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Meeting Essential Needs of Black Employee Resource Groups

Meeting Essential Needs of Black ERGs

Is your company creating a Black Employee Resource Group (ERG) – or looking to support your existing Black ERG? Learn how to meet the essential needs of Black Employee Resource Groups with the insights and best practices in this post.

An Employee Resource Group is a voluntary, employee-led group within a company that brings together individuals with shared characteristics, experiences, or interests. Specifically, a Black Employee Resource Group provides an opportunity for Black employees to gather for networking and career support. Additionally, a Black ERG program can advocate for the needs and interests of employees of color.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Black ERGs “have been around since the 1960s when Black employees at Xerox banded together to tackle racial tensions in the workplace.” In this post, you’ll learn how to meet the unique needs of Black ERGs as we navigate toward a more equitable and inclusive future together.

What is a Black Employee Resource Group?

A Black Employee Resource Group is an employee-led program devoted to supporting the interests and needs of Black employees within a company. A Black or African American ERG can provide networking, mentorship opportunities, social events, and career support. Additionally, a Black ERG can amplify the voices and needs of Black employees as well as promote and advance DEI initiatives throughout the organization.

If your company is thinking about starting an African American Employee Resource Group, start by asking employees about their hopes and goals. For instance, conducting an anonymous survey can help you gather ideas and feedback.

From there, consider the purpose of the group. Black ERG mission statements can be helpful in defining and articulating the group’s purpose to current and prospective members as well as company leadership.

Finally, read on to learn how to avoid some common challenges that Black Employee Resource Groups face. From inadequate funding to timing challenges and a lack of involvement from company leadership, many roadblocks can be addressed using the ideas below.

Current Needs of Black Employee Resource Groups

Current Needs of Black Employee Resource Groups

In today’s social and political climate, inclusivity is more important than ever. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 78% of Black workers say that focusing on DEI at work is a good thing. Furthermore, McKinsey reports that 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs. They note, “The most effective of these groups help boost feelings of inclusion for traditionally underrepresented segments of workers…”

A Black affinity group or ERG can help promote a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment at work and engage employees, boosting teamwork and morale. That said, it’s important to ensure that your company isn’t just “talking the talk!” Instead, take actionable steps to ensure you’re meeting the needs of employees of color.

Let’s delve into some of the most common needs voiced by Black ERG leaders in today’s workplace.

Increased Representation

Representation refers to having people within your company – at all levels, including the c-suite – who represent the diversity of your community and customers. In 2023, can you guess how many Fortune 500 CEOs are Black?

Unfortunately, just 8 Fortune 500 companies are led by Black executives – or, 1.6% of the list. Yahoo! Finance notes this is “far below Black America’s 13% labor force participation rate.”

Diverse leadership is important, both for employee well-being and your bottom line. In fact, MarketWatch reports that greater representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in management is “tied to higher cash flow, net profit, three-and-five-year revenue, five-year return on equity (ROE), and stock performance.”

Remember, while race is one important component of diversity at work, diversity can also refer to age, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, socioeconomic background, and much more.

Adequate Funding and Resources

Put simply, Black ERGs – and all ERGs – require funding, time, and support to work. In order to host meaningful events and initiatives, an adequate budget is required. And, it’s important to allow employees to use working time to plan these initiatives – rather than asking them to volunteer outside of their typical work duties. Otherwise, involvement becomes a penalty, which can perpetuate the very inequities that DEI efforts aim to combat.

Some costs a Black ERG might consider when hosting events include venue rental fees, guest speaker honorariums, event supplies such as name tags or print materials, and refreshments and catering. Additionally, your company may wish to cover the cost of certain training sessions, conferences, or other professional development opportunities for ERG participants. Finally, think about any costs your group may encounter related to technology (website, intranet, or messaging service), community engagement, advocacy, and administrative expenses.

When a budget is lacking, employees may become frustrated and demotivated, as they feel they are tasked with an impossible endeavor. Instead, support ERGs by giving them the resources they need to succeed in their goals. These funds might come from your HR or training budget, or you can create a new budget line item specifically for ERGs or DEI initiatives.

Advocacy and Support from Leadership

Support from leadership is important when establishing or growing your Black Employee Resource Group. In some cases, a well-meaning manager may not be aware of the needs of Black ERGs, or the importance of investing in them. In other cases, leaders may be actively disinterested in supporting these groups, for a variety of reasons. To best gain support within your organization, the following tactics can be helpful:

  • Share data and statistics that showcase the importance of Black ERGs and related DEI initiatives (or send your manager this post!)
  • Gather examples of other companies’ Black ERG initiatives and outcomes. For instance, Harvard Business Review shares that AT&T’s “The NETwork” Black ERG has more than 11,000 members – and an 85.6% retention rate for Black employees!
  • Offer mentorship and involvement opportunities for company leaders.
  • If leaders seem willing to help but are unsure where to start, approach them with a proposed plan (and a backup option) and make it easy for them to simply say “yes.”

