Employee Resource Groups Best Practices in 2023
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are an important tool for organizations to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But setting yourself up for success when developing and growing your program requires a plan.
In this webinar, we discussed best practices for launching and managing your ERG program from planning, to launching, and to scaling your impact beyond DEI initiatives.
With these best practices, organizations can create strong ERG programs that align with critical business & ESG strategies.
Meet the Panel
Susan Hunt Stevens
Susan Hunt Stevens is the Founder & CEO of WeSpire, an award-winning employee experience technology platform focused on engaging people in ESG initiatives. She was named an EY Entrepreneur of the Year for New England, a Boston Business Journal Woman of Influence, and to the Environmental Leader 100 list.
Prior to WeSpire, she spent 9 years at The New York Times Company, as a consumer marketing and digital executive. She has an MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, where she was named a Tuck Scholar, and graduated with high honors from Wesleyan University.
Bobbi Alexander-Brown is the Global Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Leader at the global IT firm Kyndryl.
Bobbi has 10+ years of experience driving DEI programs and currently designs the governance model, policies, processes, and structures to ensure the ERGs plan objectives that are aligned with Kyndryl's business objectives and Inclusion, Diversity & Equity strategic priorities.
Jiquanda Nelson is the Founder of Diversity Window, a DEI consultancy that helps transform the culture of diversity and inclusion through enterprise best practices, surveys, tools, metrics, analytics, and sourcing.
She is a 40 under 40 award winner and has held DEI leadership positions at companies like Concentrix, Walgreens, and Kaiser Permanente.
Table of Contents
- Plan your ERGs with a mission (13:18)
- Make your ERGs recession-proof (23:21)
- Set business-oriented KPIs and Goals (26:31)
- Recognize allies for support (35:46)
- Make ERGs global with inclusive listening (42:01)
- Best practices for remote Employee Resource Groups (45:42)
- Find budget for your ERGs across departments (50:35)
Plan your ERGs with a mission (13:18)
Launching an ERG program is a challenging task.
Where do you start? How do you plan for success? How do set a strong foundation for growth?
Start with connecting the mission of your ERG to strategic business goals set by leadership.
Additionally, ERG activities should be connected with an organization's overall DEI strategy or HR strategy in order to demonstrate its value on both a personal level as well as an organizational one.
Set a strong foundation for your ERG program with a plan to collect data on participation and employee performance. Successful DEI organizations use ERG management software like WeSpire to track the KPIs that stakeholders will understand.
When launching your ERGs, develop safe spaces within each group to encourage open sharing and psychological safety while allowing room for allies to support the ERG even if they are not part of the member group.
Make your ERGs recession-proof (23:21)
DEI budgets are oftentimes one of the smallest expenditures in an organization. But if ERGs are not aligned with business goals then they are in danger of being cut during economic uncertainty.
“DEI leaders and ERGs can be prepared for that by aligning to the things that matter in the organization. One of the things that always comes up is employee retention or talent attraction.” - Jiquanda Nelson
Employee retention and recruiting are often long-term strategic priorities for organizations. Focusing your business case in those areas can help your ERG program weather the storm of an economic downturn.
Set business-oriented KPIs and Goals (26:31)
Having clear KPIs and goals for your ERGs is an important step in growing a strong foundation. You need to be able to communicate to leadership and other stakeholders how to determine the success of the program and the effects it has on the business.
Start with a simple KPI: How many people are currently engaged in ERGs in your organization?
“What were we doing to actually get people interested, get them engaged and really begin to build that membership because a lot of that tied also with investment.” - Bobbi Alexander-Brown
Other basic goals include setting your structure, mission, vision, and your ERG charter. These foundational goals will allow you to connect your KPIs to the impact you have on your people and their member group.
Once you have this foundation you can begin tying your KPIs to business impact like retention, recruiting, and building inclusive products.
These advanced DEI KPIs include:
- Participation in recruitment events
- Diversity in hiring bands
- Volunteer engagement by ERG members
- Psychological safety & employee satisfaction
- Participation in business activities like focus groups and advising on product development
Recognize allies for support (35:46)
As companies expand their DEI efforts there are more majority groups who are coming forward and saying “I want to be involved too” or “We are feeling underrepresented”. How do you get those individuals involved in a positive way?
Bobbi Alexander-Bown says, “why not be recognized for actually being a part of the solution to the real problem that exists?”
Provide opportunities for majority groups to help and recognize their efforts to reate a more inclusive space. And fight negativity with recognition of positive actions.
However, Jiquanda Nelson pointed out that it is not the responsibility of ERGs to educate and to help leaders accept their existence.
“That goes back to broader DEI work that is happening in an organization to help with some of those ideals and beliefs, with the recognition that not everybody is gonna be part of the work.”
Support global ERGs with inclusive listening (42:01)
Most large US-based organizations have a workforce outside of the U.S. with their own unique challenges, inequities, and interests.
Depending upon the location, the consequences of engaging in more inclusive behavior can be severe. DEI leaders need to start with understanding and a conversation with global community leaders.
“We talk about bringing your authentic self to work when people are in a situation where being their authentic self could get them killed, could get them beat up. Have the listening sessions and understanding from different people what the real issue was that we needed to try to help them support, help support them in, or help them support through basis.” - Bobbi Alexander-Brown
It is equally important to bring these globally marginalized voices onto the decision process. If they are not engaged in the actions and strategies meant to benefit them there will be significant gaps.
Embrace the remote & hybrid ERG workforce (45:42)
While it seems like the last few years have been a whole lifetime, remote work is still a very new concept for the majority of employees, and companies are still adapting.
ERGs are uniquely challenged to find engaging ways to bring their mission and message to employees.
A key strategy is to expand beyond ERGs to affinity groups. Affinity groups are focused on learned experiences like a parents group, pet owners group, or a musicians group. This approach gives employees the opportunity to get involved in member groups more broadly.
“It requires a level of intentionality and for us to work a little bit harder to make those connections, but it's very possible.” - Jiquanda Nelson
If you have members living in different cities it is no longer enough to pick localized opportunities for volunteering. Instead take broader cultural moments and tie them to each geography your members are in.
“We had to learn, we had to adapt. We had to pivot.” - Bobbi Alexander-Brown
Find budget for your ERGs across departments (50:35)
Gaining a DEI budget is an uphill battle in most companies. To gain the resources you need, look toward well-funded departments like sales or operations.
There's always gonna be a sales budget. So figuring out how you can get some budget from the sales team, whether it's bringing a speaker in or connecting to sales efforts. Or tapping into operations saying, ‘Hey, we're gonna help you solve X, Y, Z, whether it's through your people or services.’ - Jiquanda Nelson
This goes back to aligning your ERGs with a clear business case. If you can show that sales team retention or performance goes up with ERG participation you can make your business case more sound.
Bring your ERGs to life with WeSpire!
Whether you're just getting started or have an established ERG program it is critical to connect your goals, KPIs, and data to your organization's strategic initiatives.
WeSpire’s ERG Management platform helps DEI teams plan, launch, manage, and scale employee resource groups with 100s of campaigns, automated reporting, and support from DEI experts to help small and large teams alike.
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Susan Hunt Stevens
Founder & CEO of WeSpire
WeSpire: Live! is all about community engagement and we would love your input! If you have any questions, topics, or emerging themes you want discussed in this upcoming session, please do not hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org!