Women in the workplace face some unique challenges, such as implicit bias and carrying a disproportionate load in balancing work and family. As women move up the ranks, there are increasingly fewer other women to talk with about how to solve these challenges.
Some companies set up Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to reduce the isolation among certain groups of employees. When ERGs are done well, they are an important avenue for employees to connect, share common experiences, discuss constructive ways to overcome challenges, and find support. Depending on the size of the company, ERGs may be very structured or somewhat organic and informal. When the intent is engagement and inclusion, ERGs can be very successful.
Here are three ways Employee Resource Groups are beneficial:
1. ERGs improve retention.
One key reason employees leave companies is because they feel disconnected. The desire for relationship is innate, so building genuine relationships with coworkers is important for retention. ERGs give employees a place to feel connected, heard, and understood by investing in one another. Building workplace friendships increases teamwork, morale, knowledge-sharing, and open communication.
2. ERGs engage employees.
Strengths of minority employees can go unnoticed when employees are disengaged due to isolation. ERGs cut across functional and departmental lines, providing opportunities to share experiences in a highly interactive way. When employees feel connected and their strengths are recognized, engagement goes up. When employees are engaged, they are more productive, more satisfied at work, and increase their confidence level.
3. ERGs nurture talent.
Women are less likely to receive executive sponsorship. ERGs provide professional development and guidance for members, an opportunity that could otherwise be unavailable for women. Structured ERGs provide training and resources to members who may not be getting that level of guidance from their direct supervisor. As an extra bonus, when senior level managers participate in ERGs it essentially scales their potential to act as an executive sponsor to a greater number of individuals. Outstanding participants in the ERG are likely to get noticed by senior managers, who may in turn take a special interest in helping them fast-track their career.
Reducing isolation among minority groups is key to engaging, retaining, and developing the top talent among them. ERGs, when done well, can be a great way to make sure talented employees stay connected and get the development training they deserve. When focused on engagement and inclusion, ERGs can really make a positive difference.