DEI Councils & Employee Resource Groups
Strategic Development Programs
DEI Councils, Employee Resource Groups, and Business Resource Groups are becoming more and more commonplace within today’s workplace. More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies offer employee-focused and employee-led groups, which have proven to deliver significant ROI, both from a tangible and intangible perspective.
With a range of groups such as Equity Councils, Inclusion Councils, Emerging Women Leaders, First Generation College Graduates, and Advocates for Sustainability, well-executed ERGs have demonstrated their ability to significantly enhance employee engagement, bolster diversity recruitment efforts, and serve as platforms for leadership development. By aligning with the organization’s overall business objectives, these groups play a vital role in fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment.
From Equity Councils and Inclusion Councils to Emerging Women Leaders, First Generation College Graduates, and Advocates for Sustainability ERGs, when done well, these groups have been proven to significantly improve employee engagement, enhance diversity recruiting efforts, and provide a forum for leadership development, supporting the organization’s overarching business objectives.
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What is an Employee Resource Group?
An ERG is a voluntary, employee-led organization within a company or organization that brings together individuals who share a common background, identity, or interest. Within this broad definition, different types of ERGs focus on specific dimensions of diversity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, or other aspects of identity. The purpose of ERGs is to provide a platform for employees to connect, share experiences, and advocate for positive organizational change.
While the goals and activities can depend on the group’s purpose and the needs of its members, some common objectives include:
Networking and Support: ERGs create opportunities for employees to network, build relationships, and support one another through events, workshops, and formal and informal mentoring programs.
Cultural Awareness and Education: ERGs promote understanding of different cultures, identities, and experiences through educational sessions, workshops, and celebrations to share knowledge, break down stereotypes, and foster a more inclusive work environment.
Advocacy and Representation: ERGs provide a collective voice for underrepresented groups, influencing policies and driving positive organizational change.
Talent Development: ERGs often focus on talent development initiatives, such as mentoring programs, leadership training, and skill-building workshops that enhance professional growth and advancement opportunities for members.
Community Engagement: Beyond the workplace, ERGs often engage with external communities and organizations to contribute to social causes, volunteer activities, and community outreach programs.
Why Are ERGs Important?
These groups play a vital role in creating a more equitable workplace that fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion within organizations by creating a sense of belonging, providing resources, and supporting personal and professional growth. They can promote organizational learning, enhance engagement and retention and advocate for positive change. The benefits for individuals employees include career development opportunities and networking with colleagues from different areas of the organization.
How to Start an Employee Resource Group
The first officially recognized ERG in the U.S. was the Xerox National Black Employees Caucus, created in 1970. Today, although about 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs, leveraging them to advance the company’s diversity and inclusivity commitment takes concerted effort.
The first step is creating an ERG Strategic Plan. This documented roadmap outlines a structured approach for the ERG over a specific period, typically one to three years, and helps align the group’s activities with the organization’s goals, measure progress, and maximize impact.
An ERG strategic plan includes:
Define the purpose, goal, and desired impact and provide a guiding framework for all ERG activities.
Set specific targets that align with the organization’s mission, vision, and diversity and inclusion objectives.
Outline detailed action steps and initiatives, including assigned responsibilities and timelines.
Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) such as participation rates, employee satisfaction surveys, retention rates, career advancement data, and feedback from ERG members and stakeholders. Once activities are underway, the ERG should establish mechanisms to measure the impact of its activities.
Address budget, personnel, technology, and support from organizational leadership. Include strategies for resource allocation, succession planning, leadership development, and long-term sustainability.
percentage of the U.S. population classified as minorities by 2050
companies that have added or expanded their support for ERGs since the start of 2020
(McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org)
percentage of organizations succeeding in key dimensions of successful DE&I programming
(PwC’s Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Survey)
Building the Team
ERGs usually have an executive sponsor and an ERG leader, who hold specialized positions distinct from general leadership responsibilities. For more information and support in selecting and developing these leaders, Elevated Diversity offers:
The leader and executive sponsor build a core team, including diverse perspectives and members from different departments or levels, to drive the establishment and activities. Every group needs a governance structure to define roles and responsibilities and establish participation, decision-making, and succession planning guidelines.
Each ERG holds membership drives within the company to attract individuals who have common cause with the group. Spreading the net wide and using as many internal communications channels as possible helps promote the effort.
Elevated Diversity strategists partner with you to establish and support effective ERGs in your organization.
Strategy sessions to determine the organization’s council and ERG/BRG readiness
Co-creation of in-depth council/ERG/BRG strategy designed to support a successful launch through to sustainability and effectiveness (to include monthly, quarterly, and annual objectives, success metrics, accountability, timelines, etc.)
Comprehensive assessments to determine the council/committee governance and structure