If implemented correctly, ERGs can empower employees and create lasting change for organizations.

Diversity, equity and inclusion have been part of the corporate culture for decades, but after the 2020 Social Report, DE&I efforts are finally taking center stage for many companies as they start. to strive for an inclusive work environment for all employees. One of the ways that businesses do this is with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs, also known as Affinity Groups and Corporate Resource Groups, are employee-led, volunteer groups formed around employees and allies with shared characteristics, life experiences and connections. common. ERGs can be made up of employees who share the same ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability, social / economic background, nationality, etc. ERGs help foster community and inclusiveness, and provide professional and personal support to its members. ERMs are a way for companies to offer inclusiveness and develop a healthy work environment. They strive to empower employees, help them meet key leaders and develop professional opportunities.

For businesses, ERGs are beneficial because they help leaders learn how to better support their employees and raise awareness of workplace issues affecting specific groups. They also help attract a diverse workforce, which improves business innovation. On 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs, and ERGs are a great way to retain employees. For example, AT & T’s Black ERG, The NETwork, has over 11,000 members, and thanks to AT & T’s ERG efforts, the company has experienced a 86% retention rate for its black employees. Sodexo, a global French food services and facility management company, has set up nine ERGs for its employees and has seen these ERGs contribute to employee loyalty. The cost of replacing a single employee can range from half to twice the employee’s annual salary, but employees who benefit from ERGs typically don’t leave, which means companies have less turnover and less work. impact on their results. “When you have a revolving door of employees, it impacts the bottom line,” says Gloria Puentes, Director of External Strategic Partnerships for DE&I at Sodexo. “But investing money in employee engagement and professional development where employees feel they are receiving growth opportunities, feel their voices are heard, and are being treated with fairness and respect is worth the investment. “

However, ERGs do not come without their share of challenges. Since ERGs are generally volunteer based, the budget is often limited, making it difficult to coordinate ERG events and employee functions. These volunteers are also not typically paid or recognized for their work with ERGs, meaning they might miss out on other career opportunities as they try to navigate a full-time role while managing an ERG. . ERGs can also create the false perception that a company’s DE&I problems are solved, as executives sometimes think that the only support their underrepresented employees need is ERGs, which is wrong. Companies should always monitor their DE&I efforts within and beyond ERG groups, and continue to have conversations about DE&I and how to move towards a more inclusive culture.

There are things businesses and leaders can do to successfully implement ERM. First, business leaders need to support ERGs so that ERG members and allies don’t start to feel alienated and divided from the rest of the company. Senior management and leaders need to be open to listen and learn from ERGs, which will further demonstrate that they are ready to create positive change and inclusion.

Nikki Symmons, PMI’s Events and Programs Manager for the company’s LGBTQ ERG STRIPES Global, says companies need to make sure top leaders buy in. “By doing this, the very heart of the business will be inclusive of all. Not only do you need top management, but you also need to work from the bottom up; when this approach is taken, the midpoint will be the sweet spot, where every employee feels part of the movement towards a more inclusive company and culture, ”she said. Symmon too writing that leaders must lead from the front. “When setting up an ERG, align your ERGs with management sponsors to improve your DE&I in the workplace. Sponsorship of a management team shows that the organization stands by ERGs and offers their support. She also notes that LGBTQ initiatives should be part of the daily work environment, rather than just during Pride Month. Aysha Alawadhi, Global Culture and Organizational Effectiveness Specialist who recently spoke at BlogHer and Inclusive Future’s an event on ED&I and mental wellness, echoed this statement. “If an organization doesn’t create a platform for these people who have collectively faced the same kind of discrimination… then quite frankly they are insulting these people even more by saying: what if you all get together in this room and play quietly? in the corner.’ If you don’t give some sort of voting power or transformative ability where they’re part of the transformation or a team that’s making changes to the existing structure that oppresses them, then you’re not solving anything. Puentes of Sodexo agrees: “If you want to do it, do it to enrich your employees, the company, and improve where there are gaps. Not just to tick a DE&I box.

Inclusive Future content on BlogHer is from Philip Morris International (PMI). BlogHer has independent editorial responsibility for the content. Opinions expressed by authors and contributors may not represent the views of PMI, except for quotes directly attributed to PMI executives.