In 2023, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs. A global shift to hybrid work has pushed businesses to foster belonging, improve employee engagement, and scale D&I within organizations—goals that can be fulfilled by ERGs. In this beginner’s guide, let’s explore their definition, and typical structure, and look at examples of impactful ERGs.
What is an ERG?
Employee resource groups or ERGs are employee-run, often voluntary groups founded on shared social experiences. Their purpose is to
- Create a sense of belonging and community
- Offer support and resources for the professional growth of its members
- Serve as a point of connection for the organization
Incidentally, employee resource groups are sometimes also known by other names like affinity groups or business resource groups (BRGs), or simply employee communities.
Since ERGs are employee-led groups, they often start out as informal affinity groups among colleagues. Once these groups identify their mission and goals and create a charter, they mature into ERGs with specific roles, executive sponsorship, and internal stakeholders.
Let’s explore the structure of an ERG in greater detail.
Structure of an Employee Resource Group
A typical ERG has a healthy balance of internal independence and organizational guidance to ensure its strategic goals are met and progress is communicated to the wider organization.
Here are the most common components of an ERG that are prevalent across organizations
- Diversity Council
A diversity council within an organization comprises senior leadership with decision-making authority. Their role is to support and put their weight behind an ERG’s initiatives and serve as promoters of diversity, equity, and inclusivity within the organization.
However, leadership councils often also exist within an ERG itself consisting of leaders who have played an active role in the impact journey of an ERG. They lead and execute initiatives on the ground, promote the ERG within an organization, and provide valuable feedback.
- Executive sponsor
An executive sponsor is a member of the organizational leadership team who stands in support of the ERG. Moreover, they offer assistance with regard to budgets, visibility, networking opportunities, and guidance to ensure their success.
- Internal Roles
Specific roles like Program Manager, Spokesperson, Treasurer, Membership Officer, etc. provide structure and legitimacy to these groups and also help them organize awareness and outreach programs.
Organizations often initially start out with a diversity council or a DEI committee to roll out framework, programs, and policies that encourage the creation of ERGs in the long term.
One of the many reasons why D&I—and by natural association, ERGs—is vital to a growing business is the cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives. ERGs through their collective can act as in-focus groups for product and service development bringing inclusivity not only to workplaces but also to the world at large.
A prime example of this collaboration can be seen in the case of Amazon and AmazonPWD. Amazon partnered with their ERG counterpart in 2018 to roll out an accessibility feature called “Tap for Alexa” for people who are deaf or suffer from speech impediments.
Also read: How to fund your ERG
Types of ERGs
The possibilities and scope of which groups can form ERGs are constantly evolving with our continuously changing life experiences. However, a few typical groups can be found in most organizations. These are groups formed based on
- Ethnicity, Culture, and Race
- Women(checkout our exclusive Guide for Women ERGs for more)
- People with disabilities
- Sexual orientation
- Gender Identity(checkout our Guide to Gender Inclusivity Workplace)
- Age minorities
- Parents: single parents, working parents, and caregivers
Find out more about what these ERGs do below:
You might also be interested in reading: How to Start an ERG at Your Workplace
While the diversity within ERGs along with their participation rates has been on an undeniable rise through the pandemic, a new challenge has emerged in this context: engaging remote members across locations and keeping the momentum of impact going.
ERGs in the post-pandemic era
As employers relax mandated in-office presence, questions around retaining the momentum around communication, engagement, and impact in ERGs have picked up speed. Some of the key challenges ERGs face today are;
- Making programs—outreach, awareness drives, community engagement, or otherwise—accessible to remote members
- Maintaining C-suite participation and accessibility to ERGs in hybrid setups
- Organizing joint ERG initiatives with ally groups for global causes
- Finally, combating falling member participation and attendance
Solve the ERG engagement problem with volunteering
In 2023, Goodera built an exciting year-long service engagement program for diverse ERGs within one of the world's leaders for enterprise open source solutions. This program provided a tailor-made solution to their engagement and outreach needs. As a result of this journey, we collectively realized the tremendous potential of managed employee volunteering programs in addressing other pressing ERG challenges.
Here are our exciting insights from this experience:
1. Volunteering is the way forward for welcoming new ERG members
Volunteering is fast becoming the most popular way to convey the impact and significance of your community to the wider org.
Goodera’s ERG clients are choosing volunteering experiences that align with their cause from our 40,000+ catalog together with Goodera experts to onboard and attract new members while creating social impact for non-profits they support.
2. Boost member participation and attendance through volunteering
A key challenge hybrid ERG teams face today is combating falling participation and attendance. Goodera is powering impactful, event-specific volunteering experiences for ERG conferences and meetings for our ERG clients marketed internally by our expert marketers to engage members for social impact.
Furthermore, our in-house data is increasingly showing that members are building connections and feel more motivated toward their ERG cause post-volunteering.
You may enjoy reading: Top 9 activities and event ideas for Employee Resource Groups
3. 2x Impact with joint initiatives
Whether it’s ERGs coming together to end racial inequality or uniting for a global crisis, volunteering is the best way to bring real social impact as brand ambassadors for your organization.
4. Inspire leadership participation with impactful volunteering experiences
C-participation in events is critical to understand employee perspective and gaining valuable insights into the community. However, it’s been difficult for organizations to connect with all their employees because of hybrid setups.
Enter volunteering experiences. Whether your leadership and the executive sponsor is working remotely or at the office, connect with them over cause-based volunteering that brings them closer to your vision for an inclusive future.
Volunteering is paving the way for ERGs to truly become ambassadors for the giving goals of businesses globally while presenting an opportunity to further their mission in the world. The future of workplaces is still uncertain, however, keep the momentum going for your ERGs with volunteering initiatives that embed your vision for a diverse and inclusive workplace.