There was a time when diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) were just buzzwords that organizations added to their profiles. But now, they’ve become essential pillars of successful organizations.
The focus on DEI initiatives paved the way for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to be born. These groups have become powerful drivers of change especially in creating safe workplaces that embrace diversity, equity and inclusion.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what these groups are all about and how some organizations have set the standards in implementing these initiatives.
What are Employee Resource Groups?
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led organizations within a company or organization that bring together individuals who share common characteristics, backgrounds, or interests.
Since they were introduced into workplaces all over the globe, they’ve been uniting individuals with shared identities, experiences, and interests within the workplace. These groups play a crucial role in fostering inclusivity, breaking down barriers, and empowering employees to be their authentic selves.
But ERGs don’t just cater to DEI-related activities. In fact, these groups can be classified under four categories:
- Diversity, Equity & Inclusion ERGs: These groups are formed to help make an organization more diverse and inclusive in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and disability.
- Volunteer ERGs: These groups empower employees to give back to the community by volunteering for different causes that align with the organization’s values.
- Affinity ERGs: These groups bring together team members who share the same interests and hobbies.
- Professional Development ERGs: These groups give team members additional opportunities to advance in their field through networking activities, mentorship programs, and the like.
The specific goals and activities of ERGs can vary widely from one organization to another. While some ERGs may be more common than others, there may be unique opportunities depending on the needs of the organization and its team members.
Employee Resource Group Examples
Employee Resource Groups have emerged as the heartbeats of change and inclusivity, with their influence making a meaningful impact not only on their members but also on the communities they touch.
It’s more than just bringing like-minded people together to bust the usual workplace stereotypes. It’s about building a workplace that shows everyone’s potential regardless of appearance, lineage, beliefs, and demographics.
As more organizations become home to various ERGs, we hear more stories that are a testament to the transformative power of unity and the ripple effect it creates in the world around us. Here are some of those examples:
1. Google’s Women Techmakers
Women Techmakers has become a safe space for women in tech where they can have the visibility, resources, and support they need to thrive. They now have 81,000 members and have organized 605 events. Their channel, Women Techmakers Spotlight, has become a powerful source of inspiring stories shared by women who have made their mark in the industry.
2. Black@ Airbnb
Black@ has been making quite an impact for black employees and allies not just in Airbnb, but for those within the tech community. Among their biggest contributions is the ERG Manual they released in 2022 as part of their Black History Month initiatives.
3. Microsoft Disability ERG
Microsoft has been making a difference in the lives of high school seniors with disabilities who aim to have future careers in the tech industry. The Microsoft Disability Scholarship grants $5,000 to applicants who meet the criteria, and each awardee have the opportunity to receive the same amount for up to 4 consecutive years.
4. Warriors at Amazon
Warriors at Amazon is made up of former military personnel and their families. With branches all over the globe, the group has been helping veterans transition into civilian life by training them in cloud computing and giving them jobs. The group also hosts donation drives and other similar initiatives.
5. Ampersand’s Culture Council
TV advertising sales and technology company Ampersand created their own Culture Council, which aims to spread awareness about diversity, equity and inclusion in the corporate environment. This stays true to Ampersand’s mission of creating a second home for all their team members.
Appian is not just making waves in the AI process automation circle; they’re also making their mark when it comes to their employees’ health and wellness. Their ERG AppianWellness holds meditation groups, digital detox sessions, mental health workshops, and other activities that support their employees’ physical and mental health.
#WomenofBanfield is an ERG from Banfield Pet Hospital that’s committed to making the world a better place for pets. The group works toward their mission by providing every possible resource and support to their associates.
8. GE Women’s Network
The GE Women’s Network was formed in 1997 to celebrate women in the tech field. Part of their mission is to develop their members’ skills, widen their professional networks, and open more leadership opportunities for them.
9. Guidewire’s ABLE
Guidewire belongs to the property and casualty insurance space. While the organization helps protect their clients, they also protect their own people through ERGs like ABLE. ABLE aims to provide a safe space for employees with mental health concerns and disabilities. They hold events and other intiatives that seek to educate their team members about disability inclusion and create a healthier work environment within their offices.
10. JP Morgan Chases’s Adelante
At financial giant JP Morgan Chase, they have a number of Business Resource Groups (BRGs) that empower team members to be their authentic selves by giving them a platform to share their unique perspectives. One example of the firm’s BRG is Adelante, a group for Hispanic and Latino team members where they can create even more growth opportunities by showcasing the unique skills they developed through their culture and the community around them.
