What are Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)? Definition, Significance and Support
Hattie Pursell
Writer
4 minutes
Duration
July 9, 2024
Date

Within an enterprise organisation, where would you find access to mentoring, coaching, skill development, career advancement opportunities or simply a connection to someone that’s representative of your identity? An Employee Resource Group (ERG). 

These groups are the source of micro-communities, promoting inclusivity and creating safe environments for employees to connect, learn and grow. This article will define what ERGs are, explain their significance and provide actionable tools to support them in your organisation.

What are Employee Resource Groups? 

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-driven committees within organisations that focus on supporting minority and underrepresented groups. These groups engage members by addressing shared characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, LGBTQI+ orientation, veteran status, and interests like charity work. ERGs aim to foster inclusive, supportive, and safe environments at work. 

What are Business Resource Groups (BRGs) and Staff Networks?

Businesses may have different names for their Employee Resource Groups, here are some common examples: 

  • Affinity Groups 
  • Employee/Staff Networks
  • Business Resource Groups (BRGs)
  • Staff Networks
  • Volunteer-led Groups

When were Employee Resource Groups created? 

Originating in the 1960s, Xerox founded Employee Resource Groups in response to race riots to reduce discrimination and create safe spaces for their black employees. Additionally, HP employees in their own right formed Gay and Lesbian Employee Networks (GLEN). These groups formed, despite their risks and backlash, to advocate for minorities. Now, over 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs, setting the standard practice for representation in the workplace. 

Types of ERGs:

There are many types of Employee Resource Groups, varying on their goals, expectations and involvement with the wider organisation. Here we’ve listed the most common ERGs:

  • Diversity Groups: Support specific minority demographics like ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ employees, women, veterans, and people with disabilities.
  • Cultural Groups: Focus on shared cultural or national identities, promoting awareness and inclusion.
  • Lifestyle Groups: Cater to interests such as health and fitness, parenting (both working and single parents), and faith-based activities.
  • Generational Groups: Address the unique challenges and opportunities of different age groups within the workforce.
  • Volunteer and Civic Groups: Organise community service and charity initiatives, strengthening community engagement and social responsibility.

Examples of Employee Resource Groups and Professional Networks in enterprise organisations:

As mentioned, the popularity of employee networks has grown exponentially since its inception. Here are a few examples of Successful ERGs in Enterprise 

  • YoPros at TIAA: Group for young professionals organising social events and volunteer initiatives.
  • UK Neurodiversity and US AccessAbilities at EY: Multiple ERGs advocating for diverse groups.
  • W@M at Microsoft: Annual events and recruitment drives for women.
  • Women’s Network, Black Professionals, LGBT%20 at Avison Young: almost ¼ of employees are participants in ERGs.
  • WiZE, B@Z and AAAPI@Z at Zscaler: Focused on women, Black employees, and Asian American Pacific Islander employees respectively.

Check out how Guider is supporting upskilling, sponsorship, mentoring and diversity initiatives for Employee Resource Groups at Zscaler.

What’s the significance of Employee Resource Groups?

Employee Resource Groups work to provide equal opportunities, create a sense of community and inclusion for represented members, primarily minority groups, promoting diversity, inclusion and reducing discrimination at work. 

Let’s demonstrate why ERGs are necessary with some recent statistics: 

  • Not one country has reached full gender parity (World Economic Forum 2024).
  • While representing 1/5 of the workforce, Asian Americans hold just 6% of senior leadership positions (NIH).
  • A quarter of Black employees encounter discrimination at work (Gallup).

And that’s not even sector-specific…

  • Research shows that 89% of women in the football industry experience discrimination (The Guardian).

So.. why are Employee Resource Groups important? 

As the world and corporate landscape changes into a more cohesive, diversity-focused era, demonstrated by the 83% of Gen Z’s stating that a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there (Forbes), ERGs provide essential support, connection, and opportunities for all employees.  

Benefits of ERGs: 

The significance can be further explained by the sheer number of benefits they provide, below we provided a short number. 

  • Promoting diversity and inclusion: ERGs create safe spaces where underrepresented groups can share their experiences, advocate for their needs, and work towards an inclusive workplace culture.
  • Enhancing employee engagement: By promoting inclusivity and authenticity, ERGs create a sense of belonging, improving employee morale and job satisfaction, which can lead to increased productivity and reduced turnover.
  • Professional development: ERGs offer members opportunities for leadership development, mentoring, and skills training, supporting career advancement and personal growth.
  • Driving innovation: Diverse groups bring varied perspectives that can lead to innovative solutions and better decision-making within the organisation.
  • Improving recruitment and retention: Organisations with active ERGs attract diverse talent and demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity, making them more attractive to potential employees and improving retention rates.

How to support Employee Resource Groups 

Research shows that effective ERGs are key to preventing employee disengagement and exclusion (McKinsey). Here are some strategies to support ERGs in your organisation: 

Centralise and Align 

Taking a formal approach to ERGs can help standardise their practices, goals and provide recognition from the company. A great way to do this is to use ERG Software to centralise and consolidate resources and programs from one platform, further ensuring that ERGs work cohesively together, with DEI and L&D teams and towards organisational objectives.

Reduce administrative burden for ERG leaders 

Provide recognition and training for ERG leaders to keep them motivated. Allow them to automate tasks to lessen the workload to ensure time is focused on skills development, career advancement and the success of the program. 

Celebrate ERGs and drive engagement

Highlight ERG achievements to truly commemorate and advocate the community they have created. Help by organising campaigns and webinars to increase participation and visibility within the organisation.

Monitor progress and prove value

Equip ERGs with tools to track and report their progress. Effective reporting on key metrics demonstrates the value of ERG activities and secures necessary resources.

Conclusion

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are vital in securing an inclusive and supportive workplace. By providing equal opportunities, promoting diversity, and creating safe spaces, ERGs enhance employee engagement, drive innovation, and improve recruitment and retention. Effective ERGs prevent employee disengagement and contribute to a positive organisational culture.

Want to see how you can support Employee Resource Groups in your organisation? Book a consultation with Guider today to explore tailored solutions that empower your ERGs and drive meaningful change.

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