Ask DiversityInc: Should You Use Multi-Tier Resource Groups?

What kinds of resource groups are catching the attention of corporate America? Do they make sense from a business perspective?

Q: We are exploring creating a two-tier model of affinity groups—one tier that contains the traditional demographic-based groups (e.g., women's group, Hispanic group) and another tier that is more based on a specific cause or interest (e.g., the environment group or the employees-with-pets group). Are you aware of any other DiversityInc Top 50 companies that have this multi-tier model for affinity groups? 


A: Several DiversityInc Top 50 companies have alternative or nontraditional resource groups. These groups are becoming increasingly prevalent as companies evolve, but these groups also form out of both interest and legitimate business need. Watch our web seminar on resource groups for innovative types of resource groups.

First evolution. All of the DiversityInc Top 50 companies have resource groups for Blacks, Latinos, Asians and women. This is up from 76 percent five years ago and 34 percent 10 years ago. These groups evolved from social networks, primarily for Blacks and women, to business-oriented groups inclusive of everyone. These groups are currently used for recruiting, on-boarding, identifying talent, talent development, mentoring and diversity-training initiatives as well as market research and building customer and client relationships.

The DiversityInc Top 50 companies also track and promote the successes of these groups. The most effective companies track retention, promotions and engagement levels of members of resource groups versus non-members. Read New Resource-Group Research: Hourly Workers, Finding Leaders, Counting Membership for our detailed research on these cutting-edge best practices.

Second evolution. Increasingly, companies are moving beyond "affinity" and are creating groups around common interest, topic or specific business need—such as Novartis Corporation's use of cultural resource groups to conduct in-house market research (watch the video above). Here, you see groups forming around generations, religion or veteran status. Of increasing importance are global groups, which did not exist in 2005 but have grown to 60 percent of DiversityInc Top 50 companies today. This rapid growth is likely caused by the changing landscape of business, along with necessity, interest and technology making the world a smaller place.

Finally, innovation. Most recently, companies have been really pushing the envelope and launching groups to reach either very specific employee populations—such as teleworkers, caregivers or parental groups—or very specific business needs. McGraw-Hill shared how it is driving employee engagement through its Digital Employee-Resource Group at DiversityInc's first Innovation Fest!

Clubs aimed at groups such as pet owners or ski teams, however, should not be resource groups because they do not fit the criteria: a targeted and underrepresented group that can be used to further internal and external business goals.

Groups should have specific and clearly stated vision and/or mission statements, detailed objectives and prioritized action plans. And they must be open to everyone, whether or not that person fits the actual demographic.

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