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Best Practices for Establishing ERGs

Aug 23, 2022| Reading time: 14min

BY Ivori Johnson

Director of DEIB

One in four millennials conceal their identities at work. For previous generations, the number is even higher.

Maybe we don’t need to say it, but we’ll do so anyway: Your team members shouldn’t feel like they need to hide their identities, differences, or preferences to be successful.

Luckily, there are many changes companies can make to support their people, including leading by example, cultivating a culture of transparency, focusing on employee experience and inclusion, initiating pay transparency, and consistently analyzing people data through a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) lens. 

In addition to implementing company-wide initiatives, it’s also critical to provide team members with a safe space for learning and building community. One way to support your people every day is by developing employee resource groups (ERGs).

Read below to learn more about ERGs and best practices for establishing them within your own organization.

Interested in learning more about creating safe spaces?

Learn how our ERG leaders get it done 

What are ERGs?

ERGs are employee-led groups whose main goal is to support employees who share similar characteristics or backgrounds. ERGs should be a foundational component of your DEIB efforts because they share resources, enhance allyships, increase awareness, and establish safe spaces for meaningful conversations. What’s more, ERGs improve work conditions, develop leaders, and build high-trust relationships. 

It therefore comes as no surprise that ERGs are in 90% of Fortune 500 companies and contribute to their positive employee experience, recruitment, and retention efforts. 

If you’re ready to enhance your DEIB strategy and create (or maintain) ERGs, read four best practices below to ensure your people feel supported and respected at work.

1. Hire DEIB Leaders 

Establishing ERGs is a crucial step in your inclusion and belonging strategy, but if you do so before establishing a specific DEIB leader, you’re putting the cart before the horse. 

That’s because DEIB leaders are there to constantly prioritize your company’s DEIB efforts and hold leadership accountable to related goals. And if one such goal is creating resource groups, your DEIB leader can establish a standardized system for your organization, empower employee-volunteers to lead, and share resources to create a foundation of knowledge. 

They can also analyze your people data to determine areas of strength and improvement. For example, dynamic and color-coded org charts, like the one below, help you quickly visualize aspects like ethnicity and gender across teams. Quick insights like these help determine next steps when it comes to your DEIB efforts.

easily filter through your people

ChartHop allows you to layer your people data to drive insights, including how you can better plan your DEIB efforts.

While it’s best practice to have a dedicated DEIB leader, some companies don’t have the numbers or resources to do so. If that’s the case, you can still start an ERG program, but you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Include DEIB as a dedicated responsibility to someone within your executive suite, even if it isn’t their entire role. This person should have the time and resources necessary to develop and support your DEIB efforts. That way, DEIB has its own priorities and is always a conversation at the table, since it stretches across the whole organization.
  • Select executives to sponsor ERGs to further involve leadership and ensure prioritization of DEIB initiatives in business decisions. (This is a great addition to any ERG program.)
  • Plan to hire a designated DEIB leader as a part of your headcount planning strategy. Once hired, they’ll collaborate with your leadership team, prioritize inclusive programming, provide strategic guidance for your DEIB strategy, and dive into your people data for further analysis. 

2. Document Your Goals

We all love a feel-good moment. Luckily, those can happen more often if your resource groups are a safe space to discuss hard topics and provide specific support. However, you need to measure the impact of your ERGs beyond critical conversations. To do so, you need to set goals – or rather, have your ERG leaders set goals – for the year. 

Just like creating other key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success, ERG leaders should reflect on current practices and create a needs assessment to help prioritize short and long-term goals. 

Cory Baig (she/her), co-leader of ChartHop’s resource group IRIS, says that it was important to their ERG members that LGBTQ+ employees were supported 365 days a year. She explains, “IRIS launched May 31, and while that was exciting right before Pride month, it was also important for us to solidify that our efforts weren’t only happening in June. This belief helped us develop KPIs and a game plan to ensure our company acknowledges the LGBTQ+ community year-round, and that we have representation through and through.”

Similarly, Ai-Mei Zhu (she/her), co-leader of ChartHop’s Asian Alliance ERG, acknowledges that determining their KPIs is crucial to solidifying a clear path forward. She says, “We decide upon goals that are measurable so we can look back a year later and see our impact.” For the Asian Alliance, those goals look like increasing headcount for their underrepresented community and inviting speakers to talk to ChartHop’s organization about specific underrepresented communities.  

