Since the first ERG was founded in the 1970s at Xerox, employee resource groups have been an excellent way for those from underrepresented backgrounds to get together and talk about the challenges they face in the workplace, work toward finding solutions, and connect with one another. When organizations develop ERGs, they benefit in numerous ways, including the ability to increase diversity hiring, overall retention, and employee satisfaction. As a result, ERGs can really boost your employer brand, however, it's important to keep in mind that they also come with certain challenges.
3 Challenges ERGs Face and How to Overcome Them
While ERGs do benefit organizations for numerous reasons, companies may encounter obstacles along the way. The following are some of the common challenges ERGs face and what you can do to overcome them.
1. Lack of Support
ERGs play a vital role in organizations, however, they don't always have the resources needed to run effectively. Employee resource groups sometimes get the short end of the budgetary stick and because of this, there may not be enough funds for them to run on a daily basis. Also, ERG leaders put in a great deal of time and effort keeping their groups together, but they may not be compensated for their time, which can lead to frustration and burnout as these volunteers juggle their regular work responsibilities with ERG activities.
Overcoming this challenge means making employee resource groups a priority, so organizations should specifically incorporate ERGs into their budgets to run and promote them. Put together leadership teams for ERGs that can handle budgeting, organizing events, and scheduling communications that let the whole organization know what groups are doing. This will go a long way toward increasing the visibility of your employee resource groups and ensuring that designated leaders receive the support they need, rather than having just one person scrambling to hold it all together alone.
2. Lack of Buy-Ins
This challenge is closely related to the lack of support because if there isn't a buy-in from leadership, ERG organizers may have a hard time securing the funding needed to get a group off the ground and maintain it. Leaders may not necessarily know enough about ERGs to feel motivated to give their seal of approval, so groups may be left floundering without executive commitment.
To address this challenge, ERG leaders need to make a business case for endorsing these groups. Let the leaders know how important employee resource groups can be when it comes to attracting and retaining great talent, especially if you're trying to increase early talent recruitment in your organization. If executives aren't quite sure of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, educate them on how DEIB benefits companies and employees alike. Provide statistics about the relationship between DEI and increased earnings, innovation, and overall employee satisfaction.
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Similarly, employee resource groups may have trouble getting a buy-in from workers at the organization. Although employees from underserved communities ultimately benefit from participating in an ERG, they may not know how becoming a member will impact their employee experience. Maybe they don't think this is a good use of their time during the workday. Maybe they don't think there will be any tangible benefits for their career. Maybe they’re even fearful of being retaliated against by management if they participate. Whatever the case, this can significantly limit membership and interest in the groups.
To address this issue, let employees know that their participation in an ERG is completely voluntary and, most importantly, confidential. Create a safe space where members can talk openly and honestly about what they're going through with the confidence of knowing what they've disclosed won't become fodder for the company grapevine. In addition, make sure that your ERG has specific goals that are communicated to current and prospective members regularly. This will allow workers to understand what they can really get out of participating in a group, so they can make an informed decision about joining.
3. Lack of Momentum
Sometimes an employee resource group will start off with a bang and end in a fizzle. Over time, members, and even leaders, of ERGs may lose their enthusiasm, or just become preoccupied with their day-to-day work. This can cause all the strides that the group has made to fade away until the ERG eventually disbands.
This problem can be solved by constantly keeping ERG members energized. Create measurable goals for the group to meet and provide regular progress reports to keep everyone focused and excited. Organize activities so members look forward to every meeting. Assign tasks to each member so they’re all invested in the success of their ERG.
ERGs can be a huge benefit to your company, but you should be aware of certain speed bumps that may slow down your journey. However, when you know what challenges employee resource groups may face and how to address them, you can better accomplish your goals and create a work environment that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.
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