The Ultimate Employee Resource Group Toolkit

An illustration of two women talking.

Employee Resource Groups are often the centerpiece of a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy. However, just because ERGs are common amongst companies does not mean that they are always effective. Unfortunately, many companies are struggling to properly structure and organize their groups. We’ve created this toolkit to empower you as a DEI or ERG leader to take your ERGs to the next level. 

Heads up! This is a living ERG Toolkit, and we’ll be adding more pieces to it at least monthly to help you and your ERGs be better. Go ahead and add the ERG Toolkit to your bookmarks!

Contents:

* coming soon

What is an Employee Resource Group (ERG)?

Employee Resource Groups are employee identity or experience-based groups that focus on creating community and belonging for employees. According to a 2017 report by TopMBA, 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs, and this number is likely even higher following the summer of 2020. 

ERGs are most often centered on bringing together a group of people with shared gender identities, sexual orientations, race/ethnicities, interests, backgrounds, and/or perspectives. Different companies use different naming conventions for their ERGs - Communities, Affinity Groups, Business Resource Groups, Network Groups, etc. Generally speaking, the groups are volunteer-led (although some companies have elected to pay ERG leads; more on this later in the toolkit), and they focus on creating safe spaces for members and supporting business functions.

The Business Case for ERGs

Employee resource groups are great tools for fostering inclusion for employees from underrepresented communities, but they can be so much more. ERGs are at their best when they are business resources that support every department of a company. 

Here are some of the business benefits of employee resource groups:

1. Improved Retention

This one should be obvious, but it isn’t always framed this way for companies. One of the primary objectives for ERGs is to foster inclusion for (often underrepresented) employees. If employees have a sense of community and belonging at work, they are more likely to remain at a company. If you don’t pitch your ERG as a tool to retain talented employees, your leadership might have a hard time understanding why some budget should be allocated to the group. 

Additionally, according to Stories from the Chezie community, professional development is a huge priority for diverse job-seekers. ERGs often focus on creating professional development opportunities for members in the form of training, workshops, and mentorship. If your ERG can help members achieve their career goals, you’re more likely to keep the talent you have.

2. Improved Recruiting

The number one concern for companies right now is figuring out how to get more diverse talent into the organization (we believe the first priority should actually be on retaining the talent companies already have, but that’s a separate conversation). ERGs can be great ways to source diverse talent that your company would normally not have access to.

Many companies have set up employee referral programs through their ERGs to help bolster diversity recruiting. Some additional ideas are to let your ERGs host social events for people outside of your organization, and ask your members to invite colleagues or friends to that event. This gives you an opportunity to network with highly-qualified people and introduce them to your company’s culture in a casual setting. 

3. Increased Productivity

A 2013 study by Theresa M. Welbourne, PhD, showed that employees that participate in ERGs have higher energy levels than those that don’t. Dr. Welbourne describes employee energy as “the internal force one has to move forward and achieve goals at work.” 

Read that again. 

Employees that participate in ERGs are more likely to achieve work goals. That should be the end of discussion. ERGs literally help a company’s workforce be more productive. In business words, more productivity means having a sales team that surpasses its quota or an engineering team that fixes bugs at a faster rate. ERGs = increased productivity = better business results.

4. Equitable Product Development

There have been plenty of news stories about companies putting out offensive products or marketing campaigns - see this article on H&M, or this article on a world built for men. ERGs can help companies avoid biased products by supporting their product development team to make sure that the goods or services your company sells attract people from all identities. Here are some real-life examples that we’ve gathered from employers that we’ve spoken with and our own research:

  • A fitness wearables company works with its Black ERG to make sure that the product works as well on darker skin as it does on lighter skin. 
  • A large ecommerce company works with it’s Disabilities ERG to make it’s smart speaker device accessible to people who are deaf or who have speech impediments. 
  • A film production company, during development for a movie featuring an all-Black cast, works with its Black ERG to make sure that the content of the movie is representative of the Black experience. 

Conclusion

As your ERGs become more closely tied to the goals of your company, it becomes much easier to ask for additional budget, resources, and/or attention. Employee resource groups can be incredible communities for people of shared identities and backgrounds, but they can also be incredible business assets.

How to Launch an ERG

Do it yourself! Use our Worksheet for Establishing an ERG.

Since ERGs are almost always employee-led, they can be launched by anyone in your organization. Typically, there are informal communities within companies that want to transition into more formal employee resource groups. For example, your LGBTQ or Black employees likely already have a Slack channel that they use as a safe space to vent and help each other advance at your company. Whether you already have these informal communities in place and you want to formalize them, or whether you’re starting your group from scratch, here are six steps to launch your ERG.

1. Establish your mission and goals

The mission and goals of your ERG should be created in collaboration with employees that are interested in joining. The mission guides the group’s initiatives and campaigns throughout the year. Collectively, your group’s goals should represent your company and your group’s common interests. 

While the mission articulates the purpose for which the group was created (i.e. creating an inclusive environment for Latinx employees, or raising awareness of LGBTQ+ social issues), the goals should outline specific activities and timelines.

Consider the following questions when setting the mission and goals:

  • What are the core values of the group?
  • How can we differentiate ourselves from other groups at the company?
  • What actions need to be taken to achieve the group's mission?
  • What are short-term and long-term goals?
  • What resources are needed to achieve our goals?
  • Who will take the lead on the execution of these tasks?
  • What are the financial restraints?

