Diversity is good for business: a McKinsey study found that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their less diverse competitors, while a separate report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as much as $12-trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 simply by advancing women’s equality in the workplace.
Diversity is also good for employees: according to the Harvard Business Review, cognitively diverse teams solve problems faster than more homogeneous teams. A report by Deloitte found that employees’ ability to innovate increases by 83% when they think their organization is committed to diversity.
But how do companies create a sense of belonging among a diverse workforce? One great tool to help with establishing a more inclusive culture are employee resource groups (ERGs).
Building inclusivity with ERGs
Employee resource groups – or workplace affinity groups as they were known at the time – were established in the 1960s during a time of widespread racial tension in the US. ERGs have emerged over the past decade-and-a-half as valuable business assets that add value to recruitment and retention, marketing, brand enhancement, training and employee development.
An ERG can be defined as an “employer-recognized group of employees that share the concerns of a common race, gender, national origin or sexual orientation”. As corporations become increasingly global, their workforces naturally become more diverse. ERGs can be instrumental to the success of a business by ensuring talented current and future employees from a wide range of backgrounds, genders, ethnicities and cultures are attracted and retained within the business.
What does an ERG look like?
ERGs come in a variety of forms, with some of the more popular ones taking the shape of:
- Diversity groups that foster a sense of belonging among employees that belong to a minority in the organization;
- Volunteer programs where employees can support charities that are close to their hearts;
- Affinity clubs where employees with similar interests get an opportunity to socialize; and
- Professional development groups that provide employees the opportunity to share knowledge with their peers from other departments or even generations.
Setting goals for the ERG
Once you have decided on the best type of ERG for your business or group, it’s time to determine what the group should aim to accomplish. Some of the possible goals for an employee resource group include:
- Increasing opportunities for the company to do business with consumers or businesses that identify with the group, for example those in the LGBTQ community;
- Attracting more employees from the designated group, especially for positions where talent is scarce;
- Encouraging the company to develop and implement more inclusive workplace policies;
- Motivating for the company CEO to publicly endorse legislation that supports the group in question, for example legislation that bans discrimination; and
- Creating a mentorship program for employees who identify with the group, especially younger hires.
Making sure diversity succeeds
While it is ultimately up to employees to attend and participate in ERGs, there are some simple steps organizations can follow to increase the chances of the ERG succeeding. Some of these steps include:
- Getting buy-in from top leadership, usually in the form of an executive sponsor;
- Ensuring the ERG supports a real need within the company, for example by tracking which groups are underrepresented or which types of employees the company would most like to attract;
- Promoting the ERG internally, through internal communication channels such as newsletters or intranets, as well as through the initial onboarding process for new hires.
- Analyzing company data to track the impact of the ERG, usually by looking at quantitative data for retention rates, promotion rates and engagement levels.
Tech tools to assist D&I
Technology can make a big difference in tracking the success of diversity & inclusion initiatives such as ERGs. Using a tool such as vi’s Diversity & Inclusion platform enables companies to gain visibility over their success in terms of attracting and retaining employees belonging to minority groups. The platform enables a data-driven approach to diversity and inclusion, and tells companies whether:
- Women are receiving promotions at the same rate as men;
- The attrition rate is higher for minorities in certain departments or job roles; and
- Employee retention programs are effective for a diverse workforce.
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