Employee Resource Groups: What They Are and Why They Matter

divers business people in a meeting room looking at white board, employee resource groups

In this detailed guide we aim to understand employee resource groups and the big difference they can make in a company's culture.

What are employee resource groups?

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups made to foster a diverse, inclusive workplacealigned with the organizations they serve. These groups provide support, career development, and professional networking opportunities to employees who, by nature of their background or interests, might feel underrepresented or isolated in their workplace.

ERGs support employees by bringing them together based on shared characteristics or life experiences, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status. They're all about promoting understanding, respect, and a sense of belonging among the diverse workforce.

Types of ERGs

Let us explore the variety of employee resource groups

  • Race and ethnicity ERGs: Focus on employees from specific racial or ethnic backgrounds.
  • Gender equality ERGs: Aim to support gender equality and address issues specific to women or men in the workplace.
  • LGBTQ+ ERGs: Support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees and allies.
  • Disability ERGs: Dedicated to employees with disabilities, working towards accessibility and understanding.
  • Veterans ERGs: For employees who have served in the military, focusing on their unique experiences and contributions.
  • Young professionals ERGs: Aimed at younger employees focusing on career development and networking.
  • Parenting and caregiver ERGs: Support employees balancing work with parenting or caregiving responsibilities.
  • Cultural and religious ERGs: For employees who want to celebrate their cultural or religious identities and share them with others.

These groups create spaces for employees to connect, share experiences, and support one another, enhancing the overall work environment.

How ERGs differ from other workplace groups or committees?

ERGs are unique because they're based on building a community and support network among employees who share similar backgrounds or experiences.

Unlike other workplace groups or committees that might focus on specific projects or operational goals, ERGs aim to enhance the work environment for their members and support career and personal growth. They often work closely with company leadership to advise on policies and practices that affect diverse employees and help in community building within the company.

Effective employee resource groups are supported by executive sponsors who provide guidance and help in connecting the ERG's goals with the broader business objectives, making them a vital part of the company's strategy to support a diverse workforce.

The role and function of ERGs

Employee resource groups play a big part in making workplaces better. They're like teams where employees help each other grow and make sure everyone feels included. Let's look at what these groups aim to do and the kinds of activities they get involved in.

Primary objectives of ERGs

  • Support for underrepresented groups: Making sure everyone, no matter their background, feels like they belong.
  • Professional development: Helping members learn new skills and grow in their careers.
  • Inclusion initiatives: Working on ways to make the workplace welcoming for all.
  • Mentoring programs: Pairing up newer employees with more experienced ones for guidance.
  • Achieving diversity: Making sure the workplace reflects the wide variety of people in the world outside.

Common activities and initiatives ERGs undertake

  • Workshops and seminars: For learning new skills or about important topics.
  • Networking events: Where members can meet other employees and make professional connections.
  • Community service: Volunteering together for good causes.
  • Cultural celebrations: Events that celebrate and educate about different cultures.
  • Employee surveys: To find out what issues matter to members and how to address them.

The structure and leadership of ERGs

The way ERGs are set up can vary, but they often have a similar structure.

  • Leadership: ERG leaders or erg leaders are usually employees who volunteer to guide the group. They plan activities, talk to the company's big bosses about the group's needs, and make sure everything runs smoothly.

  • Executive sponsor: This is someone from the top level of the company who supports the ERG. They can help get resources and make sure the ERG's voice is heard in big company decisions.

  • Members: Anyone in the company can join an ERG. These groups are about bringing employees together, no matter what their job is.

  • Committees: For bigger ERGs, there might be smaller teams that focus on specific areas like events, communications, or community service.

ERGs help build a friendly and supportive community at work where everyone can learn and grow. They make sure everyone has a voice and a chance to shine.

Benefits of employee resource groups

Employee resource groups bring a lot of good to the workplace. They're more than just groups; they're a force for positive change for everyone involved. Let’s see how they benefit both the people who join them and the companies that support them.

For employees

  • Providing a sense of community and belonging: ERGs create a space where employees feel supported and understood. This is especially important for those who might feel alienated or isolated. It's about building a strong employee community where everyone feels they belong.

  • Professional development opportunities: Through workshops, seminars, and other ERG programs, members get chances to learn new skills and grow professionally. This isn’t just good for their current job; it’s great for their career in the long run.

  • Mentorship and networking: ERGs connect members with mentors who can guide them, and networking events help them meet other professionals. This can open doors to new opportunities within and outside the organization.

  • A platform for voice and advocacy within the organization: ERGs give members a way to share their thoughts and concerns with senior leaders. This can lead to changes that make the workplace better for everyone.

For employers and the organization

  • Enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts: By supporting ERGs, companies show they’re serious about building an inclusive culture. These groups help make the workplace more welcoming for diverse employees, including black employees and other underrepresented groups.

  • Improving employee engagement and retention: When people feel seen and supported, they’re more likely to be happy at work and stay with the company. ERGs play a big part in making employees feel connected to the company.

  • Insight into diverse consumer markets: ERGs can offer valuable insights about different markets and communities. This can help the company serve a wider range of customers better.

  • Strengthening employer branding and corporate reputation: Companies with active and effective ERGs are seen as good places to work. This can attract top talent and improve the company’s reputation.