11. 3M’s A3TION
3M is yet another company that has numerous ERGs. Among the most active groups is A3CTION, which stands for Asians and Asian-Americans Coming Together for Innovation and Opportunity Network. They help members widen their professional networks and provide a haven for Asians and Asian Americans to discuss and provide solutions to relevant issues in their communities.
12. nCino’s Diaspora
Diaspora is the first affinity group founded in nCino, the cloud banking expert. Although the group’s mission focuses on the needs of the Black community, which means they cater not just to African Americans, but also to team members from the Caribbean, those who belong to the Afro-Latinx demographic, and everyone from the wide African diaspora. They are involved in programs like Genesis Block, which supports local small businesses and encourage collaboration within the community, as well the the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.
13. Fannie Mae’s Christian Salt and Light
Mortgage Financer Fannie Mae acknowledges that every team member has the right to work based on their faith and beliefs. One of Fannie Mae’s ERGs that correspond to this is the Christian Salt and Light group, which empowers members to apply their Christian principles to be their best selves at work.
14. Walmart’s APAN
The Asian Pacific Associates Network at Walmart connects the community with the culture and heritage unique to Asians and Pacific Islanders. As a group, they have successfully and continue to increase the presence of Asian products in their stores. They also spearhead the annual in-store celebration of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Month every May.
15. FedEx’s Men Leading Inclusicely (MLI)
Men Leading Inclusively (MLI) is a FedEx ERG that helps educate men in the workplace on how they can help create a more inclusive environment. The group encourages more collaborations between men and women so that they can have a healthy work environment where everyone can take the lead and become instruments of change regardless of gender.
Creating Unique Communication Channels for Your ERGs
Establishing distinct communication channels for ERGs not only enhances their effectiveness but also demonstrates an organization's commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion. Effective communication is the backbone of any ERG initiative, which means you have to choose your tools well.
Unique communication channels ensure that ERG members have a dedicated space to connect, collaborate, and share information related to their specific interests and experiences. This tailored communication fosters a sense of belonging and support, helping ERG members feel valued and heard within the organization.
These channels also enable ERGs to effectively organize events, initiatives, and campaigns that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. These channels serve as hubs for planning and coordination, ensuring that ERGs can execute their objectives efficiently.
CoffeePals as a Tool for Your ERGs
If you’re on Microsoft Teams, CoffeePals is one of the best tools to use to make your ERGs more engaging, more effective, and more fun! We may be a virtual coffee platform, but we can do so much more than just pair you up with a coffee buddy.
Create safe spaces for meaningful conversations
Use CoffeePals to pair up team members so that they can step away from the usual workflow and start having conversations with different people. You can pair up people within the same team, or have them meet up with random people from the organization.
These random conversations over a cup of coffee help people talk about things they don’t normally discuss at work – like their unique culture, the challenges they face, and what they want people to know about them. It’s the perfect way to spread the word about diversity, equity and inclusion in a way that doesn’t feel formal or forced.
Engage the group with thought-provoking discussions
Get all the members of your ERG into a single team and let them enjoy Coffee Maker questions. It’s a great way for everyone to voice out their thoughts and opinions and hear other perspectives as well.
When Coffee Maker is enabled, a bot sends a random thought-provoking question twice a week to the team channel. It’s fascinating to see different perspectives merge into a single discussion, showing what diversity and inclusion really is about.
Include leaders and managers
Every initiative in the workplace won’t be as successful without the support of the leadership team. Seeing managers and even the CEO join the fun is the best way to prove that the organization’s DEI activities are not just a box to tick off – it’s a part of the company’s mission and values that the leadership openly embraces.
CoffeePals was built for these opportunities. The Coffee Lottery feature allows lucky individuals and teams to have a virtual coffee chat with the CEO, their managers, and other key players in the organization. It’s a great way to let leaders hear stories from team members and the challenges they face regularly. Team members will also find it easier to strive for better performance knowing that this is an organization that gives them a platform to be heard.
Sometimes, fostering a sense of connection and camaraderie within and outside ERGs can be a challenge. But innovative solutions like CoffeePals are rewriting the script. By virtually recreating the coffee break experience and bringing ERG members together from different corners of the organization, CoffeePals injects a dose of fun and engagement into these groups.
It’s reassuring to know that even in the virtual realm, our shared experiences, interests, and passions can continue to flourish, making our workplaces not just more inclusive, but also more enjoyable.
If you’re ready to explore the possibilities that CoffeePals can present to your ERG, sign up for a free trial now.