ERG Series: Why are they important?

Now we know what ERGs are. But why exactly are they so critical to important issues like recruitment and retention? ERGs offer a wealth of knowledge and opportunity for developing policies that are company-specific and suited to making meaningful change. From the onset, they have the power to boost community and create the foundation of long-term retention, by showcasing that this initiative is valuable and important to the company. Here are my top three reasons why ERGs are critical to company success and why you should launch or revamp yours today.

Written by: Sophie Warwick


1. The numbers don’t lie. Roughly 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs. A study of 400 women found that 85% of respondents felt participating in their ERG benefitted them and their career. In addition, over 50% reported that participating in an ERG improved important policies like parental leave, mentorship, flexibility, vacation, and more. ERGs are a focus group of passionate individuals that can help define the policy changes that are most impactful and prioritize their implementation. They create real change. Additionally, they drive engagement of minority groups at work, making them feel supported and included. This can in turn mean long-term retention and a more diverse workforce. And we know that company profits and share price performance can be almost 80% higher when women are well represented at the top.


Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it definitely doesn’t happen when no one is doing anything to create change. An ERG is the team who will identify challenges, trial solutions, and ultimately make the positive change to hit those important targets.


2. A skilled task force of dedicated team members whose passion and lived experience can help develop policies to help and retain a more equitable team. Sound too good to be true? If you’re keen to increase the number of cyclists by developing infrastructure that makes them feel safer on the road – do you ask the driver who has never biked for suggestions? They may have some input that shouldn’t be excluded per se. However, the cyclist using the path everyday is likely going to have more of the information you need. Especially if you’ve already identified the value in reduced carbon emissions from greener travel (think gender equity in Boards equals higher return on sales).


The individuals who volunteer their time and passion to an ERG are committed to finding means to make positive change. They have a whole career of lived experience and have likely had endless discussions with friends and loved ones about how to improve equity in the workplace. They are overflowing with creative ideas to implement policies and host events that would make them, and those like them, feel a greater sense of belonging in their workplace. In short, who has the answers, or at least many of the answers, to improving gender equity? The folks who would benefit from and would passionately participate in an ERG.


However, remember it is not up to them to solve all the problems. They need full support of the company, resources and participation from all staff to make the positive change needed. Too often all the heavy lifting falls on the already marginalized individuals.


3. Creating a sense of belonging and community. Many folks who don’t identify with a minority group may take their natural sense of community in their workplace for granted. But those of us who have looked around the room and stood out like a sore thumb from our peers, or who have searched longingly for a workplace mentor who is like us, know what it’s like to not feel like we belong. This is further exasperated for individuals who identify with multiple intersecting minority groups, like women of colour or LGBTQ2+ women.

What is the tangible value of a sense of community in your success and performance? In an exit interview, a former manager once said to me, “Do you feel like you need to have friends at work though? I’ve never really felt I need that to do my job.” To which I stared blankly forward and was internally validated that I was making the right decision to move on. It’s not that I need friends at work to do my job, you’re right, I have a great group of loved ones outside of work that fulfill my social needs. But we spend a lot of time at work.


Like the famous Verna Meyers quote, “Diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being invited to dance.” If you’re sitting in the back of the meeting, excluded from after work drinks, or keep getting missed on the lunch invite, you are missing important peer development and professional and political conversations. You are being excluded and your career growth is suffering as a result. And, you’re likely not feeling very happy and valued while it’s happening. So no, you don’t need friends at work, but you do need to be included and offered a safe space with equitable access to opportunity, mentorship, and professional development.

 

If you’re looking to revamp an existing ERG, or launch one for the first time, book a workshop today to get the most out of your Employee Resource Group. Looking for something more specific and tailored to your organization? We also offer one-on-one coaching in ERG implementation and management, email us at contact@thethoughtfulco.net to learn more.

 

References

Huang, G. (2017, November 13). Forbes Women. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgenehuang/2017/11/13/90-of-fortune-500-companies-already-have-a-solution-to-gender-equality-but-arent-utilizing-it/?sh=387c33511c34