Employee resource groups (ERGs) are business initiatives, and they should be given structure to reflect that fact.
There are ten critical success factors that you need to meet in order for your ERGs to thrive, according to Gloria Goins, DEIB expert and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Cisco.
If you have doubts about the business impact of ERGs, the numbers speak for themselves: ERGs are transforming companies and, in many instances, could be helping them become more profitable. Studies have shown a strong correlation between ERGs and DEI metrics, and according to the World Economic Forum, companies leading with diversity, equity, and inclusion are 25%-36% more likely to outperform on profitability.
ERGs can also lead to significant cost savings. These employee-led groups, which are where individuals join together based on shared interests or characteristics, can foster a sense of belonging at work. Organizations where employees report a high sense of belonging boast a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days, according to the Harvard Business Review. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.
But if you want to see business benefits from your ERGs, you have to treat them as the business initiatives that they are. You need to give them the same framework and support that you would any other strategic enterprise.
"ERGs are evolving to be more connected back to the business," says Gloria Goins, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Cisco. "That's where you get the greatest lift – when they are structured, they have a sponsor, and they have a business plan."
For Gloria, that structure involves identifying and meeting the critical success factors for ERGs. According to Gloria, organizations cannot take a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to their ERGs. Instead, HR leaders need to communicate goals and track progress, provide executive sponsorship, create opportunities for ERGs to share their work, help ERGs grow their ranks, and more.
Gloria is an expert on the subject. Prior to her current role, she was Head of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity, Sales, Marketing and Global Services at Amazon Web Services, which is committed to hitting DEI goals and has steadily improved its DEI numbers over the last five years.
Ready to dig in and learn what you need to do to help your ERGs achieve their business objectives? Below, Gloria compiled her ten critical success factors for ERGs.
10 Critical Success Factors for ERGs from Gloria Goins
A thorough and razor-sharp understanding of all of the organization's existing goals across all departments.
Full alignment of each group's mission and objectives with the overall organization's existing goals.
Respected senior leaders to serve as the groups' executive sponsors, who will provide guidance and advocacy.
A business plan that states each group's commitments to help the organization meet its existing goals.
A funded budget for each group that is strictly followed.
A regular reporting process that documents and measures all the groups’ activities. (Reports should be approved by the executive sponsors and shared with key leaders in the business. No key stakeholder should ever wonder what the groups are doing or what value they add.)
Opportunities to showcase the work of the groups and recruit new members.
Ongoing training coupled with a handbook of guidelines, resources and best practices for members and leaders.
Frequent communication of the group's objectives and accomplishments.
Use of technology and social media as a means of both communicating and implementing objectives.
ERGs can help your bottom line, but only if you treat them as important business measures and give them the support they deserve. You can maximize an ERG’s benefits at your business by working with ERG leaders to meet these critical success factors.
Want to learn more about ERGs? Learn how you can create a safe space for ERGs to drive organizational success. Download our eBook, Creating Safe Spaces: 5 Ways to Support Employee Resource Groups.