My company doesn’t have ERGs yet, but we have individuals from groups who would traditionally be in an ERG. How can we approach these employees or get an ERG started?
Good question @anonymous14,
That’s great that you want to get ERGs started. It sounds like you have some employees that are from underrepresented groups - or perhaps people that aren’t minorities, but might want to form for support for a variety of reasons (e.g. women aren’t necessarily a minority in companies, but they do face microaggressions and bias - so there’s a good reason to form an ERG).
You shouldn’t force people to start an ERG, or start an ERG “for” them. ERGs are a lot of work to start up, and they require a decent amount of vulnerability to put yourself out there and form a group (ERGs can stigmatize the groups they are intended to benefit).
What you can do, is let them know that forming ERGs is something that the company would support. If you want to go a step further, you can put up the guidelines for starting an ERG; ensuring anybody that leads an ERG has resources/budget to accomplish their objective, an executive sponsor, and a way to get recognized for the work you are hinting that they should take on.
+1 to @Steven_Huang! A few more perspectives I would add in here:
Focus on clearly communicating the purpose of an ERG, and you might be surprised by who ends up raising their hand! Often, it’s lack of clarity that makes would-be volunteers hesitate, not the lack of will.
You’re welcome to adapt from this language: ERGs are company-sponsored spaces for marginalized or underrepresented groups. When done well, they provide a safe space for members to come together, connect, and support each other. Research has shown they increase employee engagement and retention. ERGs can also be a group platform where it might be difficult for an individual voice to give their input to the leadership on an issue. For example, say the HR team is considering some policy changes that affect employees. They could check with ERGs to solicit feedback, and take into account some perspectives that might otherwise get missed.
- Identify an organizer/lead for each group. Also identify an "executive sponsor” to give weight and visible support - D&I is too important to be seen as a ‘fringe group.’ They don’t have to be in the group, but it’s someone who’s committed to the cause, understands the committee’s goals, and ready to provide backing as needed.
- You can make ERGs open to allies or not – just consider the trade-offs. If your ERG is open to all, make sure to have some events/spaces that are reserved for those identifying with that particular dimension of D&I, and vice versa.
- Always respect underrepresented individuals’ right to choose! Some people don’t have the bandwidth or desire to be involved in ERGs, and that is ok.
More advice for ERGs
- Most often, the very first ERG a company starts is a women’s group. Make sure it’s inclusive to all women, meaning transgender women and those that identify outside of the gender binary. Be sure to refer back to Intersectionality as you run your ERGs!
- You may want to consider creative ways to compensate/reward ERG leadership and participation, without creating misaligned incentives - check out the post I’ve written previously at Inclusion At Work, here!
More articles I recommend:
- More Than A “Club:” How To Make Employee Resource Groups Matter (Sonja Gittens-Ottley, Asana with Jopwell)
- Implementing Inclusive Cultures: Encourage and support employee resource groups (Project Include)
- Building Minimum Viable Employee Resource Groups (Beth Andres-Beck, LTSE)
Hope that helps!