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10 Employee Resource Group Activities to Try at Your Company

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Throughout my career in human resources, I have had the opportunity to get involved in employee resource group activities that engage employees within and outside of ERGs. By organizing various events, workshops and discussions, employee resource groups provide platforms for personal and professional development while promoting understanding and respect between different employee demographics.

Let’s take a look at employee resource group activities that I think you can undertake to promote an inclusive workplace.

What is an Employee Resource Group?

An employee resource group is a group of employees in the workplace who share certain commonalities such as background, identity, etc.

Although ERGs are led by employees, they differ from other types of workplace groups in that the organization formally supports these groups because they are designed to advance organizational goals. HR departments are often involved in establishing and overseeing ERGs. Employee participation in ERGs is voluntary.

Employee resource group activities are the primary means by which ERGs achieve their goals of promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace. They provide safe spaces for dialogue and learning where members can share experiences, raise awareness of important issues and advocate for change.

One of the first ERGs was the Xerox National Black Employees Caucus. This group was founded in 1970 to create a space for employees to talk about racial tensions in the workplace. Over 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs.

There are many types of ERGs, each with different goals. These include groups based on:

• Ethnic origin and race
• Gender or sexual orientation
• Religious or spiritual affiliation
• Parental status
• Disability
• Age.

What is the goal of employee resource group activities?

Employee resource group activities serve two purposes. First, they provide opportunities for networking and collaboration between members with similar interests or backgrounds. An ERG can be an excellent place for employees to feel safe to raise concerns, challenges or experiences, as well as share support and promote professional development.

Done well, ERG activities and events help employees become more engaged in the company and feel represented and included. McKinsey research has shown that employees who rated their ERGs as (very) effective were more likely to rate workplace inclusion higher.

At the same time, the role of ERGs is to communicate this information to the company so that it can better understand its workforce and ensure that policies and procedures meet the needs of all employees. For this reason, ERGs are supported by an organization and held accountable for their goals.

Employee Resource Group Activities

There are numerous activities that an ERG can use to engage its members and achieve its goals. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but will hopefully be helpful to any HR professional leading or leading an ERG.

  1. Professional development workshops
    Professional development can mean a variety of things depending on the interests of the group. First, find out what the group wants to learn more about.Two ideas relevant to any ERG would be a workshop on difficult conversations or understanding implicit bias. Both types of workshops require an expert to lead the discussions, but the workshops should be interactive so that group members can talk to each other and learn more from each other.Additionally, the inclusion of real-world scenarios and case studies can greatly enhance the learning experience by allowing participants to apply the concepts discussed in a practical, relatable context. This will help further solidify their understanding and skills on the topic.
  2. Mentorship programs
    Mentoring can take place individually or in groups and can be long or short term. Types of mentoring include: Peer mentoring, Micro-mentoring, Reverse mentoring, Group mentoring.
    One type of activity for a group mentoring program is a session in which all participants create a vision board with goals. Before the meeting, leaders should task participants with doing some preliminary work and thinking about some of their goals. During the session, all participants talk in detail about their goals and then write or paste pictures representing those goals on the poster board. Participants take the boards with them at the end of the session. Leaders should encourage participants to hang the boards where they can see them often.
  3. Guest Speaker Series and “Lunch and Learns
    Organize a multi-part lecture series, e.g. B. about stress management techniques, and invite one or more guest speakers who are experts in the field of mental health to talk about these topics. Host the series during lunch hours and consider holding it virtually to encourage participation from remote employees.
  4. Cultural awareness events
    Cultural awareness events celebrate and educate employees about different cultures, fostering an environment of respect, understanding and inclusion in the workforce. These events are often associated with cultural days, weeks and months, such as: E.g., Indigenous Peoples Day, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Pride Month. A casual way to celebrate employee cultures on an ordinary day is with a potluck event. Food is a relaxed way to bring people together and celebrate their differences. Encourage all group members to bring a dish that has a special place in their culture or background. Each member can then either put up a poster about the dish and its meaning, or at the beginning of the meal, ask all participants to introduce their dish and give a brief overview of why they prepared it.
  5. Charitable fundraisers
    Fundraisers are events or campaigns organized to raise money for a specific cause. This helps create a sense of community and social responsibility among employees while supporting meaningful charitable initiatives. A group could e.g. collect money with a penny campaign. Divide the ERG into two or three groups depending on the number of group members. Each group is assigned a bucket in which to collect change. Set a time frame for how long the activity should last and schedule regular score checks so that groups know where each other stands. The group with the most points at the end of the promotion wins - but the real winner is the charity you chose to support.
  6. Book clubs
    Book clubs are a great way to engage both on-site and remote employees because these gatherings can take place virtually. These types of employee resource group events can help spark discussions about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the workplace. The book club leader could choose a book such as Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, or a similar book. Leaders who don't want to create their own discussion questions can look for books with guiding questions. Clubs can focus on one book or chapter at a time and meet regularly, perhaps once a month. Club members should read the book or chapter before the discussion, but have time to read the chapter at the beginning of the group meeting to become familiar with the content.
  7. Scholarships
    If your ERG offers scholarships for students, your group can engage the scholarship recipients with a banquet for them and their families. It's important for young people to see others who look like them or have similar backgrounds or interests, especially in the workplace. This was the case for a Samahan Employee Resource Group PG&E Scholarship recipient. The student appreciated the fact that the scholarship was Filipino-focused, as well as the opportunity to meet Filipino-American employees from different careers within the company. Eventually, her path led her back to the company after graduating from college.
  8. Volunteering
    ERGs have an enormous volunteer commitment. AT&T reported that its 26 ERGs collectively contributed over 144,000 hours of volunteer work in one year. An ERG focused on women in the workplace might consider volunteering at a local Dress for Success office. The group can hold collections for everything from work clothes to handbags, or volunteer at a local office or special event. Offices can leverage the expertise of professional women to help other women prepare for interviews by coaching them, simulating interviews, and building resumes. American media company Nielsen has one of its seven ERGs, Women in Nielsen (WIN), which has conducted such actions in the past. A handbag collection was held around International Women's Day and even remote volunteering opportunities were used to engage group members.
  9. Collaborate with HR and DEI teams
    The activities of employee resource groups can go beyond organizing events. ERGs often work with HR and DEI teams to advise them on company policies and processes, ensuring they are inclusive and effectively address the diverse needs of the workforce. An example of collaborating with an ERG on DEI strategies would be engaging an ERG representing the LGBTQ+ community in creating an inclusive language guide. Group members can help brainstorm and come up with terms to use and words to avoid. It is important that an HR team or professional understands how the group creates this list. Therefore, they should consider brainstorming together and moderating the discussion.
  10. Advice on product development
    Not only is it a good idea to incorporate employee ERG into product development; many companies have learned that this is essential. For example, you can ask your company's ERG, which represents people with disabilities, for feedback on the design of your website. An example of this is accessibility. Can people with visual impairments easily use the website and access any documents or platforms they need to get information or do their work? An example of a company that has used such an ERG in product design is Splunk Technology. They used their Disabled=True ERG to provide feedback on the accessibility of a product design.

While it is important to establish employee resource groups within your company, it is equally important to ensure that members are actively involved and working with the groups to use their feedback to better inform the company.

Whether you are part of an ERG or are a human resources professional starting an ERG, with a handful of ideas for employee resource group activities, you can keep the ERG from becoming stagnant or members feeling disinterested.

ERGs can have the opposite effect and leave employees feeling disconnected or underrepresented. A timely and engaging activity or event can do wonders for any ERG.

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