The Importance of Employee Resource Groups For Your Workplace

Sheba Lasley

Director HR & Recruiting

24 minute read

Importance of ERGs in the workplace.

Aligned Goals of ERGs and OKRs and KPIs

Welcome back to the EveryoneSocial overview of ERGs for your workplace. If you want to start from the beginning, definitely check out the first post here, otherwise you’re welcome to begin with this second post.

When inclusion is a priority in your workplace, employee resources groups positively inform the metrics for any company’s objectives and key results, key performance indicators.

All of these acronyms relate to each other: DEI(B), ERG, OKR, KPI – it’s up to leadership and employee advocates to collaborate in defining how these measures of success inform each other and depend upon each other.

From day one, providing a common-denominator universal template of how qualitative OKRs and quantitative KPIs can help structure the creation and growth of any ERG will further enable advocacy groups and employees interested in workplace DEI activism.

The following table shows not only how OKRs and KPIs complement each other but how understanding these differences can help inform the structuring and alignment of ERGs with business strategies.

Aligning Employee Resource Groups with Company OKRs and KPIs

Aligning Employee Resource Groups with Company OKRs and KPIs.
 

Business and Diversity Strategies

As discussed elsewhere in this guide, ERGs provide many benefits and exhibit what psychologists and systems theories call a multifinality of positive outcomes – in other words and in the context of ERG benefits, at least two birds for every stone so to speak.

Employee resource groups can become the catalysts of new recruiting efforts, professional development, leadership cultivation, and pillars of company community building, not to mention culture definition, etc.

All in all, ERGs have been the most effective method of aligning business and diversity strategies, in addition to enabling many other tangential but in no way insignificant additional benefits.

 

ERG Organization for Executive Sponsorship

As discussed throughout this guide, ERGs are fundamentally a bottom-up grassroots employee-led initiative, but that doesn’t mean that the c-suite can’t provide support, ideally upfront.

Said succinctly, leadership can clear the groundwork for grassroots participation to flourish; ground precedes grass.

Whether you already have an ERG ecosystem in your company, or are just starting your first group, talk amongst your vanguard group members as to who might don which lobbying role to most effectively involve executives and company leadership with ERG needs and goals.

Here are some key roles that employees can emulate in order to best lobby c-suite executives and DEI leadership for ERG sponsorship, funding, and publicity.

RoleAttributeSkills
StrategistGrounded visionary, critical thinker, proactive– Articulate a mission that aligns with the business both in terms of DEI goals, company values and targets.

-Coordinate and balance priorities between the interests of the group and the purpose of the national network if there is one.

-Prioritize visibility, impact, and effectiveness. 
EvangelistPassionate believer, driven and energetic-Convert executives and management to the ERG cause and purpose.

-Prompt and facilitate discussions about growing membership and increasing engagement.

-Assert oneself as a delegate of the group for representation on key company issues.
InnovatorRisk taking creative, open minded and optimistic-Leverage new ideas to procure necessary resources from leadership.

-Identify solutions for problems shared by the group, company, executives, and customers alike.

-Remind the group that organization red tape is not set in stone and those good ideas can persevere with persistence and patience.
BrokerResourceful influencer, well connected networker-Rope in already established group directors from other companies or chapters.

-Appeal to notable sponsors outside the company as a validating reference.

-Make sure everyone is on the same page at all times with group and company priorities.
MentorConfident and vulnerable, transparent role model-Embody a humanized workplace to lead by example.

-Befriend execs and engage in unconditional conversations with leadership.

-Offer 1:1 sessions and open-house sessions for the group and interested employees.
 

Business Alignment Heuristics for ERG Success

After considering how your employee resource group can best interface with executives and align with the business goals of leadership, there many ways in which you can shape the narrative of forward progress. 

Articulated as either a qualitative OKRs framework or quantitative KPIs metrics, the following ERG business alignment heuristics (BAH). By no means is this list complete, but take it as a starting point, or as a routine checkup, for how to get the most out of your ERG.

Identify the impact of your ERG with some of these BAH suggestions:

  • New products, services, features, wins, renewals, and success stories in which the ERG played a significant role.
  • Instances of when the ERG meaningfully impacted your company’s employer brand.
  • Deal size and pipeline improvements attributable to or associated with the ERG.
  • Engagement data comparing ERG members to non-ERG colleagues.
  • Of course, how the ERG has assisted with DEI objectives.
  • Recruiting statistics that ERG membership and activities positively influenced.
  • Retention and promotion rates of ERG members compared to non-ERG colleagues.
  • How the ERG facilitated lead generation, business development results, and relationships building in general – reach and impressions on social media.
  • Reciprocity with another ERG chapter with a client that drives internal growth of your service adoption.
  • Increase or penetration in market segments associated with the ERG’s identity.
  • Consider your own BAHs that are unique to your ERG identity and company mission!

Some BAHs are more compelling than others, but there’s no way to know without defining your OKRs and also KPIs from rules-of-thumb criteria such as these. When expanding on your own BAHs for the purpose of aligning the ERG with company goals, keep in mind that sometimes it only takes one compelling case to sufficiently garner executive sponsorship. 

