The Secret Weapon To Boost Your Diversity And Inclusion Efforts

d&i strategies employee resource groups gender diversity inclusive leadership Oct 30, 2018

Did you know that there is a secret weapon that helps to foster respect and promote inclusion within the workplace?


Enter the ERG


ERG - it sounded like an advanced Ai software secret weapon to that only folks in D&I knew about. That’s exactly what I thought this was when I first heard of the term at a D&I conference some years ago.  I had to raise my hand and ask the obvious question (acronyms and jargon drive me crazy) - what is this ERG?

Employee Resource Groups - also known as Business Resource Groups.

And over the past decade, organisations have seen the tangible impact ERGs have had on recruitment, talent management, community relations, as well as the bottom line.


Looks like a familiar term -  what are they exactly?

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are groups of employees in an organisation formed to act as a resource for both group members and the organisation. They are dedicated to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment within the context of the organisation’s mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives - good news!

ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that can have a few members in a local geography or a few thousand collaborating globally. They are typically based upon a demographic (i.e. women, LGBT, Disability), life stage (i.e. family), or function (i.e. marketing), but they may also be based on other identities.

We have seen many of our clients and other companies recently creating ERGs that focus on family and caring as a topic. Typically, the purpose of a Working Families ERG is to promote work/life balance and be a resource (emotionally, practically, professionally) to others by providing a community for parents, non-parents, men and women to share and collaborate. They promote a productive work environment that allows employees to be engaged in a challenging career and balance their work life needs. For the purpose of this blog we will focus more on the aspects for this type of ERG but many can be transferred to other forms of ERG as well.


So what do companies stand to gain from having ERGs in place?

Let’s start with looking at the benefits and value proposition to the business.

Overall, ERGs have been shown to move the dial in four key areas that can help improve your bottom line:

1. People: ERGs improve an organisation’s access to diverse talent and retention rates.

2. Productivity: ERGs improve productivity by enhancing employee engagement and by providing essential leadership opportunities, training, and mentoring to their membership.

3. Community: ERGs enhance the feeling of community among members and play a major role in enhancing an organisation’s “brand” by demonstrating corporate social responsibility and building and leveraging their community-based relationships. They’re also instrumental in supporting both the recruitment and retention efforts of many organisations.

4. Profitability: Established ERGs can be a powerful, in-house source of essential market intelligence on specific consumer buying preferences that usually result in significant sales increases in those specific areas. At Mattel for instance, they’ve leveraged their African-American ERG in their go-to-market and launch strategy for a line of dolls that were specifically designed for African-American girls. The ERG membership advised and guided Mattel’s Product and Marketing teams on everything from naming the line, to the overall look of the dolls, and the marketing strategy. That type of focus is critical to any successful product rollout.

Another example is that a Family ERG can act as a strategic partner to HR and the business, helping to shape a work environment where the different needs of working caregivers, such as experienced, new or expecting parents, or those caring for elderly, sick or disabled relatives; can be identified and met.

Listening to the challenges and needs of this significant proportion of the working population (more than two thirds of employees are parents) ensures the organisation invests time, energy and finances in targeting initiatives that will bring the most benefits to its staff, thereby positively influencing well-being and engagement at work.

Finally, organisations who have caring as a core business value and who actively champion caring both in the workplace and in the home (often recognised with Best Employer Awards) are proven to both retain and attract talented employees.

Interested to learn more about how you can launch and leverage an ERG and improve the bottom line? Due to popular demand, we are hosting a virtual Employee Resource Group Masterclass on Thursday 22 November. Click here to find out more.


What’s in it for the employee?

So, plenty of benefits for the business but what about the employees who give their time and energy, on top of the ‘day job’ – why bother?

Since the dawn of time, humans have formed communities so that they can feel part of something. Add to that, most people love helping each other and sharing - this is exactly what an ERG provides.

They have a sounding board to share fears, challenges and ask questions. They can solicit practical advice and quickly learn about all the benefits and resources available to them as a working parent/carer both internally and externally.

In addition, others around them are likely to have felt their challenges and dealt with issues, learning many lessons on the way.  As a member of the ERG, they can benefit from this knowledge as others will be able to help them overcome obstacles and challenges, often in both working and home life. This is also an opportunity to benefit from others’ wisdom and hindsight - employees will have that peer support in dealing with issues which may arise within their teams, with management and clients.

“Be the change you want to see!”

If the current ways of working in the organisation hinder employees ability to successfully juggle professional and personal life, then they can bring new ideas to the ERG and share with the community to build on areas for improvement. Together, they can build a business case advocating for change and help the executive sponsors of the Group lobby for improvements!

Finally, ERGs are proving to be fantastic for building an individual's career! Being part of an ERG puts you employees in contact with a much wider spectrum of people at work, across functions, management levels and job roles. They can build relationships with many they would not typically meet, identify mentoring and sponsorship opportunities and likely to hear about new projects/role changes quicker than the formal communication routes.

Sound good?


What are some typical activities organised and managed by a Family ERG?
  • Confidential sounding board to share fears, challenges, ideas and resources (internal and external). This can be through formally organised events such as Pro Action Cafes or informal networking between the members.
  • Seminars, panels and talks on topics linked to parenting (of all ages from babies to leaving home) and caring for ageing parents or sick family members.
  • Experiential workshops on practical strategies to enable “career and caring” – with specific workshops for same sex families, single parents, ageing parents etc.
  • Online resources around access to childcare, medical services etc within each country.
  • Organised company events such as: Bring Your Kids to Work, Family Picnics and Children’s Christmas Parties.


How do you ensure the sustainability and success of a Family ERG?

There are many factors but these are our top 5, based on our clients’ experiences and others best practice.


#1 Inclusive of all types of families

Providing resources and support for all facets of family life from being a new parent, dealing with toddlers, teenagers/adolescents, adopted children, multiples, special needs children and ageing parents. They should welcome people who identify as both men and women and they should also support all families - whatever their marital status, sexual orientation and identification. 

#2 Focus on sharing knowledge and resources

The ERG shares resources, experience and information and are a voice of support for all types of families.

#3 Inspire them to bring their best to work and home - and the wider world!

Enable members to identify what they need to be good parents, family members and good citizens.

#4 Empower them to act as change agents within the business

Allow the ERG to act as a group with the ability to recommend organisational changes when necessary.

#5 Acknowledge and recognise the Group’s efforts publicly

As a business, recognise that the Group’s success depends on many employees giving their free time, help, energy and resources to have a positive impact on a wider community. Demonstrate appreciation for this additional investment from your employees and find creative ways to thank and support them.


Interested to learn more?

Due to popular demand, we are hosting a virtual Employee Resource Group Masterclass on Thursday 22 November.

If you are a business leader driving an inclusion & diversity agenda and want to avoid ineffective employee resource groups (ERGs) that lack inclusion, engagement and influence, then you absolutely cannot afford to miss this 2-hour online class. Click here to find out more.


Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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