Set your organization up for success when you know how to start an employee resource group. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Identify Needs Within the Workforce
ERGs are typically built around shared identities and characteristics. They promote community and an amplified voice for employees, especially those from historically marginalized populations. These groups also highlight longstanding problems with the employee experience.
To discover your workforce’s need for ERGs, assess your employee population in terms of important HR metrics. You can use surveys to collect feedback on your employees’ needs at scale. Are your LGBTQ employees less engaged, for example? Do employees with disabilities have higher turnover? If so, these groups could be good candidates for an ERG.
ERGs can help fill gaps in the employee experience that are causing disengagement. You might discover, for instance, that LGBTQ employees are sidelined or talked over in meetings, which is damaging their motivation at work. Implement an annual engagement survey and periodic pulse surveys to discover where your greatest areas of opportunity are.
Set Clear Goals for the Group
Just like any group, an ERG needs goals to guide its investment of time and resources. Start with a mission and a vision: What do you see as the ideal outcome of the ERG’s activities? Then, identify concrete goals for the group.
An ERG’s goals may focus externally on educating the wider workforce and celebrating the group’s culture or unique attributes on a larger scale within the organization. Or the group’s goals could focus internally on ensuring equitable opportunities for group members.
One of your goals for an ERG for employees with disabilities might be to eliminate microaggressions against team members with invisible disabilities. This could be achieved, among other ways, through a targeted course of education and accountability.
Find a Sponsor in Senior Leadership
Sponsorship from one or more senior leaders is essential for ERG success. Many organizations remember the struggle to gain C-suite level backing — especially in terms of funding — for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. The same applies to ERGs: Without the credibility of someone in a senior leadership position backing the group, getting the necessary resources will be difficult.
A group’s executive sponsor can advocate for an employee population without being a member. That said, shared characteristics (such as race, gender or sexual orientation) between the sponsor and the group can enrich their understanding of the group’s purpose and goals, which informs their advocacy.