All five archetypal ERG roles can offer insights for what BAHs are worth investigating: make sure to solicit your strategists, evangelists, innovators, brokers, and mentors, for what they think is most effective and valuable about their group.

 

ERGs and Decentralized Scaling

Over a century old already, the employee resource group just keeps on giving and proving to be more valuable as markets and work norms change. 

What began as a corporate experiment during the civil rights movement has appreciated over time to provide new benefits that are amazingly exapted for digital workplaces, almost certainly unforeseen by its original sponsors and participants.

As of the COVID-19 pandemic, our society and workplace have forever changed, and the ERG is more relevant than ever.

 

Building Remote Community

For any business to successfully scale, the employees must be empowered to actively participate and build an inclusive workplace community. 

Without empowerment and community, workers are bound by only transactional agreements with their company, which is never sufficient for engaging and enabling them to give their best for each other. 

As the saying goes “missionaries, not mercenaries”. In the context of empowerment, a mercenary simply lacks (or refuses to engage with) a workplace community and subsequently never takes the initiative to innovate for the benefit of their entire company.

But just because remote offices and WFH jobs are more abundant than ever doesn’t mean the ERG has faded into the “Before Times” of pre-pandemic lifestyles. Quite the contrary, creating spaces of inclusion and digital communities of solidarity are more popular than ever and with less barriers to entry.

Digital workplace communities can be cultivated by empowering employees with access to a company advocacy platform, such as EveryoneSocial.

The platform is specifically designed for employee advocacy and communications. Users can create public or invite-only employee resource groups within their company, and ERG admins can moderate accordingly.

The digital ERG is perfect for companies with multiple office locations and remote employees. Employees engaging in ERGs on EveryoneSocial forge meaningful connections with each other. 

Whenever the all-team meeting convenes in person, the digital ERG member already knows who to get lunch with, to say the least. Upon arriving at an expo with colleagues, or when moving to a new office location, friendly coworkers are already on the ground when employees build a digital community together.

 

Digital Solidarity

Building DEI initiatives in digital workplaces might sound daunting and ineffectual, but if people didn’t care about remote group participation then apps like Clubhouse would not be as popular as they are. 

Working from home does not exempt anyone from office politics, and digital ERGs can provide safe places for individuals who might otherwise feel not only anomalous but also isolated.

On an employee advocacy platform like EveryoneSocial group members can share frustrations amongst their private group that might otherwise foment and affect personal performance if not alleviated through commiseration and conversation.

Inasmuch as ERGs help employees find like-minded and similarly positioned colleagues, the connections we make in group conversations can provide us with a sense of purpose, and invigorate our commitment to each other and the company mission.

 

Employer Branding and Employee Branding

How your brand is received and evaluated on social media depends first and foremost on how enabled your workforce is for social engagement.

As with the digitization of businesses over the past few years (and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic), the requisite to socialize remote workforces and employee resources groups is now paramount.

Ensuring that your ERGs and constituent employees have all the tools they need to build impactful personal brands will boost your company’s employer brand, and how clients and customers perceive your brand sentiment on social media.

 

Customer Equity

Of many benefits of investing in employee resource groups, from onboarding and enabling employees to opening up new channels for recruitment, how they boost customer relationships is also significant.

According to DEIB consultant Shelton Goode, leveraging ERGs for accessing a greater diversity of suppliers increases the lifetime value amongst demographics that reflect the resource groups.

More than 70 percent of the organizations I studied relied on their ERGs to build a workforce that reflected the demographics of their customer base; the thinking was that customers would be more loyal and would feel more comfortable if they did business with people who understand them.” – Dr. Shelton Goode

When companies invest in their ERGs and DEIB initiatives, they are investing in every stage of their employees’ tenure within the organization, augmenting retention, engagement, and empowering employees for their career advancement. 

Along with the internal benefits of supporting ERGs, outward facing value is also seen with the positive growth of brand sentiment and an increase in customer loyalty – combining those two things together and new opportunities for word of mouth marketing also follows. 

In short, ERGs exhibit many virtuous cycles: one valuable return results in another for both the employee and the clients and customers.

 

Recruiting

Finding the right talent for your teams is never easy, but social media and employee advocacy tools have changed the process. Enabling employees who are engaged in company ERGs to activate their social networks for recruiting has promising results.

By extension of its participating members, reciprocity with other company groups, and national chapters, every ERG has substantial reach on social media.

And when employee referrals have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate (only 7% of applicants are from referrals but constitute 40% of new hires) there’s no question that ERGs are of critical importance for finding the best talent that sympathizes with your company culture.

New hires that were recruited with the assistance of an employee resources group also have an easier time onboarding, establishing meaningful relationships, and staying engaged. Referral hires enjoy 47% greater satisfaction with their job and stay longer than an inbound applicant with no relationships or groups in the company.

When employee resource groups are activated for recruiting with the assistance of a workplace advocacy platform such as EveryoneSocial, not only are personal networks leveraged for referrals, but the combined reach of their ERG also extends into new talent pools.

