By DeVry University
The acronym ERG stands for Employee Resource Group. Having employee resource groups within an organization is an important step toward achieving inclusive representation, developing workplace culture, providing employees with support and much more.
In this article, we’ll help you learn more about ERGs, their purpose and how they are helping to make organizations more diverse and effective as we discuss:
What is an Employee Resource Group?
Employee resource groups are employee-led groups that work to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace with an organization. They typically exist around a point of identity including ethnicity, orientation, religious affiliation, gender or other factors. In some cases, allies may be invited to these groups to be advocates or lend support.
While employee resource groups offer a space for inclusivity and community, they can also be places employees go to work with company decision-makers on professional development, mentorship, talk through issues in the workplace or discuss through how a company’s policies and culture can be more inclusive.
Why do MBA Students Need to Understand ERGs?
An MBA program is designed to help you prepare to pursue higher-level, leadership or people management roles. If you find yourself working as a manager at some point in your career, you’ll have a responsibility to work with your team to find the most effective ways to work and communicate with each other, and to become attuned to their needs. This also extends to how you work with ERGs.
It’s important that managers understand how to work with ERGs to find solutions. Doing so can help you work together to build a better workplace and relate more effectively to your team members and their needs.
Employee resource groups can also help alert you to problems within an organization that others in leadership may not know about. By being a member or closely aligned with an ERG at your organization, you can be an advocate for their concerns in spaces where the ERG might not be represented and be on the front line of helping improve the company for all employees.
How to Start an Employee Resource Group
To start an employee resource group, you first need to speak with your coworkers to gauge their interest. These groups can be based on demographics or identify factors that we touched on previously, but they can also be built around working parents, sustainability efforts or military veterans. Take some time to talk to your coworkers about any interests, concerns or needs they feel need to be addressed and if they’d like to take part in your ERG.
Once you’ve gauged interest, you should pursue support from an executive or other high-level leadership member. This way, you make sure that your group’s desires are being heard and supported by someone who can actually influence company policy or help spearhead improvements.
Next, build your ERGs mission statement and organize its structure. What goals will you be working toward? How will your ERG define success? Will you give back to the community by aligning with external organizations? Who in the ERG will hold leadership positions?
Lastly, you need to spend time recruiting members and hold informational and organizational meetings. In these meetings, you should discuss the changes you wish to see at the organization and then work on a strategy with the appropriate executives to help push your goals forward.
Are ERGs the Same as a Union?
While both groups exist to advocate for employees, unions and employee resource groups are very different. To start, an ERG exists only within a single company, and ERGs at different companies are unlikely to be in contact with one another even if they share the same goals. Additionally, ERGs do not charge dues and do not have legal influence in regard to how it interacts with a company.
A union on the other hand is a broader advocacy structure that exists outside of any singular company. Unions typically support and advocate employees within a particular field or industry, and collect money, or dues, from its members and then use that money to fight for improvements and put healthcare, pay and hourly safeguards into place. Unions are also not focused on diversity or interests like ERGs are, but are focused on improving working conditions for all workers regardless of their ethnicity, orientation, beliefs or other factors.
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