How to structure and manage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) help organizations create safe spaces within the workplace where diversity is welcomed, nurtured and celebrated to build a sense of community and belonging amongst employees. A well-structured ERG program that aligns with the organization’s goals, structure and governance helps create a win-win solution that benefits the organization in multiple ways while fortifying employees’ association with the organization.
In the past, ERGs were formed organically within an organization, often stemming from a need for community and belonging. As ERGs sprouted randomly, there was a lack of structure, standardization and alignment with business objectives.
Organizations with mature ERG programs structure ERGs like ‘mini organizations’ within the company. Organizations that have been pioneers in the Employee Resource Group space have created and maintained a simple hierarchical structure which has served them wonderfully.
At the top of the hierarchy is a Central ERG Management Team which is composed of at least one leadership team member (CXO) and multiple ERG leads. ERG leads are usually middle management or individuals who are passionate about certain ERGs and aspire to grow into future leaders of the organization.
The CXOs who are part of the Central ERG Management Team provide the support and validation needed for ERGs to flourish in an organization. They function as the flag bearers of the company’s commitment to the ERG community and also keep the CEO in the loop about the activities of their respective ERGs. ERG leads are assigned objectives and metrics that fit in with the organization's business goals. They also enjoy the added advantage of working closely with the leadership team. ERG leads at times liaison with members of the external community through non-profit organizations, volunteer programs etc.
ERGs can have multiple ‘Chapters’. Each Chapter is usually a region-based subset of an ERG and has a ‘Chapter Lead’. Chapters help in bringing regional flavors to ERGs; thus, adding a sense of depth and range to them.
Once the ERG structure is planned, some governing principles need to be implemented. A document stating the objectives and outcomes expected from each ERG needs to be drafted. The leadership team member and the ERG lead are expected to plan and monitor the activities of the ERG based on this document. Periodic check-ins and interventions are necessary to ensure the ERG is on track with the predefined goal and well within the allocated budget.
ERG management also includes tracking membership numbers. Most organizations keep a tab on the percentage of employees that belong to at least one ERG within the organization as a metric. It is important to note that pruning is just as important as proliferation. Introducing new Employee Resource Groups without a clear need or business objective is not recommended. ERGs need to be evaluated for efficacy and should be calibrated from time to time to improve employee engagement and stay aligned with business goals.
The task of structuring and managing ERGs has been greatly simplified by ERG management softwares. Such tools provide a single-screen solution of tracking organization-wide metrics of ERGs across different regions. Administering, measuring and growing ERGs becomes effortless with such all-in-one solutions.
Does your organization structure and manage ERGs differently?
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