Definition

employee resource groups (ERGs)

Contributor(s): Valerie Silverthorne

An employee resource group is a workplace club or more formally realized affinity group organized around a shared interest or identity. ERGs give employees an opportunity to connect with like-minded people and are often a cornerstone of employer diversity and inclusion efforts.

ERGs are generally created by workers looking for community or support and may or may not be formally or financially supported by an employer. An ERG could be formed around nearly any area of interest from professional goals to gardening. Employee resource groups can help employees feel more attached to a company and its culture, and they may also aid businesses in hiring and employee retention.

Many companies today wrestle with how best to attract and retain talented workers, particularly in a tight job market. Employee resource groups, formed at a grassroots level, can help strengthen the bond a worker feels for a company by providing a way to find and connect with like-minded individuals. While ERGs can operate like business networking groups, they are equally suited for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In many companies, the earliest formed ERGs sprung up in support of those goals, creating groups for LGBT employees and other minority groups.

Benefits of ERGs

Being able to point to the existence of diverse and inclusive ERGs can make hiring easier. Although not actually part of benefits administration, HR management can promote active ERGs as an added incentive to potential employees, while satisfied ERG members may be more likely to recommend the company to friends and relatives. ERGs can help turn social exchanges on a company intranet or portal in to become face-to-face conversations during meetings, something that has the potential to boost employee engagement and satisfaction. HR staff can also use employee resource groups to "take the temperature" of a variety of corporate measures. In addition, ERGs could help an HR generalist gain a better understanding of how to improve communications with specific groups.

Types of employee resource groups

Because ERGs are formed for employees by employees, they can encompass a wide variety of topics, interests and agendas. Groups can focus on boosting professional skills and networking, engage in extracurricular research on a topic or problem, or simply share an enthusiasm with others who feel the same. In some companies, ERGs are completely organic and have little or no connection to core HR. In others, HR offers funding and even help with publicizing events and meetings. Software from Espresa, for example, is designed specifically to track and manage ERGs.

This was last updated in September 2018

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