fbpx Skip to main content

What Is an Employee Resource Group (ERG)

What Is an Employee Resource Group (ERG)

In today’s workplaces, a variety of types of employee resource groups have become a stronghold in promoting diversity and inclusion. An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a voluntary, employee-led organization within a company that serves as a support and advocacy network for individuals who share common characteristics or experiences.

ERGs are typically formed around various types of diversity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or religion. Their primary purpose is to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace by providing a space where employees to connect, share experiences, and address issues.

In this blog, we’ll explore the general concept of ERGs and their evolution in the workplace. Furthermore, we’ll spotlight their immense importance to today’s companies. Read on to uncover the incredible impact of ERGs!


Keep reading for learn what ERGs offer employees and companies – including:

  • The purpose of ERGs and ERG diversity
  • Employee networks that contribute to company’s DEI initiatives
  • The main objectives of employee resource groups
  • Historical context and evolution of ERGs

In this post, you’ll find:

  • The answer to the question, “What do ERGs do?”
  • How to set up an employee resource group
  • Affinity groups of professionals encompassing a wide demographic range
  • Key benefits of having ERG diversity in your workplace
  • Examples of employee resource groups, such as gender and women’s groups

Types of employee resource groups

Historical Context and Evolution of ERGs

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) originated in the 1960s and 1970s in response to the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Initially, ERGs focused on advocating for the rights and interests of specific minority groups. Over time, ERGs have evolved to become more inclusive and strategic partners for organizations. They now encompass a broader range of identity groups and play a significant role in promoting DEI in workplaces.

ERGs have been essential in advancing workplace diversity and inclusivity by providing a platform for underrepresented employees. Specifically, these affinity groups allow employees to advocate for change, contribute to cultural shifts within organizations, and foster an environment where diverse talent is attracted and retained.


The Main Objectives of Employee Resource Groups

The central mission of most ERGs is promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. ERGs create an environment in which every employee feels valued and included. They often advocate for policies and practices that work to eliminate discrimination and bias. At the same time, ERGs celebrate the unique perspectives and contributions of each group member.

Additionally, ERGs play a pivotal role in fostering personal and professional development among their members. They offer mentoring, training, and networking opportunities to help employees advance their careers. Another crucial aspect of ERGs is their function as a feedback loop for management and executive teams. These groups can provide insights into the experiences and challenges faced by employees from underrepresented communities. As a result, ERGs help organizations to make informed decisions about DEI initiatives.


Key Benefits of Having ERGs in Your Workplace

Employee Benefits of Employee Resource Groups

ERGs provide a sense of belonging and a supportive community within the workplace. They create spaces where employees from diverse backgrounds can connect, share experiences, and find allies. This sense of belonging helps individuals feel more comfortable and appreciated at work. ERGs also empower employees by offering professional development opportunities, mentoring, and skill-building.

For employers, ERGs can provide increased employee engagement and improved company culture. When employees feel authentically included, they tend to be more motivated, committed, and productive. ERGs can also enhance a company’s reputation as an inclusive and socially responsible organization.

Moreover, ERGs can drive positive organizational change by providing insights and feedback to management. This can help to influence policies, and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive culture. In this way, ERGs foster a work environment that is not only more equitable but also more innovative and resilient.

Learn more about the benefits of having ERGs at your workplace in McKinsey & Company’s article, “Effective employee resource groups are key to inclusion at work.”


How to Set Up an Effective Employee Resource Group

Look to the following initial steps when establishing an ERG for diversity and inclusion:

  1. Define Purpose and Goals: Clarify the ERG’s mission and focus.
  2. Research & Assess Needs: Assess interest and support for the ERG through surveys and discussions.
  3. Create a Business Case: Explain the ERG’s benefits and alignment with organizational values.
  4. Secure Leadership Support: Gain backing from senior leaders and stakeholders.
  5. Develop a Plan: Create a roadmap outlining objectives, structure, and leadership.
  6. Identify Executive Sponsors: Appoint advocates who can offer guidance and resources.
  7. Form a Steering Committee: Establish a diverse committee to lead initial efforts.
  8. Develop a Mission Statement: Craft a clear, concise mission that guides the ERG’s activities.
  9. Secure Budget and Resources: Collaborate with HR for funding and support.
  10. Launch and Promote the ERG: Launch the ERG and encourage employee participation.

Additionally, be sure to incorporate the following best practices for ongoing ERG management and engagement:

  • Regular Meetings: Hold frequent meetings to plan and assess goals.
  • Training and Development: Offer relevant skill-building and diversity training.
  • Outreach and Networking: Engage with employees and external communities.
  • Metrics and Evaluation: Establish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and gather feedback.
  • Collaboration: Partner with other ERGs, business units, and leadership.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate milestones to maintain motivation.

Types of Employee Resource Groups

LGBTQ+ ERG

ERGs play a crucial role in fostering workplace inclusion by catering to the diverse needs and groups within an organization. These groups encompass a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Each serve as a unique platform for employees to come together and address specific concerns. Different ERG types hold a distinct significance. These groups not only hold importance to those who participate, but also contribute to a more understanding and holistic workplace environment.


