Most are familiar with the reality that Diversity and Inclusion programs are difficult to get right.  For many, the programs don’t get off the ground at all.  For others, the goals wind up clustered around diversity as it is often perceived as a numbers game and one that is easily operationalized into a system. 

Inclusion, on the other hand, has always been more difficult to pin down.  Inclusion deals with culture.  This includes corporate culture as well as culture issues within the different groups that make up the workforce.  And lack of a real, vibrant and meaningful inclusion effort dooms many programs.

In the last few decades, Employee Resource Groups (ERG) have proven themselves to be valuable partners in building inclusion and changing and shaping company culture.  These groups have championed not only the causes and defined the identity of their members, they have charted a path for organic leadership development, genuine participation and engaged employees. 

As these groups have grown in number, influence and sophistication, they have also begun to evolve into dynamic groups that have a positive impact on business itself.  To keep that evolution going, ERGs are finding that they need to evolve from being perceived as a social media information clearing house to one perceived as a platform for advancement.  This continuing development includes:

·      Trusting the mission and working together

·      Defining the value proposition and developing an accurate way to measure its success

·      Becoming thought leaders committed to advising execs to spur business growth

·      Educating non-members as well as members of other ERGs

·      Leveraging the authority gained to take part in corporate governance

Getting Lost in the Detail

But critically important as the mission of these groups may be, all ERGs at any level of evolution will run into common problem with any group activity corporate or otherwise – how to manage the responsibilities, campaigns, activities and success of the group to keep it on mission in a way that doesn’t bog down the ERG and make it beholden to value-less administrative tasks. 

To avoid the “Diversity as a Number” trap, many companies successfully focus on the culture, engagement and inclusion aspects to make sure that side of the equation yields results as well.  And there are useful metrics that can help gauge an ERG’s effectiveness.  These include measurements such as:

·      Percentage of employees within a constituency that join the group

·      Percentage of members of the group that are engaged in doing the work

·      Event attendance

·      Number of events

·      Favorability ratings

Software Solutions for ERGs

These metrics and others are all part of moving the effort forward and shaping the culture according the mission of the ERG.  But with this comes the tedious yet necessary administrative and measurement side critical to gauging the success of the ERG.  Fortunately, as ERGs have progressed, third-party providers have begun to develop Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions aimed at helping successful ERGs manage the data and eliminate the excess of administrative tasks.  This Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) software can help manage the overall efforts of the DEI initiatives while providing ERG leaders and members access to technology that is appropriate for their needs and allows them to stay on mission and avoid getting bogged down in the minutia of administrative tasks.

Rather than “co-opt” the function of the ERG, DEI software can systemize their efforts and allow their outreach to become better organized, well documented and more effective and efficient.  Benefits of a strong SaaS for DEI include:

  • ERG Leadership – Robust SaaS DEI programs have real-time reporting and analytics and can be managed form a single dashboard.  Membership, messaging and schedules can be shared that allow leaders to gain critical insight into their group as things unfold and to communicate more effectively.
  • Budgeting and Planning – As an ERG grows and evolves, there may come a time when executive leadership grasps the business value and provides the ERG with budget authority.  Even then, the management of a budget is often Excel driven and inefficient.  With DEI software, events, activities, marketing and other associated costs can be managed more efficiently.  This is helpful to the efforts of any ERG but is especially useful as the group scales and its mission becomes more complex.`      
  • Measurement Tools – DEI software can also provide useful measurement tools.  These include surveys, scorecards, sentiment analysis and other metrics that provide valuable insight so that leadership can understand what is happening and why.  These tools also include reports based on analytics to help visualize the results that offer actionable insights.
  • Networking – It is very common in companies who lag in automation and digitization to have data and information “siloed” between departments.  This compartmentalizes information and keeps the entire organization from benefitting from its use.  Using DEI software can help ERGs to “un-silo” their data and disseminate it among other ERGs.  This provides valuable networking and exchange of information among leadership, members and others.  This exchange of information can help ERGs share success that goes to the heart of the group’s mission as well as to the company’s business objectives.
  • Engagement – SaaS offerings have become quite sophisticated over the years.  Advanced analytics, intuitive algorithms and an array of other features help members and leadership understand how to create engagement and drive participation.  As members are freed from an overload of admirative tasks, and as the core functionality of the DEI software provides them with insights for real-time action and value-added decision-making, ERG leaders will develop more confidence in their abilities and can find new avenues to drive DEI initiatives through their ERG.

Finding the Right Software

Leaders and members of ERGs shouldn’t get too bogged down in the apprehension that accompanies the purchase of new software.  Today’s DEI software is designed with the core mission in mind. ERGs looking for DEI software should define their goal for the software, research the offerings among third-party providers and select the software that is right for them and the one that will help move their mission forward for years to come.

Five to Nine was designed to help your Employee Resource Group scale without the headache. Request a demo today.