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How to Start an Employee Resource Group and Provide Structure

Updated: Feb 15, 2023



Starting an employee resource group can be a great way to create a sense of community in the workplace and empower employees to take ownership of their own development and well-being. Here are a few tips to get you started:


Identify a Purpose and Mission

You should start by identifying a purpose and mission statement that outlines what the group is aiming to achieve. A good purpose and mission statement should be to the point. For example, The Women of XYZ Company is a space to educate, promote equity, create community, and further the inclusion of women across the organization. Once you've come up with your mission and purpose, you'll want to think through your impact.


The 4Cs of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) is a framework created by Dr. Robert Rodriguez (2006). It’s been adopted by hundreds of organizations when strategically aligning ERG efforts. The four areas noted provide ERG leaders and companies a strategic approach to optimizing and focusing the work of ERGs. These areas are: Career, Community, Culture and Commerce.


We recommend checking out Chezie and their platform to help provide your ERG with supporting your 4C programming, education, and impact. Rise with OPHR also has amazing resources and a FREE calendar of DEIB related observations and holidays to quickly get you're event planning started.


Gather Interest

Once you have identified the purpose and mission, you should gather interest from potential members. This can be done by sending out a survey or hosting an information session.


Interest to start an employee resource group should come from employees. While leadership may want a group, it should not be something they start. Remember this is for employees. Once started, leadership should fully support your ERGs and their growth.


Set Up a Structure

To ensure the group is organized and effective, it’s important to set up a structure. This should include roles and responsibilities for the members, as well as a timeline for activities and events.


Many ERGs are set up differently. Some share the responsibilities among 2 leads, while others work with a full board. It really depends on what makes the most sense for the size of your organization, the number of ERG members, and the time you and others have to focus on ERG activities.


Outlining your roles and the duties of each is very important. Below are some examples on leadership roles with duties and descriptions.


Structure

ERG Lead

The employee resource group (ERG) lead works to foster a sense of belonging, community, and support among members of a particular identity within [Company Name]. This role involves facilitating conversations, planning events, and developing initiatives to ensure that all members of the resource group feel included and empowered. An effective resource group lead will possess excellent organizational and communication skills, as well as the ability to be a strong advocate for the members of their group. They should also be able to create an environment of support and understanding in order to promote meaningful connections and collaboration within [Company Name].


ERG Co-Lead

The employee resource group (ERG) co-lead is an individual who works collaboratively with ERG leadership and members to ensure their collective success. The co-lead is responsible for leading meetings, organizing events, and fostering an environment of inclusion and belonging. The co-lead should be a strong communicator, creative thinker, and problem solver who is committed to creating a diverse and equitable workplace. They should also have a passion about diversity, equity, and inclusion topics.


ERG Liaison

The employee resource group (ERG) liaison serves as a bridge between [Company Name] leadership, community members, and other ERGs within the organization. The ERG liaison is tasked with developing relationships across the organization to foster collaboration and education. The liaison is also responsible for vetting and researching community partners outside of the organization to support. They must be knowledgeable of diversity and inclusion initiatives and serve as an advocate for their ERG. The ERG liaison should be approachable and able to foster meaningful conversations with stakeholders. Ultimately, they should be committed to creating an environment of respect, understanding, and inclusion.


ERG Executive Sponsor

The employee resource group (ERG) executive sponsor is a leader within [Company Name] who provides guidance, resources, and support to the ERG. An executive sponsor is typically a senior leader in the organization who is passionate about the mission of the ERG and committed to advancing its objectives. They act as a bridge between the ERG and the organization, ensuring that the ERG's goals are aligned with the organization's overall strategy and objectives. They provide guidance and advice to ERG leadership, help to secure resources for ERG activities, and advocate for the ERG's mission and initiatives. An executive sponsor should make every effort to attend ERG events, provide feedback on initiatives, and work with the ERG to ensure its success.


ERG General Member

An employee resource group (ERG) general member is an individual who is committed to promoting and learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion at [Company Name]. They strive to foster an inclusive environment and to create a sense of belonging and community amongst their colleagues. ERG general members are passionate about developing and fostering relationships with different groups of people, cultures, and backgrounds. They are also committed to understanding and representing the needs of diverse groups of people, while seeking out and incorporating diverse perspectives into their work. ERG general members are also eager to promote awareness of diversity and inclusion, both within [Company Name] and the wider community. General members are encouraged to attend events, offer insight and direction on goals, and participate in community building events.


Get Support from Leadership

It’s important to have the support and endorsement from leadership. This will help ensure the group can access resources and have the necessary authority to get things done. Having an executive sponsor allows your ERG to have access to influence and funding when your executive sponsor is involved. Finding an ally or a person who identifies with the community is key.


One key way leadership can demonstrate their support of ERG leaders is with extra benefits. Some organizations compensate their ERG leads with an annual bonus that is tied to one of their personal goals for the year. For example, a ERG lead may have a personal goal to do 4 events during the year. In their annual review this can be tied to a bonus. If an ERG lead dedicates around 100 hours a year to their ERG duties, then a $3000 bonus would provide compensation for that time. Other benefits that you could offer ERG leads include, dedicated time to work on ERG duties, extra time off, and extra funding for professional development.


Promote and Market the Group

Once the group is set up, you should promote it to the wider organization. This can be done through internal communication channels such as newsletters, SLACK, or emails. You can also set up a SLACK channel for the wider organization, but provide a private channel for members who identify with the community to create that extra level of psychological safety.


Need assistance on our specific tips for starting up an ERG, then contact us for a free consult at info@awesomelyauthentic.com. Best of luck in setting up your employee resource group!

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