Five Challenges and Solutions to Effective Employee Resource Group Implementation | jackson walker

The establishment and ongoing implementation of employee resource groups is vital for companies of all sizes and from all walks of life. Not only are employee resource groups important to a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, but there are legitimate business and legal reasons to ensure their success. This article discusses best practices for effectively introducing and maintaining employee resource groups.

Define an ERG

An employee resource group (ERG) – also known as an affinity group, employee network, or enterprise resource group – is a group of employees who come together in the workplace based on an identity social status, characteristics or shared life experiences. Typically, ERGs are made up of people from traditionally underrepresented groups, although these groups are open to all employees. Participation in an ERG is strictly voluntary, and the purpose of an ERG is to engage around a unified mission and goals that support the collective, foster personal relationships and affiliation within the company. , and enhance the business goals or professional development of individuals in that specific group. .

ERGs are good. Also for business.

In addition to cultivating a supportive environment for employees who desire community, ERGs are good for business. It is becoming increasingly imperative for companies to adopt ERMs for recruitment, retention and bottom line. Consumers are specific about the companies and products they support. Consumers and job candidates demand and expect companies to focus on DEI and sustainability, and reflect the communities they serve. ERGs can bring about significant and positive changes in the workplace, as long as they are born out of thoughtful and focused planning and involve effective implementation and maintenance.

Five key challenges of ERGs

The two most critical components of establishing an effective ERM are the planning and implementation stages. The process of starting this type of program comes with the following five main challenges:

  1. Takeover of the company
  2. Membership of employees (including ERG members and non-members)
  3. Structure and legal risk
  4. Resources and visibility
  5. Monitoring and evaluation

1. Takeover of the company

The most successful DEI programs begin with top-down investment. The two barriers surrounding corporate membership stem from fear of the unknown (questions such as “Is this just networking events? and “What about legal risks?” ) and a lack of understanding of how ERMs fit into the company’s overall business goals. Some possible ideas for educating leaders on the value of ERGs and setting companies up for success include:

  • Make the business case for ERGs. Employee Resource Groups can be used to attract, retain, support and foster the exchange of ideas from employees of diverse backgrounds critical to the overall success of the company. A best practice is to provide examples of successful ERMs from companies of comparable size and in the same industry.
  • Ask for top-down engagement. Time and resources are integral to creating a successful GRE, and both require management commitment. ERGs require dedicated staff who will oversee the program, a strong reporting structure, and the integration of ERGs into the company’s business strategy.
  • Identify expectations. ERGs need to be part of the fabric of corporate culture. This is accomplished by articulating expectations for the initiative and promoting ERMs as an integral facet of company culture.

2. Employee Membership

Support from members and non-members of an ERG is crucial. While the initiative may be well-intentioned, the introduction of an ERG should be approached with intentionality and inclusiveness.

Members of an underrepresented group may fear negative reactions to their participation in an ERG, wonder if participation produces any real impact or benefit, or see it as another non-compensable obligation that diverts time and pay attention to the criteria that a company actually measures to determine promotion and compensation. . Potential remedies to help address these concerns include:

  • Make DEI an integral part of the corporate culture. Although ERGs can improve the bottom line, ERGs should not be on the bottom line. Instead, ERGs should simply reflect the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion with no business rationale.
  • Create safe spaces. Participation in a GRE and attendance at meetings should be voluntary. ERGs are intended to create a forum for employees with shared identities or characteristics to come together as a community. Additionally, sending an invitation to everyone, whether or not the employee identifies as a member of a particular group, promotes alliance and decreases the legal risk of discrimination allegations.
  • Establish a clear mission, goals and objectives. DEI is not the group Unique ERGs should have a clear purpose that aligns with business goals and objectives in addition to the DEI.
  • Provide business support. Strong top-down commitment is necessary for the success of ERGs. Management should support the initiative by contributing its time, resources, and acknowledging ERGs and the significant contribution of ERG management’s time and talent to the goals and objectives of the business.

