- For employee resource groups to be successful throughout Black History Month and all year long, HR professionals must provide them with support while not overtaking employee efforts, advisory firm McLean & Co. emphasized in research released Feb. 15.
- The Feb. 15 report lays out a three-step process to help HR balance these efforts: First, HR must gather information on ERGs’ needs, interests and goals to understand their current state and where they require additional support. Second, if an ERG chooses to become formalized, HR should create a pathway for it to receive formal support (budget, recruitment and the ability to run initiatives); and third, HR should identify core metrics to measure the ERG’s goals and provide a pathway for it to grow and be sustained.
- “Supporting grassroots ERGs through formalization without taking control of the groups themselves can be a delicate process,” McLean stated in a release announcing the report. “Sometimes ERGs may wish to refrain from receiving organization support, and it is important to remember that ERGs will take on many forms and do not always require support from the organization,” the report noted.
At a time when DEI efforts may be especially critical — with employees feeling the anxiety of current events, particularly racially motivated violence — DEI initiatives within many organizations are stalling, Intel’s head of DEI recently told HR Dive. HR doesn’t have all the answers, she acknowledged, but she advises organizations to “stay the course.”
While everyone is trying to figure it out, employers can show empathy, understanding and treat all perspectives with respect, the Intel DEI head said. Among the ways Intel works to further this goal is by helping employees learn skills they can use to lead ERGs, she said.
ERGs, employee-led initiatives generally organized around common identities, interests or cultural backgrounds, “are aimed at fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace,” employee engagement platform Ten Thousand Coffees wrote in a 2022 post. ERGs can broaden the professional networks of underrepresented employees “by opening doors to mentorships or sponsorship opportunities they might not be exposed to,” the post said. ERGs also “give an opportunity for employees to collectively voice key messages and issues across their organization,” the post added.
For many, ERGs also provide a psychological, “shame-free” safe place, as they have done for Asian American employees hit hard by the rise of anti-Asian hate incidents since the pandemic began, a DEI specialist explained to HR Dive in July 2022. She related an example of how “having a safe space, and advocacy and allyship, and HR and organizational responsiveness works.”
In the example, the DEI specialist recalled that when she was in a general resource group for Black employees, Indigenous employees and people of color, an Asian colleague entered a video meeting upset, explaining that her grandfather had just been attacked. The ERG’s executive sponsor took it up to HR and asked for support. HR sent out a companywide response, acknowledging the sometimes violent reality of being Asian, and encouraged employees to take mental health days.
At Liberty Mutual, ERGs are integral to creating an environment where all employees feel welcome and can bring their whole selves to work, the company’s director of global DEI told HR Dive last year. This leads to greater employee engagement, productivity and opportunity for greater innovation, she said.