The Great Resignation has been a top-of-mind issue for many companies. The time and money spent hiring and onboarding new employees is significant, not to mention the institutional knowledge lost when an employee leaves.
This is where diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) comes in. Companies can boost retention by creating a culture of inclusion and belonging, as well as by making employees feel heard and seen. To accomplish this, management must keep the line of communication open with all employees with a specific focus on groups that might fall under the radar.
A common solution to improve retention and to ensure that employees of all backgrounds are heard is employee resource groups.
WHAT IS AN EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUP?
An employee resource group (ERG) is a voluntary initiative to provide support to employees based on a common identity, interest or background. ERGs can trace their origin to the 1960s, when affinity groups were formed in response to racial tension and workplace discrimination. Now, 90% of Fortune 500 companies have some form of employee resource groups, whether they go by cohorts, working groups or another name.
By definition, ERGs create an avenue for communication that is structurally separate from the organizational chart. Because ERGs are based on grassroots involvement, these forums should be open to employees at all levels, where everyone is given a seat at the table.
Although they can vary in structure and aim, there are common elements that successful ERGs have:
A common goal or mission statement tying the group together
Voluntary grassroots support from employees at all levels
Employee-led initiatives vs. management-led initiatives
A member of management to serve as a sponsor, listening to ideas shared and bringing any pertinent information to company leadership
With these elements in place, ERG leaders can determine the programming that fits best for the organization. Some companies may enjoy monthly meetings to keep the conversation going, while others may prefer a quarterly check in with smaller activities in between.
Although ERGs are often formed around a common identity or interest, it should be emphasized that membership is open to all employees. Allyship and understanding are important components of building a network of support.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF AN EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUP?
Employee resource groups go further than a support group. ERGs can increase communication across ranks as employees of all levels share their experience and learn how to support each other. They can also increase visibility and reduce any blind spots for leadership. For example, a company executive may get to know employees that the executive would not normally interact with on a day-to-day basis.
MAINTAINING AN OPEN DIALOGUE
This is an ongoing effort, and leadership should continue to play an active role in reinforcing the importance of communication while letting employees drive the conversation in ERGs.
In doing so, management should keep in mind the following:
Be receptive and responsive to new ideas that arise from these groups. Some concerns raised by ERGs can be solved through a new company initiative or policy change, which is when management should step up. ERGs are driven by grassroots support from employees, but if leadership does not listen, any efforts will die out.
Know and realize that ERGs may evolve and change to meet the needs of employees. A BIPOC working group may be a helpful starting point, but a growing company could consider splitting this group into ERGs to specifically support Black employees, AAPI employees, Latino employees or Indigenous employees, for a few examples.
Ultimately, engaged employees are passionate about their work, invested in the organization’s success and more likely to speak out when something is amiss. Keeping that line of communication open is vital to creating a culture that embraces DEIA and belonging.
Derrick Coleman has more than 20 years business experience and is the Practice Leader of GHJ Search and Staffing, GHJ’s recruiting division. Search and Staffing specializes in the placement of accounting and finance professionals into temporary and permanent positions across a broad range of…Learn More
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