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How ERGs Are Helping Business Leaders Improve Their Wellness Plans

Business leaders throughout the country are grappling with a unique crisis. The pandemic forced millions of Americans out of work, but when it was time to restart the economy and get life back to normal a lot of employees had a different plan. Many folks decided they either wanted to leave their current employment or not return to jobs they had been furloughed from. 

This left many employers scratching their heads and grasping at straws in order to keep a fickle workforce from leaving. Hiring bonuses and other innovative incentives started to take root in companies that could afford to. But another interesting trend that has many business leaders and HR professionals excited is the Employee Resource Group — otherwise known as an ERG. 

An ERG is an employee-led group that consists of employees who all share common or lived experiences. For example, there can be a parent-focused ERG or a Latinx/Hispanic ERG. These groups are meant to foster a sense of belonging in the company culture and have shown promising results in building a more empathetic, productive, and profitable culture. 

ERGs only work as well as the folks who participate, so it’s important to get employee buy-in. An ERG should not operate as a clique or an exclusive group, rather it should give team members a safe space to brainstorm new ideas, talk about workplace culture, discuss concerns, and connect with their fellow colleagues. 

Opponents of ERGs say that simply implementing an employee resource group program isn’t enough. Folks, particularly those not in an ERG, may have an inadequate perception that the company is doing enough when it comes to diversity and inclusion. And perception isn’t actually reality. Opponents agree that when given clear direction and purpose, ERGs can be a successful endeavor for everyone. However, they warn that just because an ERG has been implemented, doesn’t mean the work of employee wellness and inclusion is complete. 

So how do you implement an ERG program that benefits both the company and the employees inside it? Here are some ways in which ERGs are improving employee wellness plans and how to properly implement a successful plan forward. 

Are Employee Resource Groups Effective? 

Before deciding whether or not to implement an ERG program in your company, it’s important to know why you’re doing it. If you’re aiming to increase cultural competency and company culture then it’s a great start. But investing in the ERG program from the top-down is crucial in having an effective ERG. 

According to Great Place to Work, ERGs have shown incredible results for employees’ sense of belonging, retainment, and recruitment. As well as building long-term relationships and trust among employees in the company. 

ERGs are have been known to: 

  • Improve working conditions for employees who may feel alienated or a part of a marginalized group within the company. 
  • Connect remote workers and remote-based staffed to their colleagues and build trust and long working relationships. 
  • Make the physical office and in-person workplace accessible and welcoming to everyone. This could include gender-neutral bathrooms or ADA accessibility. 
  • Foster leadership and identify potential growth opportunities for team members. 
  • Address and solve complicated company-wide issues
  • Create community and lower the chances of resentment and pent-up frustrations with company policies or procedures. This can prevent a toxic work environment.

How To Start an ERG Program

Get leadership on board.

If there’s buy-in from your employees, but little investment in resources from leadership, then it’s likely your ERG program won’t thrive. You’ll have to create a sustainable ERG program that works both from the top-down and the bottom-up. Junior and mid-level employees will know if there isn’t leadership buy-in. So the first step in starting a successful program is preparing, planning, and investing in its success. 

Because you don’t want to be exclusionary, invite all employees to the ERGs either as a person who identifies with that group, or someone who is looking to become an ally or co-conspirator. 

Listen and be data-informed.

Talk to your employees. Ask them what they’d like to see most in an ERG. Or ask them what is currently lacking in the company culture. How can things improve through small groups? Take an assessment of where your workforce is currently at and then make a plan based on that data. 

Create a budget and secure funding.

First you’ll have to make a realistic budget, then you’ll need to secure funding. If you’re able, assign or hire someone on the HR team to manage the employee resource group program. This doesn’t mean they run the groups, but it could mean providing resources for group leaders, managing the budgets of each group, and helping figure out the logistics of when and how often they occur. 

Get the word out. 

If you’re a larger company, then you’ll likely have some sort of internal communication plan. Add the beginning of an ERG program to your list. Reach all of your employees and invite them to join or lead an ERG they’re passionate about.

Be patient. 

It’s okay if it doesn’t grow rapidly right away Building relationships and community building doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about consistency and commitment to the ERG. If you’re truly invested in its success, then employees and your team will understand that. Patience and listening will help you refine the program and have something that truly improves the relationships and culture within your company.