Employee Resource Groups Are A Powerful Way to Build Community

The heart of any organization is its staff. Employees carry out the mission of a company, they interact directly with customers, and they are responsible for the level and quality of output. Basically, employees make or break an organization. As such, their employers should be acutely concerned about their job satisfaction and well-being. After all, studies show that a happy employee is a productive and loyal employee.

One such way employers can engage and create a sense of community for its employees is by introducing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

ERGs are voluntary, employee-led collectives designed to foster an inclusive workplace, and they particularly focus on welcoming minority groups like veterans, women, and racially and ethnically diverse people. They can even be useful for employee retention. They can be an invaluable tool for employees that doesn’t require heavy oversight from leadership; in fact, 90% of Fortune 500 companies have them.

An employee’s first three months are particularly challenging and can even affect the length of their tenure. ERGs can ease this transition by creating a sense of community so newly onboarded staff don’t feel lonely or isolated. This can be particularly true with veterans, who are used to high levels of camaraderie, and minorities who don’t see a large representation in the office. As the US population and workforce becomes more racially and ethnically diverse (minorities are projected to comprise 56% of the total population by 2060 compared to 38% in 2014), companies with more inclusive workplaces will likely attract the best talent from that future diverse pool.

ERGs can also fill in the gaps of orientation or training because current employees have a wealth of knowledge about business functions specific to the company. This does not mean that ERGs are a replacement for proper training and onboarding, but they can be a meaningful supplement. And they can act as mentors to younger employees who otherwise tend to hop from job to job in order to gather professional experience.

Mainly, ERGs can make employees feel heard by creating an open channel of communication to leadership. When this link is strong, employees in ERGs are likely to feel that they are working together with every level of the company to help ensure a better work environment.

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When both employees and leadership are dedicated to ERGs, they can be invaluable in creating a happy, healthily functioning staff. That is an investment that will pay dividends for years to come.

A version of this article was originally published on wforce.org.

Dr. Arthur Langer is director of the Center for Technology Management at Columbia University and chairman and founder of Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a nonprofit with a mission of developing the skills of untapped talent from underserved and veteran communities through partnerships with organizations dedicated to diversifying their workforce. Since its inception in 2005, WOS has served 3,800+ individuals through partnerships with more than 65 corporations in 60+ locations worldwide. For more information, please visit www.wforce.org.

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