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How to start an ERG in 4 steps

Employee resource groups (ERGs) play an important role in fostering workplace inclusion and belonging, and also promoting innovation and the development of future business leaders. ERGs offer a platform for employees to connect, share lived experiences, build skills, and support organizational transformation. While starting an ERG is no small undertaking, it doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are four simple steps to help you get started.

1. Identify the need and purpose of your ERG

Before diving into the logistics of forming an ERG, it's crucial to identify the need and purpose behind it. Conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups to gauge interest and understand the unique needs of your target community. Consider the following questions: 

  • What are the biggest challenges facing this community in your organization? 

  • What are possible solutions to these challenges?

  • Are these solutions within the scope of your ERG?

  • How might your ERG bridge the gap between the challenges and solutions?

Once you've identified the need, articulate the purpose of your ERG. It is at this point that you want to develop your ERG’s charter. What goals do you aim to achieve? Why does the ERG exist and how does it support the organization? It is during this step that you should begin to form your ERG’s charter (learn more about that here). 

2. Get HR and leadership support

Once you have defined the need and purpose of your ERG, it is important to get buy-in from your Human Resources (HR) or Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) leadership. If your organization has a formal ERG process, you should follow the necessary steps therein. Once you have received the necessary buy-in and support from HR, you can begin to seek an executive sponsor.

Executive sponsorship is vital for the success of your ERG. Seeking support from a senior leader will help make sure your ERG receives the necessary resources, visibility, and endorsement within the organization. Executive sponsors help to guide the ERG’s development and play a critical role in representing the ERG’s needs and voice at the leadership table. Learn more about how to get an executive sponsor here.

3. Recruit members

An ERG is only as strong as its members. Launch a recruitment campaign to attract individuals passionate about the ERG's mission and objectives. Utilize various communication channels, such as email newsletters, intranet postings, social media, and word-of-mouth, to reach potential members. It is important to work closely with your organization to make sure you follow all necessary processes and protocols for communicating and recruiting members.

Consider the following ideas:

  • Host an informational meeting (virtual or live) to answer questions and share information about your ERG 

  • Work with your internal communications team to share information about your ERG and how employees can join

  • Host an off-site happy hour or networking event to engage potential members 

4. Establish governance structure and activities

A thoughtful and well-established governance structure is essential to the long-term success of an ERG. Once you have a core group of members, define your ERG’s leadership structure and governance model to help facilitate effective operation and decision-making. Elect or appoint leaders who share in the group’s purpose and express a desire to build their leadership skills. Establish clear roles and responsibilities for officers, committees, and volunteers to distribute tasks and promote collaboration.

Once you have a governance structure in place, develop a calendar of activities and initiatives aligned with the ERG's goals and the goals of your organization. These may include networking events, workshops, mentorship programs, community outreach, or partnering with HR to help recruit and onboard new employees. Regular meetings should provide opportunities for members to connect, share experiences, discuss relevant issues, and plan future activities.

By following these four steps, you can lay the foundation for a thriving ERG. Start small, stay focused on your objectives, and celebrate milestones along the way as your ERG grows and makes a positive impact within your organization.

Ergtopia team
Jul 4, 2024

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