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Employee Resource Group (ERG) – Meaning, Purpose, Types and Examples

Last Updated : 19 Mar, 2024
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What is an Employee Resource Group (ERG)?

Employee Resource Groups are voluntary groups employees lead to encourage a more inclusive work environment. Usually, a common characteristic binds the group, be it gender, ethnicity, religion, professional interest, community concern, etc. The central aim of this initiation is to provide a safe space for people and address concerns of personal and professional development by providing support. Besides the group members, sometimes allies join the group intending to support their colleagues. The importance of the ERGs is evident from the number of companies where these groups are prevalent.

As listed by McKinsey and Company, 90% of Fortune 500 companies have Employee Resource Groups in their organizations.


Geeky Takeaways:

  • Employee Resource Groups are employee-led groups that encourage a more welcoming and inclusive work environment for all employees.
  • They are formed to enhance work conditions, enhance physical accessibility, promote equal opportunities, reduce toxicity, and handle company challenges better.
  • The different types of ERGs are based on identity, interest, career, well-being, and volunteerism.
  • Employees must join Employee Resource Groups to benefit from enhanced belongingness, better growth, better accountability, meaningful relationships, and increased morale.

Purpose of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

A company can only achieve limited progress if the employees are not wholeheartedly invested in the company and for that, they need to feel heard, valued, secure, and accepted. The purpose of ERGs covers the following,

1. Enhanced Work Conditions: The primary goal of ERGs is to provide better working conditions, especially for people who otherwise feel alienated. The group members make the employees feel connected with the rest through common interests.

2. Enhancing Physical Accessibility: The purpose of the groups is to ensure that the workspace is physically comfortable for employees. This includes things such as having gender-neutral washrooms and wheelchair-accessible areas.

3. Promote Equal Opportunities and Communication: The group is made to have a safe space for employees to talk about their experiences. They also ensure that no employee is being discriminated against for promotions based on their identity.

4. Reducing the Scope of Toxicity: When people fight against problems together, then the changes of suppressed frustration due to toxicity decrease. Employees know that their colleagues are with them and will help in resolving issues if needed.

5. Handling Company Challenges: Lastly, another reason behind the formulation of these groups is to ensure that the company leaders are in the know of the issues that are troubling certain employees or groups.

Types of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

The Employee Resource Groups are formulated by different people having similar interests coming together. As a result, there are different types of ERGs. Some of the most common ERGs you will usually come across are,

1. Affinity Groups or Identity-Based ERGs: These groups are based on different employee identities such as gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, and demographic characteristics. By forming groups, the members feel included. This enhances their sense of belonging manifold.

2. Interest-Based ERGs: People sharing the same interests come together to form an interest-based ERG. The interest can be a hobby, something they are passionate about, or a type of change they want to bring to the organization. For example, there can be an interest-based group where a certain section of the organization is passionate about moving toward sustainable solutions.

3. Career-Focused ERGs: Not all ERG groups are focused on enhancing representation or catering to interests. This is a common type of ERG which is more professional than social. Here people sharing a similar career path join hands to create a strong network and share career opportunities, mentorship opportunities, latest technological education, leading industry trends, etc.

4. Well-Being-Focused ERG: This type of ERG is gaining popularity with increasing sensitivity toward employee mental health. They do not focus on social or professional grounds but solely on personal grounds of mental well-being. They provide a safe place and support to employees struggling with mental health.

5. Volunteer-Based ERG: Lastly, we have ERG groups based on the idea of serving the community. People coming together under this category are passionate about giving back to the community. They support charities and donations to not only improve the image of the organization but also to build connections outside of work.

Why should HR Leaders care about Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)?

1. Increased Employee Satisfaction: The role of HR in any organization is to ensure the well-being of all employees and to make them feel included and heard. This is precisely the exercise promoted by ERGs.

2. Reduced Employee Turnover: With increased employee satisfaction comes reduced employee turnover. As a result, these groups ultimately work in favor of the HR managers.

3. Reduced Challenges: With different groups addressing common issues faced by people coming from a certain background, the overall challenges get reduced.

Why should People join an Employee Resource Group (ERG)?

