How to Create an ERG

 

Recently, there has been a renewed focus from organizations to re-evaluate the makeup of their employee base to ensure that it reflects the diversity of the world their business operates in. It’s important to make sure that while building a diverse organization, employers are cognizant of whether or not their organizations adequately support individuals’ identities, especially when that identity has traditionally been marginalized in the workplace. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), also known as affinity groups, resource groups, business resource groups, can be used to meet this need.

An ERG program creates an open forum for employees who share a common identity to build community, share, and learn. At companies, these groups act as a resource for employees based on needs – it could provide professional development opportunities or serve to celebrate and empower employees with different interests and of demographic groups such as working parents, LGBTQ+, and underrepresented minorities. For more on the benefits of ERGs, a link to a previous article we wrote: Employee Resource Groups: A Key Part of Your Inclusion Strategy

While starting an ERG can sound challenging, with this how-to guide we’ve created, any organization or employee can start planning for their new ERG today.

1. Find people with shared interests – after all it’s not a group without people

Gather other employees and discuss if having an ERG, or of what kind, would be impactful and beneficial. Find a few colleagues who share your interest and would be willing to work on your topic. This could either be through word of mouth or your internal communication channels. You can also gauge interest with help from your HR/people team who may help guide you to their internal requirements for starting an ERG and/or have a budget allocated for such groups. Depending on the size of your company, you may have enough people with a shared interest or you may be the only one. In either case, you can start a DEI committee that’s aimed at increasing numbers for your organization and/or retention.

2. Define your ERG’s mission, scope, & goals

Organize a workshop with your newly formed group to define the following: 

  • What is the main purpose of your group? (e.g. networking, professional development, community support, etc.)
  • What specific roles does your group need to fill? (e.g. lead/co-leads, treasury, events coordinator, membership lead, secretary etc) 
  • What is in scope for your ERG? What is out of scope?
  • What metrics will be used to assess your ERG’s impact and performance? (see below for suggestions) 
  • What will be the cadence for meetings and events? 
  • What kinds of events do you anticipate having? We suggest planning a quarter at a time
  • Will you need financial support from the organization for events or initiatives? 

After you have defined the above details about your group, document it in a charter, and save it to a shared drive to make it easy to find moving forward. Share this information with HR to seek approval for your ERG or group and discuss any concerns or help needed to operationalize your group. 

3. Find an executive sponsor

While an executive sponsor isn’t always required, a sponsor can help empower your group and give it visibility within the organization and help you work towards accomplishing your key goals and metrics. This white paper on executive sponsorship of ERGs is a great resource. Employers can consider appointing an ERG program manager to work directly with their ERGs to support strategic efforts. 

4. Advertise your ERG & recruit members

Begin to advertise your ERG throughout the workplace utilizing multiple channels including company newsletters, intranets, Slack, and word of mouth. Your internal communications, recruiting, on-boarding teams could also include information about your ERG in their own material. Learn about how Five to Nine can help you manage and advertise your ERG and special interest groups to your organization by checking out our website and requesting a demo with us. Whatever forms of communication you use, make sure that information about your ERG such as mission, goals, and contact information provide a clear call to action. 

5. Execute your meetings & events 

Organize meetings and events, as per your defined cadence, for your members to come together. When scheduling your meetings, consider accessibility to make sure as many people as possible can participate. Being virtually accessible is one way to do this, other suggestions include – incorporate time zones and timing to make sure parents, remote employees are able to make it. Consider soliciting input when planning your events – having a better understanding of what types of events would be most valuable for your group will yield higher success from a membership engagement and satisfaction perspective. For more tips on how to ensure your next ERG event is a success, a link to a previous article we wrote: Make Your Next ERG Event the Talk of the Office.

6. Assess your ERG’s performance

Does your ERG have measurable beneficial results for its members? Implementing metrics such as % of member engagement, employee satisfaction, and membership size can be used to measure their effectiveness, contributions, and value to employees. It’s also important to be nimble and adjust to the ever-changing climate in and outside of work to keep your ERG relevant and the most beneficial for your employees. Pre or post-event surveys are another good way to assess success around the programs and events provided by your ERG.


Here are some examples of ERG’s organizations typically form to build community and share resources:

  • Culture, race, and ethnicity
  • People with disabilities
  • Women
  • Religion or faith-based
  • Gender identity minorities
  • Sexual orientation minorities
  • Age minorities
  • Parents: working parents, single parents and caregivers