Ethnic and Racial Groups

Ethnic and racial identity-focused ERGs play a pivotal role in fostering cultural understanding and inclusivity within the workplace. These groups provide a platform for employees who share cultural backgrounds to connect, share experiences, and educate their colleagues about their heritage. By promoting a greater understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by people of different backgrounds, these ERGs also help to break down stereotypes and biases


Gender and Women’s Groups

This type of ERG is instrumental in addressing issues related to gender equality in the workplace. One significant category of these ERGs is those dedicated to empowering women. These groups foster mentorship, skill-building, and leadership development programs that empower female employees. In doing so, they create an environment where women are valued, respected, and have the opportunities and support they need to thrive professionally.


LGBTQ+ Groups

LBGTQ+ types of employee resource groups

ERGs dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community are indispensable in fostering inclusivity and acceptance in the workplace. These groups provide a safe and affirming space for LGBTQ+ employees where they can connect, share experiences, and advocate for equality. Ultimately, LGBTQ+ ERGs promote a workplace culture where all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to be their authentic selves.


Veterans Groups

Veterans often bring a wealth of skills, discipline, and resilience gained from their service, to the workplace. These ERGs provide a sense of camaraderie and understanding, recognizing the distinctive challenges and sacrifices veterans have faced in their military careers. By doing so, they offer opportunities for other employees to learn from the unique experiences and perspectives of veterans.


Disabilities and Abilities Groups

ERGs dedicated to supporting employees with varying abilities are vital in promoting inclusivity and accessibility within the workplace. These groups serve as advocates for individuals with disabilities and work to ensure that the workplace is designed with accessibility in mind. In addition to programs designed for group members, these groups may also focus on company-wide education, awareness, and the promotion of a mindset that values diverse abilities.


Professional Development Groups

Professional Mentorship

These kinds of employee resource groups provide a supportive environment where members can access resources, mentorship, and training to enhance their skills and knowledge. They often organize networking events and help employees form valuable professional relationships. In doing so, these ERGs contribute to a more dynamic, skilled, and empowered workforce.


Parents and Caregivers Groups

ERGs designed for those managing caregiving or parenting responsibilities serve as a vital support system for employees balancing work and family life. These groups create a platform for members to share experiences, exchange advice, and access resources. In addition, these groups are particularly important in acknowledging the diverse and evolving needs of employees both professionally and personally.


Religious and Faith-Based Groups

Types of employee resource groups centered around religious beliefs and faith provide a unique space for employees to find spiritual understanding in the workplace. These groups recognize that faith is a fundamental aspect of many individuals’ lives and that it can influence their values, practices, and perspectives. By fostering a sense of community among those who share similar religious beliefs, these ERGs help create an inclusive environment that respects diverse faith traditions.


Cross-Cultural and Multicultural Groups

Multicultural types of employee resource groups

ERGs that bring together employees from diverse cultural backgrounds play a pivotal role in fostering mutual understanding and collaboration. These groups create a space where employees can celebrate and share their unique cultures, traditions, and perspectives. By doing so, they can help to break down stereotypes and biases – all while promoting empathy and cross-cultural awareness.


Mental Health and Well-Being Groups

These types of employee resource groups create an open and supportive environment where employees can discuss mental health challenges, access resources, and reduce stigma. By raising awareness and providing a platform for dialogue, these ERGs help employees navigate the complexities of mental health. Ultimately, this can lead to a more supportive and understanding workplace where employees feel comfortable prioritizing well-being.


Generational Groups

Generational group ERGs help to promote understanding and collaboration across different age groups within the workplace. These groups acknowledge that each generation brings a unique set of experiences, perspectives, and expectations to the table. Through open dialogue, they create opportunities for knowledge sharing, mentorship, and collaboration. In doing so, they contribute to a work environment where employees of all ages can contribute to the organization’s success.


Volunteer and Community Service Groups

ERGs with a focus on giving back to the community play a crucial role in facilitating volunteer opportunities within the workplace. By organizing volunteer and charitable initiatives, they enable employees to connect with one another, engage with the broader community, and make a positive impact outside of their regular work duties. These ERGs contribute to a workplace culture that values civic engagement and social responsibility.


How to Effectively Support the ERGs in Your Organization

Unexpected Virtual Tours and Training

In summary, offering a variety of types of Employee Resource Groups is a great way for companies to build a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Rising in need amongst today’s global workplace, ERGs are a must-have for companies! In this blog, we shared the evolution of ERGs, how to set up an effective group, and examples of employee resource groups to consider for your company. Plus, we outlined the key benefits you can gain upon starting and supporting ERGs at your own company!

For organizations looking to invest further in DEI initiatives, Unexpected Virtual Tours & Training is proud to offer a variety of top-rated DEI activities. Led by knowledgable and friendly live guides, our DEI training sessions immerse participants in learning, fun activities, collaborative exercises, and more. Loved by teams at Google, UPS, The Coca-Cola Company, and Salesforce, see why we have a 5-star rating on Google, with over 1,700 reviews!

For more ways to grow your company’s DEI culture, check out our guides for creating a Black Employee Resource Group, Pride ERG, or explore additional diversity and inclusion activities.

Reach out below to learn more and ask questions!