This guide is the ultimate 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.
Not a DEI professional? No worries. This guide is also designed to help CSR, ESG, sustainability, and well-being pros understand how ERGs deliver business value.
What Is an Employee Resource Group?
An Employee Resource Group (ERG), also called Affinity groups or business networks, originated in the 1960s to help employees who share an identity or interest, or who want to support people with that identity and interest, connect.
ERGs are a powerful tool to build inclusion and belonging and psychological safety when they are open to all who want to support that group, when they have tools to make organization, programming and communication easier, and when they get active moral and financial support from leadership.
At WeSpire, we believe Employee Resource Groups are one of the best opportunities for improving inclusion in a workplace, as well as improving psychological safety for employees, knowing that psychological safety is key to high performance and retention.
Defining what an ERG means for your business is a critical first step before developing your business case for executive sponsorship and resources.
Cultivating an inclusive culture is no longer a nice to have for companies – it’s a requirement.
Business leaders and ERG program managers are increasingly challenged to meet and exceed DE&I goals, attract and retain top employees, and effectively measure the success of their employee engagement initiatives while enhancing psychological safety in the workplace.
Most Resource Groups are managed via a mix of posts or home grown tools on the Intranet, Excel spreadsheets, channels in Slack or Teams, and signs on the wall. Visibility for what was happening, or not, is low.
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.
However, 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.
An employee survey is a relatively easy, effective way to get a deeper understanding of your organization’s passions and find which are most relatable to your business goals.
DEI Conferences for ERG Leaders
Conferences are always a great way to level up your skills so be sure to attend one of these 2023 DEI conferences for ERG Leaders:
- ERG Leadership Alliance Symposia
- Global ERG Summit
- ERG Leadership Conference
- National ERG Conference
- Inclusion 2023
- Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion Conference
Planning Your ERG Roadmap
When ERGs are designed, implemented and measured effectively and aligned with a company’s mission and values, they can be transformative in driving belonging and enhancing the strategic benefits of diversity in the workplace.
With your business case made and employee survey 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 executive support for the ERG.
Just as your business case develops a strategic narrative around your program, you must ensure your ERG leader’s passions align with their ERG. Ensure these executives are eager to support the cause and can dedicate the time to support the planning efforts.
Measure success around established metrics from ERG leads and executive sponsors.
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 employee volunteering or giving.
Repurpose successful campaigns, idea boards, and content across other ERGs. Share campaigns & content company-wide with newsletters, SharePoint, email, and town halls to further tell the story of the role ERGs play in your organization’s culture.
How to Launch 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
You’ve done your surveys, know who is passionate about what, and know what it means to the business.
Now you need to share this information in an effective manner to engage employees and build support from key 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 communication efforts.
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, Vanessa 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
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 a lot of their time and share important announcements through that outlet.
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 key. 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 or it will hinder efficiency.
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 individual DEI leaders and whole ESG teams. With WeSpire, you can plan events, socialize your efforts, gamify engagement, and measure your outcomes in one place.
Now that you have all the tools and tips you need to continue your journey, all that is left for you is to take action!