What is an employee resource group?

There are several different terms which exist across the industry including employee resource groups (ERGs), employee networks, and employee business groups.  All of these refer to voluntary groups of employees who work together to promote cultural diversity, awareness, development, support, and education.  An employee resource group is almost always part of an organization’s larger diversity & inclusion efforts.  These groups present opportunities for employees to gain skills outside of their direct role, contribute unique insights to business objectives, and help develop and become a part of the company community.  ERGs often establish and tailor activities, events, and meetings to their specific members but also may hold events or outreach for the company at large.  A challenge which exists for field-based employees is that many of these groups are primarily based and focus on the main corporate office employees.  I look forward to sharing recommendations at the Summit on how field-based employees can become actively involved!

How do employee resource groups support career advancement?

There are several ways employee resource group involvement can help support career advancement.  The first is the tremendous networking capabilities it can bring to an employee.  These connections can be of benefit from a professional or personal perspective.  Also, expanded involvement will enhance an employee’s visibility and name recognition within the company.  Another critical benefit of employee resource group involvement includes the leadership and skill development one gains through their active participation.  Examples include budget management, project management, building and leading teams, negotiating, and platform skills.  Finally, active participation or leadership within ERGs allows employees to not only develop themselves, but also to mentor and impact other colleagues.

How do you setup and gain buy-in for employee resource groups?

The key component for development and longevity of employee resource groups is larger support from a company’s Diversity & Inclusion efforts or Human Resources Department.  The benefits and impact of diversity & inclusion efforts in today’s professional organizations are well documented, and employee resource groups are one component which strengthens those efforts.  Seeking information and examples from other corporations can help in a business plan or proposal.  Also beneficial is networking and communicating with individuals at other companies who are deeply involved and experienced in this area.  This is especially important for groups working to establish or strengthen Field Chapters or a reach to their field-based employees.  In order to provide budget and resources to develop and maintain these groups and their activities, buy-in from larger organizational leadership is critical.

Should you have additional specific employee resource groups for women? If so how do you establish them alongside general resource groups, and how should their objectives differ?

There are several categories of employee resource groups that currently exist which have a large focus and mission in supporting women in the workplace.  These include numerous types of Women’s Leadership groups, Parenting groups, and Women’s Empowerment groups.  However, women should be directly involved in all appropriate categories of resource groups regardless of the focus or target audience.  Each employee resource group should have a specific mission and objectives which not only help tailor their activities and initiatives but also differentiate them from other groups.  One critical objective, which I am excited to discuss further, is how to ensure these groups reach women not only in the main corporate office locations but also in field-based positions.

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