Advancing your career and finding the right employer and position fit doesn’t have to be complicated. There are things you can do each day to advance toward your dream job and thrive at work. The following article is part of a 5 Ways Series that offers resources and tips on leadership and career advancement you can use.
How can your organization increase its potential for bottom-line growth? Leverage your employee resource groups (ERGs) for improved talent development and innovative go-to market strategies.
ERGs are crucial to business success with multicultural communities. When used effectively, they increase diversity in recruitment and promotions as well as improve overall employee engagement. Resource groups are also used increasingly to reach customers, clients and vendors and to help in product development.
Here are five ways companies can set up and use ERGs:
1. Ensure they are structured, sponsored by an executive, given goals and utilized for two primary purposes: business ideas and recruiting.
This is particularly true with a company that has a younger demographic of employees. Younger people are more diverse in the U.S. — that means there is naturally more diversity in junior levels (because younger people tend to be more junior) than there is at the top levels in most corporations. Smart companies realize that this is an asset.
2. Facilitate improved and more diverse recruitment through ERGs.
ERGs are not just about employees getting together into group based on demographics, position in the company or interests. ERGs can take a strong position in the community and work as a recruiter for top talent.
For example, General Motors (No. 30 on DiversityInc’s 2020 Top Companies for Diversity List) has been a longtime supporter of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The company sought to further increase its brand with UNCF and increase funding for underrepresented scholars. GM started by having an ERG executive champion the annual UNCF walk campaign. All of GM’s African Ancestry Network’s (GMAAN) ERG Leadership Board, along with hundreds of ERG members and allies, supported the program. In 2016, GMAAN’s efforts raised $362,809 for underrepresented scholars, a 4.9 percent increase over the prior year, improving GM’s image and brand in the community.
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3. Be creative in thinking about diverse objectives and uses, from product development to market testing to product sales.
Since ERGs are typically divided into a myriad of different groups, they can be used to test out new products and sales techniques before being used externally. Comcast NBCUniversal (No. 7 on DiversityInc’s 2020 Top Companies for Diversity List) did this effectively when its Hispanic ERG, Unidos, partnered with internal development teams to test the Spanish language version of the X1 Voice Remote. The ERG assisted in populating a database of available voice commands, enabling Comcast’s Spanish-dominant customers to easily navigate its X1 set top box guide and find programming in their preferred language. The collaboration resulted in and continues to be a huge general market success.
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4. Find ways to facilitate operating them in tandem.
Diversity and inclusion councils are typically a group of employees, including senior leadership, that acts on behalf of the company to improve and manage the diversity and inclusion process. The best councils successfully integrate the D&I program with the company’s mission, operations, strategies, and business objectives, including ERGs.
EY’s (Hall of Fame on DiversityInc’s Top Companies for Diversity List) Professional Networks (PNs) began as affinity groups, progressed to resource groups and ultimately evolved into the professional networks that exist today. The program is aligned with EY’s business strategy and purpose: “helping to elevate the voices of our people so that they feel a strong sense of belonging, and have the platform to grow and succeed.” Each network is open and inclusive and encourages participation from allies. The networks have three strategic drivers connecting its people; connecting communities; and connecting with clients to build successful relationships, brands and careers.
“At EY, we see tremendous value in structuring our business resource and affinity groups around gender, ethnicity, ability and sexual orientation, to name a few. Each network is open and inclusive and encourages ally participation. This continues to elevate the voices of our people and strengthens a sense of belonging,” said Karyn Twaronite, global diversity and inclusiveness officer and US executive committee member.
5. Educate yourself on the benefits, particularly for minority groups.
“Most white people don’t perceive the need for a network or affinity, but everyone needs a resource. Aside from the tremendous psychological benefit of facilitating minority groups to aggregate (see Beverly Tatum’s book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria“), savvy companies task their resource groups with coming up with business-development ideas,” wrote former DiversityInc CEO and Chairman Luke Visconti.
Minority-focused spaces can make the participants feel more valued, research has found.
“We found that when minorities frequently feel valued and embraced by members of their own minority group, they maintain lower levels of anxiety and fewer symptoms of depression overall,” wrote ostdoctoral research fellow at the University of Exeter. “It plays a central role in how they define themselves as an individual overall.”