Posts Tagged ‘ERGs’

Diversity Councils and Employee Resource Groups – Not “either / or,” but “both / and”

Blog author Stan Kimer enjoys facilitating the Employee Resource Groups and Diversity Councils best practices sessions at the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST certification classes.

This past July, the large global public accounting firm Deloitte caused quite a stir in diversity circles when its chairman shared that it was going to disband its employee affinity groups (often call employee resource groups – ERGs or business resource groups) and replace them with inclusions councils. The logic is that the inclusion councils can still focus on underrepresented groups but also involve many more white men in the diversity and inclusion discussion. (Link to an article about this announcement from Diversity Inc.)

A few weeks after Deloitte’s announcement, Erika Irish Brown, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Bloomberg LP wrote a rebuttal titled “Why employee resource groups still matter” (LINK). Ms. Brown shared that their ERGs add significant value to their business and focus on Bloomberg’s five key pillars of commercial impact, recruiting, leadership development, marketing and communications, and community engagement.

I myself now serve on the faculty of the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST Certification Class and two of the modules I facilitate are Best Practices in Employee Resource Groups and Best Practices in Diversity Councils. I have now added a discussion about Deloitte’s recent actions to the class.

I strongly believe that diversity councils and ERGs are complementary, and both structures can co-exist and work together. It does not have to be one or the other. Here are 5 reasons why both structures are needed and should co-exist.

1) Diversity Councils are management sponsored and led with supporting the corporate business goals through diversity and inclusion as it main objective. ERGs are employee led, and though ERGs very often support the business, the primary impetus is addressing the workplace needs of the various diverse constituencies.

2) There are still many issues around underrepresented groups within American business, and so a focus and “safe space” for diverse communities to discuss their issues and collaborate to grow professionally are really needed.

ERGs can very effectively represent companies at constituency events like “OutRaleigh!” where I celebrated my 60th birthday.

3) You do not need to dissolve ERGs and form new inclusion councils if the goal is to increase involvement of white men. One best practice is to have a Men’s ERG so everyone is included in the ERGs structure. And white male leaders can be advocates, advisors, mentors and executive sponsors of the ERGs. (See my past blog from 2016 “Diversity and Straight White Men – 4 Key Thoughts.”)

4) ERGs are still a very effective may to connect a business with diverse community outreach and philanthropic activities and constituency markets.

5) Structured properly, ERGs and Diversity Councils can cross-pollinate and work closely to assure their goals and activities are aligned.

Often leaders make errors in trying to replace one structure or solution with another when actually the two co-exist and support each other. And so it is with Diversity Councils and Employee Resource Groups.

Evolving Employee Resource Groups – a Creative Approach from Erie Insurance

Tesha L. Nesbit Arrington, Erie Insurance's Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Strategic Analytics, presented Erie's D&I best practices at a recent National Diversity Council - Carolinas "Best Practices" Meeting

Tesha L. Nesbit Arrington, Erie Insurance’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Strategic Analytics, presented Erie’s D&I best practices at a recent National Diversity Council – Carolinas “Best Practices” Meeting

In the diversity and inclusion field, there continues to be continued discussion on the importance of Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs. Traditionally, they have been referred to as “affinity groups” as they bring together employees around a common constituency factor such as Black, Hispanic, Women, Young Professionals, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), Veterans and more. These groups help make employees feel more at home and included in the workplace, and provide activities such as professional and social networking, mentoring and community involvement.

Over the years, ERGs have continued to evolve. Some companies now refer to ERGs as BRGs – Business Resource Groups. This underscores that the true goal of the ERG is to make the employees and the business overall more effective. There should be a strong connection between the strategy and goals of the ERG (or BRG) and the company. Activities such as leadership development, connecting the company to the community and marketplace, and even input into product or services development helps the organization achieve its business goals.

As a diversity and inclusion consultant, I often attend various workshops to continue to pick up the latest development in my field. In early July, I attend a half day “Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices” seminar organized by the National Diversity Council – Carolinas in Durham, NC. One of the presenters was Tesha L. Nesbit Arrington, Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Strategic Analytics at Erie Insurance Group.

Ms. Nesbit, in presenting several diversity and inclusion best practices from Erie Insurance, highlighted their innovative approach to employee resource groups. Instead of starting with constituency-based resource groups, they started with groups focused around a particular business focus. Their first four ERGs were:
SynERgIzE – focused on building an inclusive workplace
Multiplicity – for diverse employee recruiting outreach
CamaradERIE – building and promoting diversity among the agent community
ExpERIEnce – around providing best customer experience and service for its diverse customer set.

After these networks were up, running and successful with participation from a wide range of constituencies, that provided a strong base for next launching constituency based affinity groups. The first two were women and multi-generational, with African-American and Veterans’s charter proposals in the queue.

Erie Insurance continues to build ongoing robust diversity and inclusion initiatives on this base, including their “Dignity and Respect” Campaign and scoring 100% on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index, which measures corporate LGBT inclusion.

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