For those who may not belong to a certain traditionally underrepresented group, creating a GRE targeting that group may encounter resistance or confusion as to the purpose of the group or the guidelines in place for participation. . ERGs can be seen as discriminatory or as creating a hostile work environment for non-members. Here are three ideas for overcoming these challenges:

  • Establish a clear, written company ERG policy. The policy should include a statement of purpose, disclaimers, definition and description of ERGs, identification of responsible department, requirement that each ERG be open to all employees, and types of ERGs authorized and unauthorized.
  • Consistent application of the policy. Once implemented, the ERG policy must be applied equally and consistently.
  • Promote the alliance. Companies should promote the alliance as part of their philosophy. All employees should be encouraged and expected to proactively participate in creating meaningful change in the workplace.

3. Structure and legal risk

Employers should be aware of the potential liability that may arise from the implementation of ERGs. The question remains whether an ERG is a “trade union organization” as that term is defined under national industrial relations law. If employers are not careful, they risk violating the NLRA if they have “unlawfully dominated, interfered with or supported” a “labour organization”. In light of this, employers may consider the following:

  • Employees should determine the wording and structure of a GRE.
  • An employer may suggest that employees conduct a GRE and provide general guidelines consistent with company policy.
  • It is generally acceptable for an employer to pay employees for meeting time and provide the ERG with space to meet and the necessary supplies.

In addition to labor law concerns, employers must be careful not to engage in policies, programs or practices that are inconsistent with the law with respect to their ERGs. If not handled carefully, ERGs can expose employers to potential legal issues, including:

  • Discrimination or hostile work environment claims related to reverse discrimination or inconsistent application of the company’s ERG policy;
  • Retaliation claims related to retaliation against an employee for participating in an ERG or actions taken while participating; Where
  • Wage and hour issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for unpaid wages for non-exempt employee time spent at ERG meetings and activities.

To avoid these potential legal issues, every ERG should focus on building communities that bring people together with internal and external partnerships that support the ERG and are open to all employees, employers should ensure that the implementation implementation of an ERG is in accordance with the company’s written ERG policy, and determine that employee participation time is not compensable under the FLSA or compensate employees for their time at every opportunity ( on the basis of the individual assessment of the company with the advice of a lawyer).

4. Resources and visibility

As stated earlier, it takes time and resources to create and implement an effective ERM. Ideas for overcoming the challenges of lack of funding, lack of an organizational mechanism to facilitate ERG, especially on various employer worksites, or low visibility of ERG within the organization include:

  • Integrate the funds allocated to its ERGs into the company’s budget
  • Provide financial rewards to encourage effective ERG leadership
  • Implement company-wide recognition of ERG achievements
  • Promote company-wide ERG programming
  • Alliance Encouragement

5. Monitoring and evaluation

Following the implementation of a GRE, employers should ensure that the GRE is regularly monitored and evaluated. To do this, the ERG should have SMART goals to measure its progress, conduct analysis (workplace culture assessments, member surveys, and voluntary surveys), make necessary changes, and promote the results of the ERG. Evaluation.


With proper planning and implementation, employee resource groups can provide a nurturing environment for individuals in a workplace to connect and develop company culture, support business goals, and promote personal and professional development. We have found that the most successful ERGs have the following characteristics:

  • Effective ERG leadership with a focus on leadership succession
  • A clear mission, goals and objectives
  • Foster the exchange of ideas from employees of diverse backgrounds
  • Help find innovative ways to diversify the workforce
  • Establish and support the company’s social justice presence
  • Champion high-level issues internally
  • Incubate product and business ideas
  • Show their value
  • Build, Educate, Learn, Inspire

As we look to the future, we anticipate that ERGs will become a staple for employers of all sizes in various industries, especially when job applicants expect their employer to have them. We also anticipate that ERGs will continue to evolve and adapt to the needs of their members, and go further in terms of who they encourage, to accommodate the growing intersectionality of the workforce of a company.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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