How to use employee resource groups for a more diverse and inclusive workplace

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Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Business Resource Groups (BRGs) are gaining popularity in corporate America as companies look for ways to create, maintain, and grow a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce. ERGs and BRGs can be valuable assets in improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) hiring outcomes.

Based on my experience working with various ERGs and BRGs over the years, I’ve compiled five ways companies can better engage these groups to achieve their DEI goals. I have added a relevant case study to each recommendation to further substantiate my observations and provide a practical approach to understanding and executing workable solutions.

Related: How to Use Employee Resource Pools and Cultivate Meaningful Impact in Your Workplace

1. Provide resources and support

An effective way to engage ERGs and BRGs is to provide them with the necessary resources and support. This could include financing, training, and access to company leaders and decision makers. By investing in these groups, companies can help them achieve their goals while achieving better overall hiring results at DEI.

Case Study: Intel

Intel has about 40 ERGs and seven leadership councils that brought together more than 25,000 employees in 2021. Intel’s ERGs are structured around race, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity, parentage, disabilities, education, faith and other common affinities. The organization encourages employees to join ERG beyond their personal affinities to build relationships with a broader community. Additionally, Intel has an Employee Inclusion Survey to gain a deeper understanding of how different employee populations experience inclusion at Intel, recognize opportunities for improvement, and better understand the root causes of any systemic issues and how to address them. These initiatives demonstrate Intel’s commitment to providing resources and support to its employees.

2. Foster collaboration

Another way to engage ERGs and BRGs is to foster collaboration between these groups and other company stakeholders, such as human resources, recruiters, hiring managers, and employee development programs. This can help ensure that DEI objectives are integrated into all aspects of company operations and policies.

Case Study: JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways initiative is a collaborative effort to address systemic racism and provide economic empowerment for African Americans. The program leverages company resources and partnerships to provide education, career development, and access to capital for Black people and business owners. Advancing Black Pathways partners with other organizations to connect African Americans with internships, jobs, mentoring programs, and entrepreneurial opportunities. JPMorgan Chase also provides financial education and counseling to help individuals and families become financially stable. The initiative promotes collaboration between JPMorgan Chase and its partner organizations to build a more equitable and inclusive society.

3. Encourage feedback

Companies should encourage ERGs and BRGs to provide feedback on contracting processes and DEI initiatives. This feedback can help identify areas for improvement and guide future efforts.

Case Study: Sales Force

Salesforce has a well-established ERG program called Trailhead that aims to provide a supportive and inclusive work environment. An example of this program is Salesforce’s “Ohana Groups,” which focus on building connections, offering mentoring opportunities, and promoting diversity and inclusion among employees and allies. These groups are open to all employees and have a variety of focuses, such as gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation.

Salesforce ERGs play a vital role in the company’s efforts to foster feedback and improve employee engagement. These groups provide a forum for employees to share their experiences and ideas, give and receive feedback, and participate in initiatives that promote DEI.

Related: 7 Ways Leaders Can Improve Their DEI Workplace Strategy

4. Engage employees and celebrate achievements

Companies should invest in employee engagement and celebrate the achievements of ERGs and BRGs. This can include highlighting success stories, sharing best practices, and providing opportunities for ERG and BRG members to highlight their work.

Case study: IBM

IBM BRGs are employee-led groups that focus on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, while celebrating successes small and big. They are designed to create a sense of community among employees, provide opportunities for growth, and drive business results by leveraging diverse perspectives and ideas. BRGs at IBM are open to all employees, and members have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities and initiatives, including community outreach, professional development programs and networking events. They have been recognized for their impact on employee engagement, success stories and business results, and the company continues to invest in their development.

5. Build communities

Extraordinary things happen when companies support ERGs in creating communities that are built around the shared values ​​and interests of equity and inclusion. These communities offer a safe space for employees to share their voices, experiences and perspectives. By providing a platform for employees to come together and collaborate, ERGs and BRGs play a crucial role in fostering a sense of ownership and strengthening company culture.

Case Study: Microsoft

Microsoft ERGs provide a platform for employees with shared values ​​and interests to collaborate, build communities, and drive business impact. They are open to all employees and include a wide range of affinities and intersectionalities, including women, African American/Black, Latino, LGBTQ+, veterans, parents, and more.

Microsoft ERGs are focused on building and growing communities by providing members with opportunities for personal and professional growth, community outreach, and connection with other employees across the company. ERG members can participate in events, mentoring programs and leadership opportunities that help them develop their skills and expand their networks. Through community outreach initiatives, ERG members can give back to their local communities and have a positive impact on society beyond their workplace.

Microsoft ERGs have made significant contributions to the company’s culture and business success. For example, Microsoft’s black and African-American ERG, Blacks at Microsoft (BAM), played a key role in increasing the representation of black employees in the company and driving cultural awareness and education. Similarly, the company’s Women at Microsoft (WAM) ERG has been instrumental in driving diversity and inclusion efforts across the company.

Related: 3 Proven Ways to Hire (and Keep) Diverse Talent

In conclusion, ERGs and BRGs can play a critical role in advancing DEI’s hiring results and creating a more inclusive and equitable work environment. Companies can better engage these groups by providing resources and support, fostering collaboration, encouraging feedback, engaging employees, celebrating achievements, and building communities. The case studies featured in this post demonstrate practical approaches to leveraging ERGs and BRGs to achieve DEI’s hiring goals and create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. By investing in these groups and their members, companies can build a stronger culture of inclusion and drive positive, sustainable and scalable business results.