What Is an Employee Resource Group? Definition and Functions

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When trying to identify ways to improve your business, you may wonder the answer to, What is an employee resource group? These groups require support from various employees and leaders within the organization. By understanding employee resource groups, you can improve overall company culture and promote equity in the workplace. In this article, we discuss the definition of an employee resource group, explore why they're important, and provide you with information about how to start one.

What is an employee resource group?

If you're wondering, What is an employee resource group?, it refers to voluntary employee-led groups that aim to increase the diversity and inclusivity in their workplace. Professionals within this group frequently share characteristics. For example, they may share gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, lifestyle, or interests. Employee resource groups provide support and create safe spaces for employees to demonstrate authenticity within the workplace. These groups also encourage allies to join.

What do employee resource groups do?

Here are some goals that employee resource groups accomplish:

Improve work conditions

Employee resource groups improve overall work conditions and the conditions of marginalized groups by promoting safe spaces and ensuring all employees feel heard. Employees within this type of group share common interests and develop strong professional and personal relationships. This improves your overall company culture by ensuring all employees have a space to discuss their interests with those who share those interests. These groups also improve the physical environment of the workplace. For example, some employers designate gender-neutral bathrooms or improve overall accessibility to the building by installing ramps for wheelchairs to promote inclusion.

Related: How To Learn More About a Company's Culture

Identify leaders

Employee resource groups bring several employees together and allow conversations to flow easily. In these spaces, employee resource groups allow leaders to emerge that would otherwise go unnoticed. Within employee resource groups, these emerging leaders have the opportunity to share their opinions and to connect with mentors. They may also develop working groups that help achieve smaller goals throughout the organization.

Related: 14 Great Questions To Ask Leaders For Career Growth

Overcome challenges

Working groups overcome company-wide challenges by collaborating more effectively and committing themselves to particular goals. Professionals who navigate these challenges inform leaders of various difficulties around the workplace and discuss pertinent issues. They follow up by conducting analyses of the situations and discovering solutions for them. For example, your workplace may experience issues with gender equity pay gaps. An employee resource group would collect data about this issue and provide your employer with the information required to remedy the situation.

Promote wellbeing

Employee resource groups provide employees with a space to discuss potential frustrations in a safe environment. They also help to address issues quickly and prevent those frustrations from accumulating in the workplace. The method of addressing these issues depends significantly on which problems arise. In some situations, these groups help employees to express themselves more effectively to their employers. By expressing yourself and discussing tensions as they arise, you can experience a healthier work environment.

Why are employee resource groups important?

Employee resource groups are important because they build relationships of high trust between employees and employers. These groups increase the sense of belonging among employees and ensure the company consistently establishes innovative practices. These groups provide employers with insight into how they can inspire conversation. Employees ensure that no matter which role you fill within the company or which demographic you belong to, you have the opportunity to succeed.

How to create an employee resource group

Employee resource groups require full support from all levels of organizations and companies. For example, members of upper management provide these groups with full support, funding, and endorsement to ensure members can accomplish their goals. If you plan to create an employee resource group, you can assign a senior leader as an executive sponsor. This encourages collaboration between the group and members of upper management. From here, you can invite all members from the company to join your employee resource group. Those who don't share the characteristics of your group can also join as allies in this stage.

Consider gathering the experience of employees by sending a company-wide survey. When you've invited all employees, you can then work on improving your company culture by analyzing your data. Here are some more steps involved in creating employee resource groups:

1. Identify interest

Before you create an employee resource group, you may want to establish whether other employees within the company would join the group. This prevents you from working hard on projects that don't obtain the desired results. If you want to create a group that shares particular demographics, you can ask your employer for the company's demographic data.

This determines whether the company has a large enough target population to contribute to the group, along with whether any changes would benefit a significant portion of the group. You can also determine overall interest in the group by sending surveys to all employees, or by asking for employees interested in the group to raise their hands during meetings.

2. Obtain executive support

When you have data about general employee interest, you can ask for executives for support to ensure your group has funding and executive assistance. To do this, you can attend the next executive leadership meeting with a case to present. Discuss your employee resource group, along with its overall purpose. You may want to obtain qualitative and quantitative data from employee experience surveys about various characteristics and demographics. This helps to prove that your company has a need for the employee resource group.

From here, describe how you plan to manage the group, how much your group requires for budgeting, and which activities you planned. You can also identify your executive sponsor and any support you received from other employees. This helps to drive internal change.

3. Define group mission

You may want to consider your group's mission before you launch the group. You typically develop a mission statement following a review of your group's overall purpose. The statement is approximately two sentences that concisely summarize why the company has a need for the group. When you have a finalized mission statement, you can write it down and post it on your social media pages and on your company website.

Example: TexaTracks celebrates the experiences of all employees and our overall understanding of culture. We have a diverse community that we aim to celebrate by hosting intersectional activists who can provide sensitization training, and by showing our ability to unite for the holistic health of the company.

4. Recruit members

After you've identified whether there's an interest in your group across the company, you may also want to consider which members you allow in your group. Some employee resource groups refuse allies to prevent group members from demonstrating significant differences of opinion. When you decide whether you want allies in your group, you can recruit members from your company by raising awareness about upcoming events and meetings. To do this, you can advertise your group through other meetings and company newsletters.

If you know of specific employees who would enjoy the employee resource group, you can also discuss this directly with them. Consider asking your supervisor to announce your group and first meetings through the company's communication channels. That can help to recruit group members and reduces some of your workload.

Related: Top 10 Recruitment Skills For Successful Recruiters

5. Host meetings

When you establish a significant amount of members, you can set a date for your first employee resource group meeting. In your first meeting, you typically navigate administrative responsibilities. Consider discussing your mission statement with the group members to determine whether it fully encompasses the intentions of your group. You can also discuss which causes your group wants to support and brainstorm ideas for events. This is an opportunity for team members to share any data they gathered, along with media necessary to begin discussions.

You can use the first meeting to vote on a leader. While the leader can also be the person who started the group, allowing employees to vote provides them with more control over their work. You can also set a specific amount of time for the candidate's "term" to ensure leaders change over time.

Related: How To Be an Inspiring Leader In Six Steps (With Traits)

6. Gain support from the organization

While your group's leadership comes from the company's employees, you still require support from the organization. Consider discussing the group with members of upper management or with senior leaders to identify how the organization plans to support your group and its initiatives. They may support you through additional budgeting, hosting events, and supporting local causes.

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