Employee resource groups
(ERGs)—also known as business resource groups (BRGs), employee networks,
etc.—are designed in part to support a more diverse and inclusive workplace,
enhance engagement, and strengthen the culture of their organizations. ERGs
also offer participants an opportunity to work closely with peers and
colleagues to expand their professional networks.
That quote opened i4cp’s The
Untapped Power of Employee Resource Groups. The study was
published two years ago but has never resonated more strongly than it does
Why? Because the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged employers
to muster every resource available to them in their efforts to ramp up mental
health support for their workforces and to ensure that their organizational
cultures remain tangible and unifying forces during the health crisis. ERGs
have responded to those needs and others, too.
For many organizations, employee groups quickly became go-to
sources for help with employee communications and in maintaining connections in
turbulent times. In March of this year, as companies were still scrambling to
rearrange work and workers, an i4cp
poll discovered that ERGs were already proving their value in multiple
When the aftermath of the death of George Floyd (and those
of too many other people of color) turned attention to racial inequities, ERGs
stepped up again, making it their missions to rally and sustain their members,
while advising and helping to guide employers and their workforces toward
constructive and positive actions and interactions.
A June 2020 i4cp survey on Organizational Action on
Racial Equity found nine out of 10 large companies taking some kind of
action on racial equity, and almost half (46%) reported that they were tapping
into one or more ERGs, asking for the groups’ participation in developing
The evolving roles of ERGs continue to be evident not only
in the quantitative data, but also in the strategies and actions shared by
participants in weekly Action Calls i4cp has hosted since the onset of the
pandemic. For example:
- In a West Coast pharmaceutical firm, ERGs work
to provide useful resources and support for working parents.
- Another West Coast company’s ERG for working
parents was active before the pandemic with an internal communications channel
where members connected. When COVID-19 hit, the group mobilized to spread word
of local school and daycare closings. Leaders in all organizational ERGs
escalated issues to the company CEO and his direct reports and drove
communication from the CHRO about policies and support for employees.
- In other organizations groups send newsletters
with resources for employees and their families; sponsor virtual hangouts and
panels to maintain workforce engagement; spearhead such events as spirit weeks,
talent shows, or book clubs; and spotlight employees’ family members on the
frontlines—medical workers or those in military service.
- Another organization’s African American BRG
secured a professor to speak about racial inequities and social system
structures in an hour-long webinar that attracted more than 1,000 employees.
The event was recorded for wider distribution across the company and for those
unable to attend the live version.
Those few data points and examples demonstrate just a few of
the ways employee resource groups are contributing vital support to
organizations and their workforces. And each week as the health crisis unfolds,
companies share more innovative interventions that signal the continuously
evolving and powerful roles ERGs are taking on or expanding.
For more information on the unique ways organizations are
leveraging their ERGs and other internal resources to respond constructively to
the health crisis and social unrest, visit i4cp’s Employer Resource Center.