You may notice something about Baig and Zhu’s KPIs: they impact business strategy. And that’s a good thing. Employee-led communities, with the help of the DEIB Leader, advocate for your people and help prioritize needs. These requests – such as inclusive health care benefits or more professional development for those that identify as underrepresented talent – will only bring light to areas of growth and, if you act, help strengthen your culture and employee experience.

3. Establish Company-Wide Buy-In

Hiring a leader of DEIB and establishing ERGs are a great way to propel your DEIB efforts, but they won’t go far if there’s not buy-in from the whole company. Of course, that buy-in needs to start with leadership modeling expected behaviors, embedding DEIB initiatives into business strategy, product strategy and prioritizing your people.

Not sure where to start? Use the methods below to help promote company-wide buy-in:

  • Weave DEIB into your company’s DNA. It’s much easier to move forward with DEIB work when it’s a priority for your company. That looks like incorporating it into your values, decision-making practices, and hiring policies. Zhu discusses the ERG success at ChartHop: “We have really good people that care: We have great coworkers, executive sponsors, and a leader of DEIB that pilots resources for us. We’ve done a great job at hiring the right people; people who actually care about our values.”
  • Amplify your people’s voices. Olivia Stapp (she/her), co-leader of IRIS, encourages companies to look to their own people to share strategies and stories. She explains that “hearing from voices within your organization is powerful and signals that you care about your people.” But what if ERG leaders and members aren’t ready to share their experiences company-wide? Look to hosting small break-out groups where the conversations are more specific and intimate. 
  • Support and pay ERG leaders. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s actually small but steady actions that lead to company-wide buy-in. Scheduling meetings around, not during, guest speakers and providing ERGs speaking time during all-hands meetings signals to your people that you’re prioritizing ERG work. Paying your ERG leaders also signals that you respect the work and acknowledge it takes time and energy. Additionally, Siena Villegas (she/her), co-leader of Asian Alliance, notes something that was meaningful to her ERG: the creation of a logo. “It really showed the investment in our resource group and community; it was an unexpected gesture and much appreciated” she says.

ChartHop-ERG-Logos

One way to support your ERGs is by allocating resources. At ChartHop, ERG leaders partnered with Taylor Clark-Stilianos, senior graphic designer, to create the above logos.

4. Honor Private and Public Spaces

The purpose of ERGs is two-fold: supporting members and creating awareness. Navigating both can be tricky. One one hand, you want to create strong allyship and let others join the conversation. But you also want to respect others’ complex and sometimes vulnerable identities that have specific requirements. That’s why it’s important to determine the needs of your people to help provide spaces in which people can thrive. 

For some ERGs, that may look like creating both private and public spaces for your resource groups. 

Stapp believes that having two spaces – a private group for members and a public group for members and allies – is incredibly important for the LGBTQ+ community. She explains: “There may be people that aren’t publicly out in the company; they deserve a supportive space where they can be amongst peers and not be outed. The private group allows for anonymity and safety.”

Villegas echoes Stapp’s thoughts: “ERGs should be inclusive to all, but it’s also nice to have a private space that is our own.” And allies should understand that need. She says: “It’s something important to recognize that, as an ally, you don’t share the same experiences as someone who is a part of the community. So I can be a proud ally, but I don’t feel left out that I’m not included in a private space.”

Therefore, allies should still feel welcomed within public communication channels or at an event that is meant to educate and provide awareness. Ultimately, ERGs provide a safe space for groups to connect and should include allies who are wanting to learn more.

Create a Culture of Inclusion with ERGs

Transparent leaders and inclusive workplace cultures are becoming the new norm. Creating ERGs is one way that you can strengthen your DEIB efforts and continue prioritizing your people. What’s more, you’ll create awareness and allies among employees, and that support will continue to span across your organization, just as Baig recognized as she further connected with peers during coffee chats and off-sites. 

As a result of those created connections, your people will feel included and more motivated to achieve their goals. To go the extra mile to make your people feel like they belong, make it a practice for ERG leaders to invite new hires to applicable groups. For example, according to new-hire Maye’s profile, she has two sons. Connecting her with the ERG for working parents will make her feel welcome and supported within your organization.

ChartHop employee profile-01

ChartHop’s employee profiles allow people to add as much or as little information about themselves to help foster connections across your organization.

If you’re ready to support your people and create a more positive employee experience, it’s time to establish ERGs within your organization. You’ll not only impact your current employees, but also strengthen recruitment and retention efforts for years to come. 

 

You don’t want to make gut-decisions for your business, especially when it comes to your DEIB efforts. Instead, you should build sustainable inclusion initiatives that are backed by your people data. Download our Comprehensive Guide to DEI Reporting to learn how.

Read the guide here

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