What are Employee Resource Groups?

As global modernization draws us all closer together, networking, grouping, and collaboration can be seen manifesting in company workforces more and more by way of what are called employee resource groups, or ERGs for short. What exactly are these ERGs, and how do they work? Read on as we dive in to take a closer look at this increasingly prevalent workplace phenomenon.

ERGs Explained

As the name suggests, employee resource groups are a group of employees that join together in meeting groups for the purpose of gleaning some type of resource benefits. In virtually all cases, those resource benefits offered in these groups can be classified as personally benefiting the employee, benefiting a group of employees, and/or benefiting the company for which the group works. In other words, ERGs are basically nothing more than a sort of informal union of employees.

Specific Group Functions

An active ERG can truly make a substantial difference in the professional lives of those involved. This is a place of idea exchange, group communication, consensus, and proposals for future improvements. But how does all of this conceptual benefit actually materialize within the group?

The answer to this could truly be explored to the deepest depths of scholarly findings on group collaboration and dynamics. To maintain this piece’s summarizing value, however, we won’t go into all of that, but instead can provide a short list showing some of the functions and activities of these groups which can result in such beneficial consequence. The following provide just a sample of common ERG functions.

– Communicate individual ideas and concerns.

– Communicate individual remedies, ideas, and other proposals.

– Group-think, collaborate in numbers.

– Communicate group findings within the group and the employing organization.

– Provide solidarity, bonds, and employee support.

– Function with or without a specified group hierarchy.

– Provide intervention supports between employees and the employer in some cases.

– Provide a general forum for all other related information communication and networking.

Achieving the Big Picture

ERGs truly can be a fantastic attribute to many workforces out there. Despite all this, though, there is a sure paradox of sorts that pervades the whole ERG concept. Namely, we are talking about the ability to positively influence employer culture without going so far as to create contention or disdain in the workplace. Essentially, an effective ERG walks the tight-wire between positive, effectual influence and negative consequence. The group must provide a catalyst for positive idea exchange and company influence without upsetting management and company culture to the tune of subsequent ill-effects.

Forbes expert contributor Glenn Llopis asks the following questions.

“How can your ERG better influence corporate growth and unlock opportunities for business by giving its members a voice?”

“How can your ERG be more strategic about how to positively impact the recruitment, engagement and building of a workplace culture that is most favorable to the changing face of America and that represents the fastest growing workforce communities?”

While this can provide a tricky paradox with which most ERGs must constantly contend, there are a number of ways, according to Llopis and other experts, to strategically conquer the aligns of the predicament. Trust and mentorship approaches provide some leverage. Strategic relationship are also a must according to Llopis.

In conclusion, ERGs can provide any number of wonderful benefits to employees and their employers alike. In the most effective of these symbiotic relationships, however, lies the necessity to defeat the influence-contention paradox. These are the basics of today’s increasingly common employee resource groups.