also has a role to play in supporting ERGs, and that’s where Executive Sponsors come in. 

Secure An Executive Sponsor

An ERG’s executive sponsor is usually a senior leader in the company who can provide guidance, mentorship and resources to help the ERG achieve its goals. They champion the ERG to other senior leaders and can help the ERG reach its goals.  

They understand how to align the ERG’s goals with the company’s overall goals, which will help to get crucial buy-in from company executives.

Give ERG Leaders The Right Tools, Support and Training 

This last point is often overlooked, but it is critical. ERG leaders often have great ideas and a lot of passion, but they also have their day job to do. It’s common for them to become burnt out trying to juggle their ERG tasks, responsibilities, and regular jobs. 

Managers, HR and DEI teams must work together to ensure that time is allocated for ERG leaders to do their work during their regular working schedule. 

Lastly, if companies appreciate the value ERGs bring to the workplace, they should invest in training and supporting their leaders to build successful ERGs that give a sense of belonging to the workplace.

Insight Shared by

Aisha Suleiman

Aisha Suleiman is an award-winning diversity and inclusion leader, entrepreneur, and film director. Her 12-week program helps HR and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leaders build employee resource groups that create a positive impact in their workplace. In recognition of her work, Aisha has been on lists such as the Investing in Ethnicity Top 8 Future Leaders (2018) and the EMpower 100 Ethnic Minority Future Leaders (2020).