Written by: Sophie Warwick.
At The Thoughtful Co, we work with clients on implementing, revamping, and maintaining thoughtful and impactful Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). With over 90% of Fortune 500 companies having ERGs in place (Forbes, 2017), many companies have already recognized their value but may find themselves unsure of where to start.
In this article, I’ll outline the four key initial steps to launch a powerful ERG that fosters positive change and inclusion at work.
1. Assemble a group of passionate champions to lead your group. ERGs are often sparked by a group of individuals identifying a gap in their own inclusion or advancement in the workplace. The lived experience fosters an inherent passion and education on the topic that will propel the group forward to success. Remember that it takes a village. This is important work that has direct impact on company performance (ERG Series: Why are they important?) and will require a team to deliver it.
Action: Select a group of individuals who are passionate about launching an ERG and are enthusiastic about the opportunity. Encourage representation of diverse voices in this group, including individual identity and professional experience, to ensure the group speaks to intersectional experiences.
2. Define the vision for your group and get specific. What is it that you’re trying to achieve? The most successful ERGs are purpose driven which fosters engagement from passionate individuals and enables the group to prioritize high value items. It doesn’t mean the group needs to be limited to one specific function, but instead allows a focus to unite ERG leaders in a common goal. Don’t rush this step. When we’re excited about a new project, it’s easy to launch into action mode. Think of the vision statement as the foundation of your ERG. All future projects will be dependant on the care you take during this phase. Having alignment between ERG leaders will significantly impact the future success of the group.
Action: Take time to craft a purposeful vision statement that summarizes what your group is trying to accomplish.
3. Garner buy in from senior leaders. It’s critical to the success of an ERG to have backing from senior leaders who can champion the value of the group to all employees. A common challenge ERGs face is being perceived as a group that is exclusive to individuals of a given identity and is not integrated into broader company goals. Senior leaders can advocate for the group’s value and demonstrate to all employees that everyone benefits when diverse voices are heard. Additionally, senior leaders are able to demonstrate the importance to all employees in a manner that isn’t always accessible to all levels.
Action: Select two or three key leaders that are aligned with the ERG to act as ambassadors for the group. They can advocate for its value and encourage participation from the broader company.
4. Develop your pitch or business case. Clearly outline the vision statement, purpose, leadership, initial structure, and rationale for the ERG. Presentation of the content can be convincing because it demonstrates the care that went into developing the document. If you’ve done research and have powerful statistics on your side, include them too! Take the time to develop a persuasive report that demonstrates the need for this group and follow typical company protocols (e.g. present at company townhall, submit a written report) to pitch the initiatives to senior leaders. Lean on the champions in step 3 to help advocate for the group.
Action: Develop your pitch report and present rationale to leadership for approval.
With these key steps, the groundwork has been laid for launching a powerful ERG that can establish and amplify representation and belonging for individuals of equity-denied groups. If you’re looking for additional support, reach out to learn more about how we coach employers to create impactful ERGs. Have more questions about how we help employers retain women and other top talent? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.