On December 14, we had our third Employee Resource Group-focused event. Marsha Druker, Field Marketing Manager, was the moderator for the event. She was joined by Rani Mani, Head of Employee Advocacy at Adobe; Abbie Szabo, DEI Program Specialist at Unqork; and Beth Weisendanger, Sr. Manager, ERG Programs - Diversity & Inclusion at Etsy.
The panelists shared details on the ERG programs that they are currently running, their views on the impact of employee resource groups, creating an ERG strategy, and their thoughts on the future of employee resource groups in an increasingly digital-first environment.
Abbie explained that ERGs are referred to as ERSGs, or Employee Resource Strategy Groups, at Unqork. They have a total of nine programs running, and the list includes Black employees, Veterans, Latinx employees, and Accessibility and Mental Health.
At Etsy, there are 10 employee resource groups running. These include Asian at Etsy, Parents at Etsy, Jetsy (Jewish at Etsy), and a mental health group. Beth explained that in her role, she assists with the administrative, budgetary, and logistical aspects of the programs so leaders can focus on impact–both internally and externally.
At Adobe, there are currently eight ERGs. There’s a great deal of overlap between their groups and the groups at Beth and Abbie’s organizations. Rani spoke about holding space and encouraging conversations on issues as they arise, and these sorts of events include partnerships with licensed counsellors.
There is also a great deal of focus on career advancement programs, with the purpose of highlighting representation within Adobe, and providing the tools needed to properly recruit from certain communities and ensure intentional advancement.
The aim of ERGs is to create a positive and inclusive workplace culture. They should be used to amplify diverse voices, strengthen social connections, build organizations from end-to-end, and increase equitable opportunities.
The benefits of joining? You find your people, gain access to career and professional development opportunities, and have a more fulfilling and inclusive experience at work.
From the perspective of an organization, employee resource groups provide a direct line of communication to underrepresented groups, and present the opportunity to take action on feedback and make progress towards further inclusion.
Any strategy around employee resource groups must be integral to your company’s DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) strategy. In order to decide the purpose and policy behind how ERGs operate and contribute to company growth, leaders need to start with how they structure their teams.
Companies should be prepared to fund employee resource groups where possible, and encourage the support of executive sponsors that can use their network to broaden ERG impact. When figuring out the budget, it’s important for companies to factor in funding for paying ERG leaders; there can be extra compensation, bonuses, etc.
Rani believes that ERG leaders should empower all group members to be a part of marketing efforts, as they are the most trusted advocates and voices within the organization. As well, conversations and sharing about employee resource groups with everyone’s diverse networks should also be encouraged.
The first step towards ERG success is determining the structure, and having a defined idea of what roles on the leadership team should look like.
Next, secure an executive sponsor. They have an impact on the organizational calendars, can be liaisons for change, and get a ground level view of people’s feelings.
Lastly, craft a mission statement that uses inclusive language and serves as a reminder to everyone of the potential impact. Grow your group in a grassroots way, allow everyone to have input, and find someone external to support the group in budgets and general facilitation.
The panelists outlined a few ways to measure ERG success. For Rani, she says it’s all about capturing relevant data. Beyond looking at things like event attendance and attendee sentiment following events, it’s important to consider things like NPS to gauge overall employee engagement. People want to join companies that exhibit a sense of belonging among their current employees.
“Engagement begets retention.” - Rani Mani, Head of Employee Advocacy at Adobe
Beth also believes that retention is important to look at. In light of The Great Resignation, she hopes that there will be a shift towards inspiring people to stay, rather than just thinking about how to prevent loss in the short term. She encourages organizations to ask the hard questions in employee engagement surveys, and see how responses compare between members of ERGs and non-members.
At Unqork, Abbie and her team have key performance indicators for management that are bucketed into three categories: recruiting/retention, growth/development, and engagement/branding. All of these factor into managerial performance reviews.
For each category, there are questions asked like:
All three of our panelists had a few ideas about how employee resource groups can work well together.
Here are some of the ideas mentioned:
Inherently, ERGs exist to bring like-minded people that share similar interests and/or characteristics together, but it’s rare that you just fall into one group. For example, you may be a woman, a parent, and a person of color all at once. Why should you be limited to only providing one perspective?
With the rise of remote and hybrid workplace models, Abbie envisions a global network for ERGs to emerge. It would essentially be a forum in celebration of the work being done, a way for ERG leaders to lend support to one another, and a network for promoting collaboration.
For Rani, the hope is for employee resource groups to be supported at all company levels versus feeling more grassroots, or likely the responsibility should only fall on a few individuals. If the company cares and some form of employee payout is attached for the work being done, she believes ERGs can only improve.
Beth is in full support of remote-first models staying, especially in regards to accessibility. However, as companies consider moving towards a hybrid working model, they need to ensure that experiences are equitable.