ERGs and Business Objectives
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) teams often struggle to demonstrate the impact of their initiatives on company growth. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Employee Networks or Affinity Groups, as they are called in some companies, are the cornerstone of DEI initiatives. However, the long-term value that ERGs bring to the table is not understood by all. This shortsightedness often obstructs the efforts to onboard technology solutions for ERG management and justify their cost to their senior leaders.
Here are practical examples of how organizations are building a bridge between ERGs and business objectives.
Influencing Changes in Policies
Employee Resource Groups can be tapped to implement forward-looking inclusive policies. Companies such as Takeda Pharmaceuticals took the support of their LGBTQIA ERG to modify policies to be transgender-friendly. Such changes could potentially create national and global precedents in policies. Involving Women’s ERGs in drafting maternity and family policies can lead to better insights. ERGs can provide invaluable feedback through their experiences to alter out-of-date policies and create new ones.
ERGs have helped solve workplace inequities in accessibility. The Disability ERG at Labcorp, a global leader in diagnostics, challenged the existing accommodations at the workplace as well as the diagnostic facilities. This has helped create better accessibility for employees and customers alike. Visually-impaired or hearing-impaired employees have helped bridge the disability divide through digital technology such as text-to-speech rendition, audio signage and closed captioning for audio communication.
Innovation in Products and Services
Employee Resource Groups can provide great insights and feedback in the product development process. Many companies have Business Resource Groups set up with a goal to impact business and processes. Ingredion, a leading global ingredients solutions company, turned to its Disability BRG to provide insights on how to transform a product that had been around for decades into a portable version so that their customers could use it anywhere with ease. In the healthcare industry, many companies rely on ERGs to guide their efforts in implementing health equity. The demographics of clinical trials should ideally represent all communities fairly and ERGs provide input on this aspect. Also, patient journeys vary for different communities which can also be highlighted by ERGs or BRGs to improve patient experience especially for marginalized communities.
Making Marketing Inclusive
Marketing teams need to know the pulse of a dynamic customer population. A small heterogeneous group may find it challenging to create meaningful messages for a diverse customer base. Employee Resource Groups can act as focus groups and provide valuable feedback. They can also serve as guides to create culturally sensitive and inclusive content. They can direct marketing campaigns to have racial diversity and include representation of all body shapes and sizes.
ERGs that cater to millennials or Gen Z employees can be sounding boards during new product launches and branding exercises. They can comment on language, colors and styles. They can also shed light on the most effective channels of communication and cut down marketing spends. Good American, Dove and Barbie are examples of inclusive marketing.
Talent Acquisition and Retention
Employees today look for a feeling of belonging and purpose at their workplace. Employers with genuine diversity, equity and inclusion programs are an employer of choice for prospective employees. Companies that drop their DEI efforts when times get difficult send out a message that DEI is not a priority. This message could potentially alienate top talent who would not wish to be associated with firms who do not prioritize DEI initiatives.
Inclusivity needs to permeate into hiring practices and existing ERGs can ensure this task is accomplished. Studies have shown that employees who are part of ERGs have longer tenures and get promoted more often than those who are not part of any ERGs. Thus, ERGs help in employee churn that directly affects the bottom line.
Organizations need to keep up with the changing times if they want to stay relevant to their customers and employees. DEI is no longer optional but integral in companies and ERGs help in many ways when they are aligned to business goals.