How to set up employee resource groups
A guide to self-support for groups within the workforce.
Yesterday’s story on advancement for Black professionals in martech, and tech in general, referred to employee resource groups (ERGs). Teresa Barreira said, “Supporting and funding employee resource groups for Black employees is a strong way to demonstrate a commitment to creating and sustaining racial equity in the workplace.”
True enough, but ERGs can also be deployed to support other groups within the workforce—women and LGBTQ staff are obvious examples. While many companies are developing ERGs, we still find that it’s a new concept to some people. Here are some guidelines on how to set them up.
Start from the ground up
This is really important, and easily overlooked. ERGs are not forums for management to instruct employees in how best to advance their interests. Maybe the initial idea comes from management, but the shape and format of the ERG should come from the ground up. Remember what the “E” stands for.
Get executive buy in
Having said that, there’s great value in having executive sponsors—not to set the direction of the group, but to cheer-lead for it, especially to their peers. If there’s no interest or enthusiasm at the executive level, the company may have problems no ERG can solve.
Find an online resource for communications
Face-to-face meetings are desirable, of course, but—especially in the current environment—a lot of ground can be covered using online chat tools. The ERG should have its own channel which can be used for raising and discussing topics, sharing information, and building a sense of community.
Diversity in recruitment and retention in marketing. A conversation with Search Engine Land editor-in-chief Ginny Marvin. Read more here.
ERGs should not be exclusive
The last thing an ERG should be is exclusive and defensive. Of course one major purpose is likely to be securing and advancing the rights of the group within the workforce, but in a good company an ERG will find many allies who don’t identify as members of the group. Women’s ERGs, for example, don’t necessarily exclude men. And don’t forget the “diversity iceberg” phenomenon. This is where someone is judged by first appearance (white, male) while the whole picture (father, married to a person of color) is overlooked.
Develop explicit goals
This may not happen on day one, but having a roadmap is beneficial, especially if it has target dates for outcomes, and an explicit understanding for what the outcomes will mean for the company (one example, transparency into remuneration by gender).
Expect to be welcomed
Especially at this moment, companies should welcome this kind of positive, focused activism. If they find it threatening, you may be with the wrong company.