Employee Resource Groups, Business Resource Groups or Affinity Groups are traditionally groups that come together because they share some common interest. They serve as informational resources for the employees that they represent, provide coaching and mentoring opportunities, a forum to surface issues, a vehicle to enhance performance, provide opportunities for network building and a means to identify and retain top talent. ERG groups work to find ways to develop and improve communication and leadership skills and as a means for individuals to meet, build trust and loyalty and provide a venue to share contemporary issues with peers. As companies look for ways to cut costs and improve financial returns ensuring that employee populations feel connected, valued and have opportunities to contribute may be worth looking twice at your existing ERGs or in starting one.

Once diverse talent is on board, Employee Resource Groups can help keep employees engaged. To be successful in the global marketplace, talent pools have to be developed that reflect a company’s business goals. These groups have first-hand knowledge about emerging markets because they are culturally aware certain populations’ needs. This intimate knowledge helps businesses adapt to change faster and make quicker decisions.

At one time, BRGs were very event driven and specific to one internal group. You will rarely hear resource groups being called affinity groups anymore because companies have realized the potential in reaching business goals and the value in tying strategic objectives to the overall goals of the group. They undoubtedly will affect and shape future business models and are much more than social groups. These business models will help identify up-and-coming talent, will aid with recruitment strategy and employee retention and if the overall purpose for ERGs is adjusted, the potential for growth is enormous. Potentially, every part of your organization could be touched: community, professional development, policy making, marketing, vendor and government relationships, and future product development.

Employee Resource groups are among the best sources of finding and developing leadership talent. Often, employees might not have the “right” credentials to move up into upper management. Through opportunities and visibility in Employee Resource Groups, they could get a chance to shine as well as learn new skills. Some companies only recruit internal ERG candidates. For instance, if an employee came to a manager and said they wanted to move into the communication field of the company. A logical step for the employee could be to become the communication representative of their BRG. This helps them develop skills in their desired area and establishes them as a subject matter expert in that field. ERGs also provide employees opportunities to voice their concerns and needs. This shows that they are valued. Building teams that reflect the demographics of the customer base also improves customer loyalty. Customers feel more comfortable doing business with people who understand them. Business examples of ERG contributions range from changing insurance coverage plans, helping military personnel transition skills into the workplace, finding solutions for groups with disabilities marketing specific products to underserved groups, providing scholarships and using representative teams in new global markets or performing the research prior to moving into global markets.

Contributions from skilled and engaged employees may be limited if they are not allowed to be involved in finding better ways to perform. library resource sharing Tie your ERG’s goals to your business goals. You are essentially working to create in partnerships which will help identify gaps and opportunities in the organization. Five years ago, only 75% of the top companies used BRGs to recruit. Today, most companies recognize the importance. Ask yourself, why do many employees leave companies? Feeling disconnected or limited advancement opportunities are usual answers. ERGs can work on cultural deficiencies that keep employees from reaching their full potential and provide a mentoring program to help them be successful and work with new employees during the on boarding process. It is well documented that there is an adjustment period during new employee orientation for people from underrepresented groups. The first three months have been shown to determine whether an employee is going to stay or leave the company in the first year. Other studies have shown that after the first year, engagement drastically drops in performance output. BRGs can help with additional opportunities or support in this timeframe as well. Examples of successful initiatives that companies have implemented as part of their Employee Resource Group programs include: Women’s conferences with panel discussions and speakers; Community days that are tied to colleges, high schools and specific populations; Websites and information sharing; Building talent pipelines where top candidates are developed through the ERG; Coaching programs, Leadership Councils; and tying groups together with local business professionals as mentors.

As your group matures and develops, look for ways to measure the group’s successes based on clear objectives. Return on investment is critical to anyone’s business success and measuring your progress is critical to show movement and progress. As the group matures, it will be able to then develop its own brand, raise awareness and forge relationships within local communities. Some companies have also developed programs that promote the use of its members as liaisons to top management while others require that top managers receive development skills from ERGs before they can move up. All members have the opportunity to grow as leaders and provide benefits to the not only the company but its members. If your company hasn’t identified employee groups that may need assistance or even if you have existing groups already, look to these valued members to help move your company’s goals forward. You and your bottom line won’t regret it.

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