Category: Networking

Women’s Resource Groups

There used to be lots of debate about the effectiveness of employee resource groups (ERGs.) These days, most HR experts and business analysts agree that ERGs, when managed correctly, have a positive net effect on the enterprise.

What exactly is an ERG? It’s a group of employees who meet in the workplace based on shared life experiences. The goal is to build their network, share experiences, exchange resources, and support each other. Oftentimes the ERG is comprised of employees who represent a minority within the enterprise: women, people of color, Latino/a, and LBGTQ. An impressive 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs.

photo credit Erin Tunnell

No doubt that employees who are part of a well-managed ERG find value in the meetings. The overall organization benefits, too. As employees in under-represented groups find a sense of inclusion, belonging, and value, they are more likely to stay with the company and some will pursue leadership roles within the organization. According to the 2018 McKinsey study “Delivering through Diversity,” companies with diverse leadership are better able to:

  • Attract top talent
  • Improve customer orientation
  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Make better decisions

ERGs are not just for the Fortune 500, either. In fact, in small to mid-size companies, an ERG can be launched very quickly. All it may require is a conversation with the CEO, HR, and an outline of why/when/where/how/who. In larger organizations it can take a little more time. Generally speaking, the larger the company, the more likely you are to need a clear charter, schedule, budget, executive sponsorship, and answers for legal counsel regarding risk management.

One sticky question is whether or not the meetings should be open to those who are not part of the group. Operating from a standpoint of inclusiveness, our opinion is a resounding YES. It’s important for all employees to feel they can participate in the discussions, benefit from training, and lend their own opinions. In groups where the meetings are closed, suspicion generally runs high.

If you are thinking of starting an ERG, one of the best things you can do is consult with others who have started down that path.

Momentum hosts quarterly meetings called the Women’s Resource Group Exchange. During these meetings, representatives from a diverse group of companies gather to share their experiences and resources. If interested in attending,  email us for more information. ERGs require some effort to do well, but the pay-off for both employees and the enterprise can be big.

 

Building Social Capital

We all have days when work feels overwhelming and we may not take the time to speak to a coworker in the parking lot or put away the mobile phone at the coffee machine. Yet, it is opportunities like these to engage with others, even on a surface level, that build social capital.
While some relationships with coworkers form naturally, others need time and attention to grow. It may feel awkward to strike up a conversation with someone who works in a different department or is much higher (or lower) in the hierarchy. Simply opening a conversation with a comment about the coffee, the weather, or the new landscaping outside is a good start. If time permits, ask what your coworker is working on today. We don’t have to have an agenda driving every conversation, we just need to take the time to build that social capital. Here are a few good reminders:
  1. Be energetic without being over-eager.

  2. Ask questions that genuinely interest you, and really listen to the answer.

  3. Attitude and emotions are contagious, so check yours before you engage.

  4. Stay optimistic. Even if your coworker is complaining, don’t add to their load. Be part of the solution.

CEO and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan has an insightful and entertaining TED Talk on social capital that is well worth the watch. She explains that companies who encourage interaction between teams produce better results. At the end of the day, people need people and we never know what we can do for someone else or where that relationship could take us. Investing in social capital may be the very best thing we can do to make work meaningful.

Contributing writer Holly Moore

Power of Professional Networks

Having a strong professional network is important for every professional, and especially important for women. Because of unconscious bias in the workplace, women often have to work longer or harder than their male peers to get the same level of recognition. Since women still carry more of the burden of household management than men, including childcare, there is precious little time leftover for networking or career-related events that happen after hours. Yet women really benefit from sharing ideas and experiences with professionals inside and outside of their office walls.

There are plenty of tips and articles on where to find people, how and when to connect to them and even what you need to say to attract and maintain your network. With limited time to spend networking, we encourage women to really be intentional about who is in their professional network. When you only have a few hours a month to spend with your network, quality over quantity is the name of the game. Here are three good places to look.

  1. Industry groups – find out who the leaders in your industry are and add them to your network. If they are local, ask for a meeting to discuss a certain topic or current event. If they are out of town, connect on LinkedIn, invite them to be on a webcast/contribute to a blog, or set up a phone call. Examples of industry: healthcare, manufacturing, interior design, restaurant management.
  2. Peer groups – identify a few people you admire who share your role, but are in a different industry. Sharing experiences and approaches across industries sparks innovation. It can also save time when you can reuse someone else’s approach to a marketing campaign or business practice in your own industry. Examples of peer groups: finance executives, B2B marketing, customer service management, advertising executives.
  3. Adjacent groups – similar to industry groups, adjacent groups are industry groups that are closely aligned with your own. Connecting with leaders in adjacent groups can help identify trends that may affect your own industry. Examples of adjacent group: civic group and nonprofit charity, private and commercial real estate, private and public education, banking and finance, software development and product manufacturing.

We’ll be talking about how to build meaningful relationships for effective networking within these groups during our networking breakout session at the upcoming Momentum conference. Check back for more blog posts on this topic in the spring.