In a survey of millennial applicants, 70% of Gen-Z respondents were 70% more likely to apply for a company that had ERGs, and a majority of Gen-Y respondents felt similarly. Across generations, over half indicated that the presence of ERGs in a company also positively affected their decision to stay.

 

Professional Development

In addition to friendship and inclusivity, ERGs provide opportunities for mentorship and exposure to new technical practices and professional skill development. In many organizations, both in situ and remote, teams can become myopic with their specific routine and not interface with members from other departments. 

No one wants to work in a silo however, and in order to learn new techniques from teammates and new horizons of professional advancement, everyone needs to mingle across company verticals and echelons. 

Through either ERG engagement in the office, digital ERG engagement, or a synthesis of the two, employee advocacy platforms are an effective way to maximize access and engagement.

Within the ERG, you can find yourself chatting eye-to-eye with either an intern, or an executive. Because conversations in supported employee resource groups are grounded with shared belonging, questions and inquiries can transcend organizational hierarchies and disciplinary gaps.

Aspirations and personal concerns can all take the floor in the ERG, giving leadership a grassroots perspective of how the company culture is faring. 

As a collaborative and supportive environment, employees can help refer each other to whoever is best suited for discussing career opportunities, how to aim for a new role, advance core skills, or advice for personal development in general.

 

ERGs for Onboarding, Engagement, Retention, Innovation

For every stage of an employees tenure, and at every scale of a company’s growth, the ERG provides value and support.

From onboarding new employees who are vital to the business, to inspiring all employees to do their best work, stay onboard, and collectively solve problems, the ERG is a holistic solution well worth investing in.

 

Onboarding

The beginning of a new job is one of the most critical times for any recent hire, especially for individuals from underrepresented groups. The first 60 to 90 days of employment are when new hires are under pressure to make a good impression, make a difference, and make meaningful connections. 

Even in a fully situated office environment, it helps to have digital tools to assist the onboarding process. According to DEIB consultant and CEO Shelton Goode, “At 90 percent of the companies I examined, ERG members helped new employees to get comfortable during the onboarding process.” 

Using a socially integrated internal communications platform like EveryoneSocial allows ERG members to effectively connect with new hires, whether they are in the same office or geographically distanced.

 

Engagement

Nothing fosters a motivating sense of purpose and mission quite like sympathetic colleagues and inspiring relationships. 

While most ERGs are structured around categories of underrepresented intersectionality, the truth is that everybody gets excited about shared interests, and passions often transcend identity.

Since employee resource groups are always inclusive, inviting peers to join and support various ERGs allow them to foster a sense of teamwork that extends beyond their workplace team, in effect gaining perspective on why they believe in the greater company and work hard for its values. 

In other words, through digital and situated ERG participation, more relationships can be found than if employees relied strictly on their vertical teams. And through these newfound and often interdisciplinary connections, many faces are put to the company name, supercharging engagement and excitement for participating in the greater organization.

 

Retention

Millennials crave two things – purpose, and options. ERGs positively promote the former, and temper the latter so young professionals are not inclined to prematurely jump to another job.

According to a Deloitte survey, 80% of Millennials prioritize and desire on-the-job training, continuous professional development from their employer, and formal mentorship in order to do their best work.

Over half of companies that sponsor and support ERGs, focusing on the retention and satisfaction of young employees is made an explicit priority. And it works, by organically growing their networks and internal growth opportunities, ERGs provide the purpose to keep young professionals onboard.

One such example is AT&T’s Black ERG, The NETwork which has more than 11,000 members. As a result of going all-in with their employee resource group programs, AT&T reported an 85.6% retention rate for its Black employees.

 

Innovation

Without diversity and new perspectives there is no innovation. Research has shown in glaring clarity that teams and coalitions that exhibit a richness of diversity across a multitude of categories (race, culture, discipline, gender, education, class, age, etc) are more resilient and effective at solving critical problems, and are more productive.

ERGs effectively operate as inhouse incubators or accelerators for inadvertent R&D, reducing the risk that your company is scaling strictly in terms of siloes. 

Although ERGs are oriented around identity, somewhat paradoxically the act of collaborative innovation transcends subjective identity as well, allowing employees to participate in a community that amounts to more than the sum of its parts.

Employee resource groups are perfect platforms for open-door hackathons, or for whiteboarding sessions on new strategies and pitches. Just as ERGs provide important support for any scaling company, they are equally vital for a brand’s longevity by inspiring innovation and critical conversations amongst employees across the organization.

 

Conclusion: ERGs In The Digital Workplace

No matter what your workplace situation is, starting or supplementing an employee resource group program with EveryoneSocial allows you to make sure new hires know exactly who is there to support them, and how they can access their ERGs from any location.

Even if you already have a robust employee resource group network in a situated office, digitizing your ERGs allows for interoffice engagement and remote access to ensure that your DEIB initiatives are both scalable and effective.

If you have any questions about how the EveryoneSocial platform can empower your employee resource groups, please reach out to us and we’re happy to discuss the future of ERGs with your company in mind.


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