This is the definitive toolkit for employee resource group (ERG) professionals to plan, build, and grow their ERG programs. This guide is for small and large DEI teams, providing complete instructions and best practices for fostering a thriving and engaged employee resource group program.
We'll cover everything from developing, planning, launching, and managing ERG programs that support and empower your employees.
What Is an Employee Resource Group?
An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is an employee-led group united by similar characteristics to support each other and provide a safe space to discuss issues unique to their experiences. Check out this article on the history of ERGs here.
ERGs are often organized by race, ethnicity, gender, or other shared community traits. Additionally, many companies are now supporting experience-driven ERGs for groups like veterans, parents, caregivers, or environmental activism.
It is essential to go beyond this textbook definition of an ERG when building your program and develop what they mean to your people and your business. Also, consider how your ERGs fit into your broader DEI, CSR, or ESG strategy.
The most successful programs are materially important to the functions of the organization.
For example, a clothing manufacturer may set up a “green team” for employees passionate about sustainable practices to focus their efforts on supporting the company’s initiatives for a more cost-effective and sustainable supply chain.
Defining what an ERG means for your business is a critical first step before developing your business case and strategic approach.
Developing Your ERG Business Case and Strategy
When launching an ERG program, it can be easy to look at your employee’s needs at a surface level and create ERGs that relate to these topical attributes.
But to deliver tangible business value with your ERG program and gain support from key stakeholders, you need to have an in-depth strategy that connects to the business’s overall strategic outlook.
The first (and most important) step of developing your business case is discovering how your ERGs can be material to your business. You can do this by conducting a materiality assessment.
A materiality assessment uncovers the importance of various ESG topics within an organization and its stakeholders. It is often conducted with finance and operations departments to relate these topics to the business's critical opportunities and risks.
Connecting your ERGs to business value & gaining stakeholder support
Going back to our clothing manufacturer example, when they conducted their materiality assessment, they found that future risks include climate change which would make cotton more expensive to source.
Setting up their “green team” to take the lead on employee-led sustainability efforts gained stakeholder support as they were able to connect these activities beyond employee passions and bring purpose to their efforts in a way that positively affects the business’s bottom line.
Bring your DEI & people goals into the picture
With an understanding of what is most important to the materiality of the business and the bottom line, you can now marry that with your DEI goals.
You need to provide your employee’s passion with purpose. A simple survey is enough to get a deeper understanding of the organization's passions and find which are most relatable to your business goals.
You’re now ready to build your strategic roadmap.
Planning Your ERG Roadmap
With your business case made and materiality assessment complete, you are ready to apply the overarching strategy to a tactical roadmap for building, launching, and growing your ERGs. It can be helpful to split this into three key sections: People. Goals, and Actions.
Strike a balance of cross-team representation within ERG leadership. Aim for 3-6 passionately aligned employees to co-lead each group, ideally from different teams. You'll want to gain engagement across business units to gain support for the ERG.
Just as your business case developed a strategic narrative around your program, you must ensure your leader’s passions align with their ERGs. Ensure these executives are eager to support the cause and can dedicate the time to support the planning efforts.
Give your ERGs the best chance to succeed by tying goals to business and individual incentives. Programs with the right incentives or alignment with goals & KPIs have higher participation.
Make it easy to build off of your goals. Set operational guidelines across ERGs with templates to remove friction. Simplify the launch and management with templates for events, campaigns, and measurement.
ERGs can catalyze your larger DEI & ESG goals by building excitement and engagement.
Kickstart each ERG with an engaging launch event to spark awareness and excitement. Align launch events with ERG and community-focused opportunities for volunteering or giving.
Repurpose successful campaigns, idea boards, and content across ERGs. Share campaigns & content company-wide with newsletters, SharePoint, email, and town halls.
How to Launch Your ERGs
Now that your framework is intact, you are ready to launch.
Here is how Octo successfully launched a new ERG program in 2022 using the B.E.S.T methodology:
Build Consensus, Engage Champions, Share for Success, and Toast to Impact
At this point in your process, this step is almost complete. You’ve done your surveys, know who is passionate about what, and know what it means to the business.
You need to share this information to engage employees and stakeholders.
In your conversations, identify your champions. These people are passionate, engaged, and will dedicate their time to the ERG.
These champions can be a mix of managers and individual contributors. Still, it is a best practice to include a few key stakeholders in this part of the ERG to ensure their voices are heard at a high level within the business.
Share for Success
Communicating your successes is key to building membership, engagement, and impact.
Identify key channels like Slack, Sharepoint, internal communications, and social media to meet employees where they are every day. The #1 enemy of your ERG growth is siloing your communications.
Use your upper management champions to get your events and goals broadcast company-wide in town halls, quarterly reports, and even public shareholder meetings.
Toast to Impact
Take your communication strategy to the next level by highlighting individual events and people making a difference and having an impact.
Sr. Manager, Employee Engagement & CSR at Octo, Vaness Davis, uses social media to highlight significant events, internal communications to gamify the ERG experience with contests, and publishes press releases highlighting individuals who stand out.
Managing Your ERGs to Grow Engagement
You are up for a challenge whether you manage one ERG or 100. The best way to approach this challenge is with consistency in your communication and access to information.
There are dozens of communication and file-sharing tools like Slack, Team, Google Drive, and Microsoft Onedrive. As you launch your ERGs, consider where your employees spend their time and if a purpose-built platform may be the best option for you.
Slack and Teams are the most common communication tools used to manage ERGs, but no matter what you're using, the key is to stay consistent. Create channels in these platforms that spell out your ERG guidelines and communicate on a cadence that mirrors your workplace cadence.
Consistency will ensure your people know where to look for announcements and learn how to get involved.
Access to Information
Much like your comms tools, organization and consistency are keys. If you're in a larger organization, ask your information systems teams for help creating a consistent file hierarchy so navigating through information is easy and intuitive.
If you’re unsure how to design a simple hierarchy within a file-sharing platform, check out this article published by the Princeton University Library system on naming conventions and structure.
Simply put, make your files easy to find, and don’t bury them deep within folders of another department like HR or Operations.
ERG Management Software
If you’re managing ERGs in a remote setting, across multiple regions, or within a large organization, your best bet is to consider investing in an ERG management software like WeSpire. Hundreds of DEI professionals use WeSpire to administer their ERGs daily, including single-person DEI leaders and whole ESG teams. With WeSpire, you can plan events, socialize your efforts, gamify engagement, and measure your outcomes in one place.
Take Your Employee Resource Group Toolkit and Fly!
Now that you have all the tools you need to begin your journey, all that is left is to start!
Please share this with your DEI team, build a strategy, launch your ERGs confidently, and let us know how it goes!
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