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Harnessing the power of Employee Resource Groups

March 27, 2014

In this first installment of our three-part series, D&I experts and long-standing Linkage partners Erica Colonero and Robin Pedrelli share specific insights on everything from founding to fostering successful Employee Resource Groups.—Ed.

Employee Resource Groups (also known as ERGs) have traditionally been focused on supporting people with similar personality traits or characteristics (women, religious affiliations, sexual orientation, gender, etc.) in the workplace. But ERGs can also be made up of individuals who share job responsibilities and/or interests in everything from environmental advocacy, community service and volunteerism, to workplace wellness too. Well-conceived, well-run ERGs can make a positive impact on any organization’s workforce, but obviously they don’t happen by accident.

According to Colonero and Pedrelli, there really is nothing more important to the success of an ERG than effective foundation building. Grassroots efforts can be successful in launching some ERGs, but they’re also quick to add that the sustained success of any ERG program requires thought, planning, and active engagement of key stakeholders across the organization from the beginning.

It’s also important to know that if you don’t have a strategic process or formal governance and metrics for your ERGs yet, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many organizations have some form of ERG in place, but not the structure or governance that links member development to specific business results. But it’s never too late to build that process.

Establishing the vision and business case for ERGs in your organization is critical. This work is best done by a trained D&I practitioner and driven by the office of Diversity and Inclusion. This is also the time to determine which ERGs are most important to your organization. You can always add more ERGs down the road, but many organizations start with just a few core groups, and then add more as needs increase.

Creating an ERG handbook, or an ERG starter kit, to ensure ERGs are structured for success and sustainability is another important step. Be sure to select ERG leaders from across the organization who represent all business areas, functions, and ranks, as well as demographics. And you must also be sure to secure C-suite support and organization-wide buy-in before any ERG program is rolled out.

It’s only after you have these essential building blocks in place that the other phases of ERG development—implementation and establishing accountability standards to help drive growth and long-term sustainability (to be discussed in future posts)—can occur.

Establishing effective ERGs is just one way D&I professionals can make a positive impact on any organization. Click here to learn more.

Click here to view Erica and Robin’s webinar Ready, Set, Strategy: Aligning ERGs with Business Needs.

 More about Robin and Erica

Erica-RobinErica Colonero and Robin Pedrelli are long-standing Linkage partners and founding members of VisionSpring, Inc., a diversity and inclusion consulting firm offering fully integrated strategy development, workforce planning, training, and continuous learning solutions to leverage diversity and inclusion as a driver of innovation and improved business outcomes.

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