How to Start an Employee Resource Group

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Five Tips for Starting an Employee Resource Group

As our culture becomes more diverse, so does the desire for a more inclusive corporate environment. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) create a positive environment where employees of different genders, nationalities, and backgrounds have equal opportunity to succeed. Many employee resource groups are started naturally out of the need for minority groups to feel a sense of belonging. They currently exist in 90% of Fortune 500 companies, such as Ford and HP, and are gaining popularity among organizations nationwide as they increase employee productivity and retention. If you’re a leader of an organization and want to learn how to start and employee resource group, or you’d like to turn an existing support group into a dynamic team that benefits your business, here are five steps to do so:

How to Start an Employee Resource Group in 5 Steps

1. Gain the support of top-level management. 

Although employee resource groups are often started by employees, it’s important to identify an Executive Sponsor from the beginning. Leadership buy-in should come from a President or another corporate leader who has a special interest for the mission of the ERG. At Ford, for example, an Executive Sponsor is assigned by management, whereas at Verizon, a sponsor is chosen by the employees in the ERG.

2. Evaluate company needs and set goals. 

After gaining buy-in from leadership, it is necessary to examine where your organization needs an employee resource group. Is there a group that is underrepresented in your organization? Head of Diversity and Inclusion of T-Mobile, Holli Martinez, identified a need for 6 Employee Network Groups: Access for Disabilities, Veterans and Allies, Multicultural, Multigenerational, Pride & Allies and Women’s Leadership. With a proper strategy and benchmarking, employee resource groups  foster inclusion and impact retention, as demonstrated with T-Mobile.

3. Promote the group. 

For others to be aware that an employee resource group has been created, members of the group should work together to generate interest in joining the group. The ERG must also foster relationships with key individuals and groups externally whose knowledge helps grow and support business growth outcomes.

4. Maintain Support. 

For the employee resource group to succeed, there must be ongoing support from top-management and continued member engagement. To ensure the effectiveness of the group, continue in-house networking, such as creating workshops on topics related to your ERG and company newsletters.

5. Measure Success. 

To measure success, the employee resource group must establish benchmarks (timelines and goals). This will help leaders determine if the group has done what it set out to do. Success criteria should support the mission of the company, be easily understood by all members and measurable. Some criteria may include publishing a monthly newsletter, planning an annual event, recruiting 15 new members per year. With the support of top-level management and careful planning, starting employee resource groups can positively impact your business.

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