ERGs offer a lot to both employees and employers. They’re about more than just meetings and events; they’re about making real changes that benefit everyone.

Implementing and sustaining effective ERGs

Smiling business people looking at sticky notes on glass in meeting room at creative office

Getting an ERG up and running, and making sure it stays effective, takes some planning but it's totally worth it.

Steps to starting an ERG at your workplace

  • Identify interest: See if other employees are interested in forming an ERG. This could be around anything from career paths to shared backgrounds or interests.
  • Get official approval: Talk to your company’s leaders about starting an ERG. Explain how it will benefit the company and its workforce.
  • Choose leaders: Pick or have ERG members vote for who will lead the group. Leaders should be passionate about the ERG’s mission and good at organizing people.
  • Plan your mission and goals: Decide what your ERG will focus on. What do you want to achieve? Make sure these goals are clear and achievable.
  • Set up a structure: How often will you meet? Will there be dues? What kind of events will you hold? Think about what will work best for your group.
  • Promote your ERG: Let everyone in the company know about your ERG and how they can join. Use emails, posters, or company meetings to spread the word.
  • Hold your first meeting: Get started! Use this meeting to plan what you want to do and how you can make your ERG great.

How to support your Employee Resource Groups?

Supporting your ERGs is key to their success. Here’s how you can help:

  • Provide financial support: Give ERGs a budget for events, speakers, and activities. This shows you’re serious about backing them.
  • Offer organizational support: Help ERGs get the space and resources they need for meetings and events.
  • Encourage leadership development: Offer training and development opportunities for ERG leaders. This helps them run their groups better and grow professionally.
  • Promote ERG involvement: Encourage all employees to get involved with ERGs. Show that it’s a valuable part of being at your company.
  • Listen to feedback: Take what ERGs say seriously. They can give you insight into how to make your workplace more inclusive and supportive.

By following these steps and offering your support, you can help ERGs make a positive impact at your workplace. It’s all about working together to build a better, more inclusive company.

Examples of companies with employee resource groups

Many leading companies recognize the value of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. Here are examples from different industries showing how ERGs make a significant impact:

  • iManage, a company specializing in intelligent, cloud-enabled knowledge work platforms, focuses on creating a positive work environment through various initiatives, including ERGs, that emphasize the wellbeing and professional growth of their employees​​.

  • Immersive Labs, known for its cyber resilience solutions, supports its workforce with hands-on cybersecurity labs and simulations, enhancing cyber workforce resilience across the organization through continuous assessment and professional development opportunities​​.

  • Klaviyo, an eCommerce marketing technology firm, empowers creators by making first-party data more accessible and actionable, striving to create a supportive workplace that encourages professional development and includes ERGs as part of their culture​​.

  • M1 Finance, a fast-growing fintech company, provides a platform that combines investing, borrowing, spending, and saving, with a focus on building wealth. They have shown significant growth and value the importance of ERGs in supporting a diverse workforce​​.

  • MarketAxess, which is transforming the fixed-income market through digital innovation, supports ERGs as part of its mission to improve transparency, efficiency, and competition in the marketplace, ensuring an inclusive work culture​​.

These companies illustrate the diverse ways in which ERGs can support not just specific groups of employees, such as women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities, but also the broader goals of the organization in terms of diversity, inclusion, and professional development.

Successful ERGs can lead to increased employee engagement, better understanding and serving of diverse consumer markets, and ultimately, a stronger, more inclusive corporate culture.

How to measure the impact of ERGs?

young employees going over document in meeting room

Measuring the impact of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) helps organizations understand their effectiveness in fostering diversity and supporting business goals. Here’s a brief overview of the key methods and metrics used:

Engagement and participation

Assess the number of ERG members and their activity levels to gauge the group's engagement and reach across potential members, including different departments, seniority levels, and demographics like gender and parental status.

Employee satisfaction surveys

Use surveys to measure the impact of ERGs on employees’ sense of belonging, perceived support, and opportunities for career advancement, including their connection with leadership.

Diversity and inclusion metrics

Evaluate ERGs' success in promoting diversity through metrics such as the diversity of new hires, career progression of ERG members, and diversity within senior leadership.

Business performance

Link ERG activities to business outcomes, examining contributions to innovation, customer base expansion, and external engagement, to show the ERGs' direct value to the organization.

Career advancement

Analyze performance reviews and career advancement of ERG members compared to non-members to identify the professional development benefits of ERG involvement.

External recognition

Consider external awards and recognition as objective measures of the ERGs’ contributions to a positive workplace culture and inclusion efforts.

By combining these metrics, organizations can gain a clear view of their ERGs’ contributions to both employee well-being and business success, ensuring these groups continue to meet evolving needs and support strategic objectives effectively.

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Employee resource groups, also known as affinity groups and business resource groups, play a crucial role in fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. These erg groups are not just about professional networking; they are about building a strong employee community that thrives on diversity and inclusion.

By supporting ERGs, companies can unlock the full potential of their workforce, driving innovation and business success. Ultimately, the commitment to support ERGs reflects an organization's dedication to employee community building and the creation of a work environment where everyone feels valued and included.

Topic: Employees
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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