The race riots in Rochester, New York, in 1964 highlighted the race problem in the United States. As an initiative in response to this, the businessman Joseph Wilson set up affinity groups or employee resource groups (ERGs). This was a way for organisations to promote an inclusive working environment that sought to improve the social situation at the time.
ERGs are groups made up of employee volunteers from within the company. Their aim is to underline the company’s improvements in terms of inclusion, as well as to promote and support diversity within the organisational culture.
What will I read about in this article?
What are ERGs?
Employee resource groups are teams of people who share a purpose, mission or social cause and decide to come together on a voluntary basis to exchange experiences and promote actions that contribute to advancing the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
They bring together people who have something unique in common that, in some way, determines their status in society and, more specifically, in the organisation. Many of the most popular ERGs focus on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and so on. In short, groups that have been neglected in the past by many organisations. The aim is to support and represent these people and to create a workplace that fosters inclusion and respect for all.
In addition, these types of ERGs provide members with a sense of community and belonging within their company.
They help ensure that everyone feels comfortable enough to bring their authentic self and talents to work every day.
How do ERGs help boost diversity?
By creating safe spaces for open dialogue on sensitive workplace issues, ERGs often act as catalysts for positive change in an organisation’s culture.
By their presence, they normalise diversity and increase the visibility of minorities in the workplace. This strengthens the sense of community among co-workers, while fostering mutual respect and understanding between people with different backgrounds, situations or personal histories.
What benefits does a company with an ERG experience?
Employee resource groups are a powerful tool for companies as they bring many different benefits that can improve employee engagement and increase job satisfaction.
By fostering inclusiveness, ERGs help create a healthier work environment that seeks to understand and appreciate the diverse backgrounds of workers. We’ve discussed the many benefits of this in previous articles.
In addition, ERGs create an inclusive and supportive environment where people feel appreciated and listened to. They encourage employee volunteers to develop mentoring programmes and information sessions on relevant topics related to the group’s identity. This helps the rest of the staff to broaden their education and acquire valuable professional and personal knowledge and skills. After all, today’s society is made up of an increasingly wide range of diverse identities and we all have to learn to live with each other’s differences.
Employee resource groups are also an excellent way for companies to demonstrate their commitment to their employee base, showing that the organisation genuinely cares about the needs of its members. A factor that helps attract and retain top talent by creating opportunities for employee engagement and professional development, as staff feel that their unique skills are celebrated.
Finally, ERGs can serve as a catalyst for innovation in the workplace, initiating strategic conversations among employees that stimulate new perspectives and creative solutions.
And what benefits do they bring to ERG members themselves?
Participating in an ERG can bring numerous benefits ranging from the personal to the professional. Beyond providing a greater sense of belonging at work and improving engagement, employee resource groups allow employees to develop their leadership skills, build relationships with peers and make new connections within their own organisation.
What’s more, they learn first-hand how teamwork and cross-departmental collaboration can benefit the company’s success. ERGs are invaluable tools for cultivating a happy workplace as well as individual growth. They become some of the most valuable resources for creating inclusive workplaces that attract and retain diverse talent, foster innovation and creativity, and contribute to positive change in an organisation’s culture.