Leaders can also gain deeper involvement by serving as internal advocates, sponsors, or mentors for your group!

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Ensure that your company’s Black or African American Employee Resource Group is accessible and inclusive, regardless of workers’ location, shift, or employment status (full-time, part-time, remote, etc.).

For instance, host virtual conversations so remote employees can participate from anywhere in the world! Additionally, you can provide materials in various languages to ensure all feel welcome to participate. Another idea: host events at various times to accommodate all schedules. Or, offer a mentorship program that welcomes employees of varying ages and experience levels. If desired, your group can also help arrange allyship training to employees across the organization.

When discussing Black ERG event ideas, be sure to consider inclusivity at the forefront of your planning. Additionally, ensure that your group’s leadership represents the diverse experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives within the Black community, to generate a broader set of ideas and insights.

Empowering Black Employee Resource Groups: Effective Strategies

Empowering Black Employee Resource Groups

You’re ready to help empower your Black Employee Resource Groups – but what are the next steps? Below, we’ll delve into effective strategies to support your company’s Black ERG. From training and education to building alliances, leveraging technology, and encouraging open conversations – these are the techniques that will take your team to the next level of inclusivity!

Training and Education

Explore training resources to help your Employee Resource Group members deepen their knowledge, find support and validation, and navigate shared experiences and challenges.

Some Black ERG training topics you might explore include:

  • Self-Care and Community Care
  • Rest as Resistance, inspired by The Nap Ministry
  • How to Understand & Address Unconscious Bias
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Addressing Microaggressions in the Workplace
  • Personal Branding
  • Intersectionality
  • Mentorship in the Workplace

Depending on the topic, you can book a professional guest speaker or hire a DEI training company such as Unexpected Virtual Tours and Training to lead the way.

Building Alliances

As strong as we are on our own, we are even stronger in community. Forming alliances can be a powerful way to propel your Black ERG’s efforts forward. Consider partnering with other companies’ Black ERGs, community organizations, and other stakeholders to fuel your group’s mission and amplify your voice. Get creative – you can even engage with local artists, brands, restaurants, and more!

To get started, consider hosting a networking breakfast or happy hour with leaders from key groups. Together, you can share experiences and explore ways to work together for mutual benefit. Or, arrange a panel session with panelists representing groups you’d like to partner with. By establishing a meaningful relationship, you can open the door to future partnership opportunities.

Leveraging Technology

Utilize technology to help your group stay connected – no matter where they are! For instance, you can create a Slack channel to share group events and initiatives, or for more casual networking and questions. Additionally, you can schedule recurring group video calls or lunchtime chats to create opportunities for connection.

Virtual team building activities, like those offered by Unexpected Virtual Tours and Training, can help your team leverage technology to create impactful experiences that reinforce the group’s cohesion, goals, and morale.

Promoting Transparency and Open Dialogue

To foster an environment of validation, trust, and engagement in your Black ERG, it’s important to emphasize being transparent and welcoming open dialogue as key elements of your group.

Discussing issues of race and ethnicity can come with feelings of vulnerability – but when done in a supportive environment, can lead to positive change for the employee and the company. In the end, many employees report that after properly-led DEI training activities, they feel their colleagues can better understand and support their needs.

Consider methods that can encourage open communication – such as regular meetings, anonymous suggestion boxes or surveys, and open-door policies. After all, it’s only when leadership is aware of employees’ feelings, frustrations, and goals that positive change can be enacted.

Future Pathways: Ensuring Long-Term Success of Black ERGs

Ensuring Long-Term Success of Black ERGs

With the best practices outlined in this post, your company can plan a roadmap for how best to support your Black ERG and other Employee Resource Groups.

For an interactive and meaningful activity for your Black ERG – as well as a way to explore DEI topics across your company, check out Unexpected Virtual Tours and Training. Trusted by teams at Google, SalesForce, The Home Depot, and others, our menu of DEI-inspired program topics ranging from Music Evolution and Street Art to Juneteenth, Black History Month, and much more.

For more DEI training solutions, explore the lineup of live virtual programs from Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training and book your team’s session!

Additionally, explore our blog posts on effective diversity training, how to celebrate Black history month at work, and Juneteenth ideas for work.

Connect with us below to learn more about DEI training sessions and other programs from Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training. We look forward to helping you!