Different reasons necessitate joining ERGs since the advantages accrued from these groups are unlimited. Irrespective of the past experiences and interests of an employee, these groups provide a welcoming space to all. It heightens their sense of community and brings them closer to the organization, all this while addressing the issues that concern them. Some of the key reasons why employees should join an Employee Resource Group include,

1. Enhanced Belongingness: Joining an ERG heightens the sense of belongingness and community which is highly important for feeling one with the company.

2. Better Growth: By joining an ERG group based on their interest, the employees can further their growth as a part of the company.

3. Better Accountability: Additionally, it also ensures that all their needs would be addressed and they would never have to fight their battles alone.

4. Meaningful Relationships: Joining Employee Resource Groups assists people in building meaningful relationships with their colleagues in the long run.

5. Increase Morale and Satisfaction: Being a part of the ERGs helps boost employee morale and also increases their sense of satisfaction working at the company.

How can you start an Employee Resource Group (ERG) Program at your Company?

1. Survey the Requirements: The first step in the process is to survey and analyze the interest requirements of your company and discuss your idea with the Human Resources manager.

2. Determine the Goal: The next step is to chart out your ERG group mission and goals. It is crucial to have these guidelines at the beginning to share a common goal and have a clear perspective.

3. Executive Sponsorship: Find a persuasive voice for your group by choosing a greatly impactful person. Onboarding an impactful senior leader can greatly assist you.

4. Recruit Members: Once the requirements, goal, and speaker voice are in place, now it is time to recruit group members for your ERG who foster a similar interest.

5. Schedule a Meeting: Lastly, schedule a meeting to get started and plan the course of your group.

Real-world examples of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

1. Ernst & Young (EY): It is a global organization that has a range of ERG groups catering to the interests of different people. These include the Black Professional Network, Professional Women’s Network, Unity – the EY LGBT+ Network, Latinx Professional Network, etc. They have over 30,000 employees participating in 9 different ERGs.

2. Microsoft: A renowned company, Microsoft has an ERG called W@M that is led and directed by women to promote their presence in the technology world. They aim to bridge the gender gap in technology-specific roles by providing scholarships, networking, and skill development opportunities to women.

3. Qualcomm: A wireless technology company, Qualcomm houses 8 ERGs catering to varied interests namely AbilityQ, Women, Equality, U2Q, etc.

4. AT&T: This is another renowned company that has a total of 26 ERGs with 88,600 active members. Some of their groups are Black Integrated Communications Professionals [BCIP], HACEMOS representing Hispanic/Latino employee association, Women of AT&T, LEAGUE at AT&T for LGBTQ association, etc.

How can an Employee Resource Group (ERG) Improve Company Culture?

ERGs greatly assist in improving the company culture. They add value to the employee experience and make them feel seen and heard. Together the benefits derived from ERGs prove highly beneficial in adding to the company culture and showcasing it as a welcoming space to new employees. Some of the proven ways in which ERGs contribute to the company culture are,

1. Increased Collaboration: A company’s functioning is strengthened only when people from different walks of life come together and work collaboratively on projects. ERGs are an excellent means to bring different employees together and help them connect.

2. Better Cross-team Relationships: ERGs promote cross-team relationships that enhance productivity and innovation in the organization.

3. Better Behavior and Values: When the employees feel they are part of a team, the company culture begins to get better. It enhances their shared values and promotes better behavior towards the company and each other.

4. Positive Work Environment: Another way ERGs add to the company culture is by promoting a positive work environment. The employees develop a positive work attitude, leading to an enhanced work environment.

5. More Ideas and Perspectives: Another way these groups prove beneficial is by making way for diverse ideas and perspectives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Why do we need ERGs?


ERGs help employees sharing similar interests come together and form a community for their advancement, be it based on identity, professional interest, or community values.

2. What do we need for a successful ERG?


The success of an ERG is determined by how well the community caters to the interests of the group members. Further, ample resources and infrastructure are also needed to ensure success.

3. What resources are needed by ERGs?


While the specific targets and resources needed by different ERGs vary, all of them need executive sponsorship and organizational support to progress.

4. Who leads the ERGs?


ERGs are employee-led groups where the members collectively choose the leaders. It is the responsibility of the leaders to run the group accepting inputs from all group members.

5. What are the different types of ERGs?

ERGs are formulated on a shared common interest which can be based on the identity, interest, volunteering, career, or well-being of the employees.

6. What is the duty of an ERG?


An ERG must provide a safe space for employees where they can collaborate and work together toward achieving common goals.

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