With generational changes in the workforce, there has been a paradigm shift in what employees want out of their work. Employees today expect organizations to meet more than their basic physiological needs - employers must touch all 5 levels of Maslow’s pyramid. As a result, affinity groups at work have seen a meteoric rise over the last few years.
An affinity group (sometimes called an enterprise resource group but not to be confused with a business resource group or a diversity council) is a group of employees who have something in common with each other - either racial/ethnic or in terms of gender or interests.
To validate the benefits of affinity groups, we looked at each of DiversityInc’s top 50 companies for Diversity - unsurprisingly, they all have affinity groups. Most Fortune 500 companies also use these groups to promote DEI in the workplace and build a culture of loyalty and belongingness among their employees. Let’s take a deeper dive into why affinity groups are important.
Affinity groups boost employee retention and morale
Affinity groups offer a very unique approach towards talent management and employee engagement. According to Gallup’s 2021 State of the Global Workforce Report, 85% of employees worldwide say they feel unengaged or “actively disengaged” at work. This study also shows enough evidence of better employee engagement being directly linked to an improved state of employee morale and productivity all around - something that actively affects the bottom line of a company.
Every employee needs a safe space that’s free of judgement to be seen and heard. The onus is on the organization to carve out such spaces for their employees in an effort to make their relationship with the workplace less transactional. As a result, employees feel a higher connection with their colleagues and their employers, which results in higher talent retention and greater employee loyalty.
Affinity groups create better leadership development opportunities
Taking up positions of responsibility in an affinity group is a great way to soft launch your career trajectory into being seen as a potential leader in your direct function of work. The chronology of creating a mission statement, securing budgets for your plan of action from senior leadership and reporting on the impact created by your work exists within an affinity group the same way it would in your direct line of work. Here’s a guide on how to report on the key metrics for your ERG growth.
A part of why affinity groups are important is also the opportunity it gives an employee to network with senior leadership in the organization and put faces to the big names they only hear about in their monthly internal comms newsletter. As a leader, it is a great way for you to break glass ceilings, catch the pulse of your employees and to recognize great potential leaders who can rise within the ranks.
Affinity groups help create more informed and consumer-sensitive products
Believe it or not, affinity group benefits even extend to the quality of content created around your product and breaking down the feedback you receive from your consumers. Employees with specific expertise in a region or demographic can take culturally informed decisions and steer the course of your product to align with the communities they are members of.
We saw this happen with Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN) where two members of the BEN leadership team raised a business idea, a black haircare store—Textures & Hues—on Amazon. The concept came out of BEN meetings and led to a plan approved by leadership, new roles for the two BEN leaders, and the creation of a team to support the work.
Culturally sensitive comms and marketing is extremely important in today’s social climate - not having a diverse set of employees is like having blinders on and you run the risk of sounding tone-deaf in a world that’s striving towards achieving inclusivity in all shapes and forms. You want to be known as a diverse and inclusive employer who is represented by employees that work to benefit the community - this is something your consumers will also keep in mind while using your product.
Affinity group benefits are not just limited to the direct purpose they serve. Whether your employees are dealing with virtual fatigue or struggling to break glass ceilings, these groups can uplift your employees in more ways than one. In case you or your team needs help setting up/engaging your affinity group at work, feel free to reach us at email@example.com. Here’s how we help ERGs scale their efforts at engaging the communities they pledge to serve.