Author’s note: This article is adapted from my forthcoming book, Network Beyond Bias.
Why Should You Join an Employee Resource Group?
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) provide immeasurable benefits to diverse employees and their allies. This short article explores four reasons to join an ERG.
1. Professional development opportunities
As companies seek to develop new talent pools, employees can use Employee Resource Groups to position themselves for success. Participation in Employee Resource Groups can provide opportunities that may be missing from the employee’s “day job.” For example, an employee who plans an ERG networking event gains project management experience. Another employee who attends the networking event may meet managers from other areas of the company. Employee Resource Groups provide endless volunteer opportunities and chances to be noticed by management.
2. A sense of belonging
Most employees are happier and more engaged when they feel connected to others at work. Employee Resource Groups can provide a sense of community and connection, even in very large companies. By meeting others with similar life experiences, people feel more supported. These relationships often go beyond transactional, into deep friendships and mentorships. Project work, problem solving, career management, and other daily realities of corporate life are much easier when you have strong relationships.
3. Strength in numbers
Individual employees often find themselves on the receiving end of harmful stereotypes. Many will find that even well-meaning coworkers can be insensitive to or ignorant about deeply-held cultural norms. By themselves, they may be uncomfortable addressing or combating these situations. However, an ERG can organize entertaining “mythbusting” sessions, cultural awareness events, or expert panels that educate the larger corporate community. Doing so not only improves the environment for affinity employees. Everyone benefits from having a broader perspective and greater empathy.
4. Including everyone in the conversation
When you look at your company’s executive team, do you see someone who looks like you? Do you see someone to whom you can easily relate? If so, you may take this representation for granted. For those who aren’t part of an underrepresented group, this isn’t about being “politically correct.” And it’s not about offering special treatment to certain groups of people. It’s about recognizing that certain interests and perspectives are represented by default. Employee Resource Groups help expand the circle to include new perspectives at all levels of the organization.ERGs help expand representation to include new perspectives at all levels of the organization. Click To Tweet
Think about a time when you felt different: new kid in school, new on the job, dressed informally for a formal event, visiting a different office, visiting a foreign country. Can you imagine feeling that way every day of your career?
We can all benefit by educating ourselves on the experience of being different and by opening ourselves up to the value that experience offers.
Get involved as soon as possible!
If your company has Employee Resource Groups, I encourage you to join a group with which you identify. Especially in large companies, this can provide a sense of belonging that you may not even know you’re missing.
And, more important, sign up as an “ally” in an ERG that is outside your own identity. If that makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why — and be brave enough to answer yourself honestly. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more … from a different perspective.
You have nothing at all to lose, and so much to gain.