Winston Churchill once said, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic for the start of this article, but we wanted to grab your attention. We're approaching the end of the year, which means that many DEI and ERG leaders are busy planning for their 2022 employee resource group objectives. As you do your planning and work on implementing some best practices, we want to help you tell you about the three most common mistakes that we saw ERG leaders making in 2021 and give you instructions on how to work avoid them.
While you want your ERGs to be led by your employees (the 'E' does stand for employee after all), too often, ERG leaders are left to come up with their own programming and goals without any direction. You might think that this is good because you're giving the Leads total reign over their groups, but this can actually add undue stress to the ERG Lead job. Without guidance on what goals to set, how many events to program, or where to spend budget, ERG Leads are forced to come up with their strategy from scratch.
Again, being an ERG Lead is a huge responsibility, and you should do everything that you can to make the job easier. By giving leads guidelines on how to run their programs, you're letting them know exactly what they are responsible for and actually making their job easier.
We recommend meeting with your ERG leads at the start of every quarter (or at the minimum, the beginning of every fiscal year when budgets are confirmed) to let them know what their ERG objectives should be. Here are some questions to consider:
It might be counterintuitive, but giving your Leads a set of guidelines and expectations actually empowers them to achieve their group goals.
How many employees are members of this ERG?
The core metric of any group should be membership. You should always be able to accurately answer the above question.
Knowing your membership numbers will help you figure out what types of events to plan, how much budget to allocate to your groups, and most importantly, how impactful your groups are.
If your company is like most, everything happens in Slack. While we do recommend that each ERG has its own dedicated Slack channel, you don't want to use that as your primary method of tracking membership for a few reasons.
Create a form that employees must fill out to join an ERG. Point any interested employees to this form. You can use a dedicated solution for this (we 100% recommend Chezie), or you can even set up a simple Google form that feeds into a Sheets document.
This form should capture:
Having this information makes it so much easier to plan events, partnerships, and anything else that your ERG wants to do because you know what your membership base wants. If you don't take anything else from this article, please remember: your ERGs are supposed to serve your employees. Every decision that you make should be based on what your members want and should be for the benefit of your employees.
Events are a central part of any ERG, so it makes sense that one engagement metric you'd use is the number of people attending your ERG's events. The problem is, if event attendance is the only engagement metric that you track, you're severely limiting your ability to demonstrate the impact of your groups. Broadening the definition of engagement gives you more evidence that your members are actively participating in your ERGs, which ultimately helps you when it comes time to request additional funding for things like *cough* paying your ERG leads.
In your membership form that you created to avoid mistake #2, pay attention to the responses you get for question 7. We recommend giving employees a list of options with an optional "additional details" section. Some of your employees might not be familiar with ERGs, so it's helpful to give them ideas on how they can support the groups they're joining. This way, you can be proactive about inviting members to support your ERG with various programming - recruiting events, budget reporting, new member orientation, etc. - because you already have a list of people that are willing to help.
Here's an example joining form from the Chezie ERG Dashboard:
Make 2022 the year that your ERGs bridge the gap between intent and impact. Avoid these three common mistakes and watch how much more successful your groups are at hitting their objectives!