Companies across the map are embracing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as a complement to their DEI initiatives. In addition to creating spaces for and amplifying the voices of employees from various walks of life, ERGs can have a positive effect on employee well-being. Here are three ways ERGs support employee mental health, and why it matters for you and your bottom line.
Crucial to an employee’s workplace experience is a sufficient sense of belonging — “how organizations can foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities for the worker and how they feel like a member of the broader world.” Your employees want to feel connected not only to the work they are doing, but to the environment in which they are doing it. They want to feel valued and appreciated not only as an employee, but as a person. And they want to experience a community that empowers them not only to be their best selves, but to do their best work.
Employee resource groups satisfy this desire for belonging by recognizing employees’ broader identities and creating spaces for individuals with common backgrounds to come together over shared experiences. These spaces empower workers to stand in solidarity with one another, reminding them in philosophy and in practice that they are not alone; this, in turn, boosts their overall mental health.
When your employees feel that they belong, your business thrives. Businesses that prioritize a sense of belonging see, among other things: 56% higher job performance, 50% less turnover risk, and 75% less sick days.
Closely related to belonging is the idea of psychological safety, defined by Forbes’ Megan Martin as “the ability to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.” In other words, a psychologically safe workplace is one in which diverse employees are able to show up as their full selves, sharing their unique ideas and perspectives and asking questions with the knowledge that their co-workers and higher ups will have their back.
Because ERGs consist of employees who already share common ground, they are more likely to facilitate psychologically safe environments and brave interactions. Employees in these groups are more likely to speak up about challenges they may be facing, processes that may not be working, or any other obstacles that might negatively impact their mental health. Then, bolstered by their community, employees can handle conflicts productively and efficiently, leading to overall positive change in the workplace.
Psychological safety is becoming a widely-studied topic in relation to employee mental health and well-being, largely because of the positive effects it can have on your bottom line. Psychologically safe companies see a 27% decrease in turnover, 76% higher employee engagement, 50% higher productivity, and more.
Cultural awareness (sometimes called cultural sensitivity) is the understanding of and appreciation for differences between people from varying backgrounds. In the workplace, cultural awareness “is represented through the organizational and interpersonal recognition and appreciation of cultural diversity among professionals.” Sound familiar?
Employee resource groups are perhaps one of the clearest ways an organization can say to diverse employees, “we see you.” ERGs recognize and uplift different cultures, which serves not only to give identifying employees a community, but also (perhaps secondarily) to promote cultural sensitivity amongst non-identifying employees. For example, say your AAPI ERG hosts a company-wide event for AAPI Heritage Month. When non-AAPI employees attend this event, they take an active approach to learning more about the traditions and customs that make their AAPI co-workers who they are. Non-AAPI employees become more appreciative of a different culture, and AAPI employees are heard, seen, and celebrated by those with whom they may not have much else in common. This newfound cultural awareness creates a safer workplace where employees from all walks of life are empowered to bring their full selves to work.
Besides contributing to an environment that is good for your employees’ mental health, cultural awareness promotes innovation and collaboration, as well as boosts job satisfaction and employee engagement. It’s a win-win.
Prioritizing employee mental health and well-being is not only good for the soul, it’s good for business. And it can begin with creating spaces for diverse employees to show up, speak out, and thrive in community with others with similar backgrounds, experiences, or identities. Are you ready to leverage the power of ERGs to support your employees’ mental health? Let’s work.