While we had some experience with ERGs - Dumebi led the IBM's Black employee resource group Chicago chapter and I worked with Accenture's DEI strategy offering helping Fortune 500s develop and implement their inclusion strategies - we wanted to learn the ins and outs of corporate ERGs from the people that know them best: diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders.
So, we called…and called…(and called) everyone we knew that led DEI at companies from 50-person startups to enterprises with 70k+ employees to learn everything that we could about employee resource groups. After these conversations, we condensed notes from these conversations and summarized our findings to identify trends and form takeaways. These findings were the foundation for the initial version of our ERG management software, and are shared below.
Note: These trends compare notes from 100+ conversations with Diversity leaders. This was not intended as a scientific process, and therefore are no quantified statistics for each takeaway (i.e. XX% of companies have 2 ERG Leads), but look out for that level of detail in future reports.
Almost every company I spoke with incorporates its ERGs into the onboarding process for new employees. The first few weeks of an employee's experience are critical, and one of the best ways to help them find their tribe is to introduce them to the different ERGs at your company early. Especially for underrepresented employees, you want to find ways to boost that employee engagement as quickly as possible.
Several companies mentioned that introducing new employees directly to the Leads for the ERGs that they would likely identify with (i.e. introducing a new female employee to the Women's ERG Leadership team). While this makes sense, I wouldn't recommend it because you don't want to assume a person's identity and potentially get that wrong. Instead, give every employee instructions on how to join ERGs, and provide an email of someone from each ERG that they can reach out to if they have any questions.
One is the loneliest number, but three (or more) is a crowd.
Companies most often have two Leads per employee resource group. These Leads are responsible for reporting on the success of their ERGs, planning events, and welcoming members. They (should) have autonomy over how they want to spend their budgets and what programming they want to do.
Because paying ERG leads is a relatively new practice, most companies actually don't have the funds to compensate all of their Leads. My hypothesis is that having two primary Leads makes it easier for a company to say that they're compensating leadership without having to find funding for 5-6 Leads per group.
Larger ERGs often have committee chairs, who, though they aren't paid, manage one of the pillars or focus areas of the ERG - membership, events, community service, commerce, etc. This is a good practice because it creates a clear pathway for committee Leads to transition into the more official leadership role.
Here's a non-comprehensive list of metrics that I heard DEI managers say that they report on (or attempt to report on) for their ERGs:
Spending and budget
While some of these metrics were pretty commonplace - almost every ERG at least attempts to track the number of members it has - most companies are creating their metrics based on the data that they have available. So, if you have software that gathers RSVPs for events for you, then you're probably reporting on that. If you don't, then you're probably not.
Based on where your ERGs are in terms of maturity, I would recommend outlining a small set of metrics for the different programming (events, community service, donation drives, etc.) your ERG runs and tracking/reporting on those.
According to The Rise Journey's recent 2021 State of ERGs report, the most common demographics for ERGs are:
Each of these demographics has a dedicated Heritage or awareness month, and ERG Leaders are well-aware of this. Heritage months are a great opportunity for an ERG to execute the goals in its mission statement and provide networking opportunities and/or safe space events for its members.
Often, the bulk of programming for the year comes during this month. When I had the chance to speak with an ERG Leader that wasn't a DEI Manager (i.e. someone with a day job not tied to DEI), I very commonly heard that right before Heritage months, they would spend as many as 15 hours per week planning programming for their Groups. This was almost always the peak of their work for the year, as during normal times they could expect closer to 3-5 hours of work per week.
The best part about these heritage months is that they happen at the same time every year. Start planning early! Start looking for speakers, booking venues, and creating learning assets early so you're not in a rush two weeks before the heritage month starts.
We know that every company does everything differently, but budget tracking and reporting specifically is something that varies widely from company to company.
Here are some responses I got to the question "how is budget tracked?"
Budget is one of the most administrative and tedious things that an ERG Lead has to do, but it's important to track so you can show that the money you've allocated for your Groups is being put to use. I advise finding a consistent way for people to report their expenses, whether that be your Chezie Dashboard, a Google sheet, or an Airtable form.
This long, to be specific:
I've managed to group the pain points into four buckets:
The best way to avoid these pain points is to start early. If you're just launching your ERGs, make sure you have a way to handle each of the above pain points so you don't run into these problems later on when your Groups are more mature. If your ERGs are established, it's going to be tougher, but you'll want to work with your Leads to overhaul your existing system:
I'm forever grateful to the diversity, equity, and inclusion Leaders who replied to my emails and jumped on calls with me to answer my questions. We believe ERGs can be catalysts for inclusion within a company, and we're excited to be building something that helps companies reach their goals.