2. Engage executive sponsors

Executive sponsorship is crucial to the success of ERGs. To gain buy-in, find executives or C-suite sponsors who have demonstrated commitments to DEI. Ideally, although not required, these executives will identify with the group they are sponsoring.

When asking an executive to sponsor your ERG, approach them with talking points and data that showcases how ERGs will positively impact your employees and the organization as a whole. Good thing you just read about the business case for ERGs

Make sure HR leaders are especially invested, as they will have insight into legal requirements, and authority over budget and promotions for your group. 

3. Get employees involved

ERG leaders should make a plan and work with their team to develop outreach strategies and generate interest for their group. Work with your contact in HR to make sure you are communicating with all potential employee participants.

Consider developing marketing assets to introduce the group. These can be digital assets like email newsletters, or physical swag like t-shirts. Work with the marketing team to identify any brand restrictions.

Additionally, promote your ERG in multiple channels such as:

  • Email blasts
  • Flyers
  • Slack channels
  • All-hands meetings
  • Employee onboarding programs

Another way to attract participants is to network and/or partner with other internal diversity groups (culture committees, mentorship programs, etc.) already in place. Try attending some meetings in order to connect with their representatives to share ideas, obtain feedback, and build relationships.

4. Establish a structure

With the input of group members and your executive sponsor(s), establish a regular meeting and/or event schedule. Consistency will help drive collaboration and organization across different ERG groups.

Hold meetings at least every quarter for your leadership team. Actively plan the agenda so that time is well spent on topics that are relevant to all participating members. Here are some things to consider when organizing the group’s structure and meeting schedule:

Schedule:

  • Determine days, times, length, and frequency
  • Create plan for members who can’t attend
  • Pick a location, and consider holding in-person events whenever possible

Responsibilities:

  • Lead meetings
  • Create meeting agendas and share them with members
  • Send reminders and/or calendar invites
  • Track attendance

5. Align ERGs on business initiatives

To encourage buy-in from all departments and levels of the organization, it’s important that ERGs align their goals to company objectives. 

For example:

  • Recruiting – attending career fairs, sharing job openings within their networks, and referring qualified talent
  • Professional development – identifying emerging leaders within your ERG community, hosting leadership workshops for diverse employees, and fostering mentorship between junior and senior employees
  • Cultivating an inclusive culture - Embedding inclusivity into the company culture by raising awareness internally and elevating the company’s brand within the communities the ERGs represent

For example, Pinterest’s Black and Latinx ERGs tied their goals to business objectives when they launched cultural content during the group’s respective heritage months.

6. Promote allyship among other ERGs

Since the primary purpose of ERGs is to cultivate a more inclusive workplace for employees, it makes them perfectly positioned to build a culture of allyship and to foster collaboration across the organization. 

Although ERGs bring together people of shared demographic traits, you should encourage participation from employees of all backgrounds within and outside the organization. People can more easily support your community if they’re invited into it. The most effective ERGs get collaboration between and among other groups to take advantage of synergies, encourage transfer of knowledge, and accelerate business objectives.

Here are some ways to leverage relationships with other groups:

  • Collaborating on community and professional event
  • Exchanging ideas and resources
  • Sharing ERG announcements of news and upcoming events
  • Participating in an open forum to share experiences

With a clear mission and goals, employee resource groups have the potential to be strategic initiatives for companies that significantly contribute to overall success and profitability. With these steps in mind, we hope that your ERG turns into a source of innovation and inspiration for your organization.

Use This Simple Framework to Structure Your ERGs - The 4 C's

Before you kick off your ERGs, it’s important to outline an operating structure for them. We make this comparison a lot, but every other business function has a set operating framework that it follows to achieve success. Product managers might use the Kano model; marketing teams might use the 7 P’s; Sales directors might use value-based customer theory. The same should apply to DEI, and specifically to ERGs.

The 4 C’s framework is an incredibly powerful methodology created by Dr. Robert Rodriguez of DDR Advisors. Standing for Commerce, Community, Culture, and Career, each ‘C’ represents a different pillar of an ERG’s overall strategy. This framework can be used to help outline your ERG goals and tell the story of the impact your groups are having. According to Diversity Best Practices, over 200 corporations, including Allstate, TJX Corporation, and Comcast/NBCUniversal utilize the 4 C’s model to structure their ERGs. 

Illustration of the 4 C's framework
Illustration from DDR Advisors

The 4 C’s, explained

Commerce

Commerce - making a business impact for your company. 

The same Diversity Best Practices article highlights that, although none of the 4 C’s is more important than the other, performing low on the Commerce pillar has a more negative impact on your group than low performance for the other C’s. Remember, at their best, ERGs are business resources. If you can support your company’s core business functions, your visibility throughout the organization is higher and it’s much easier for you to make the case for additional budget and/or resources.

Career

Career - making an impact on the careers of your members.

According to DDR Advisors, “when companies score high on their Career related questions, it is more likely that they will be able to maintain or improve the scores in the other three areas.” Your group should be focused on advancing the careers of the people that you look to serve within your company. The best way to do this is to talk to your members and figure out what kind of programming they want exposure to. Consider adding the following questions to the signup form for your ERG:

  1. What are you hoping to gain from joining our group?
  2. What are your career goals?

Monitor people’s responses to these questions via your Chezie Dashboard (or whatever method that you use to track signups) and use the responses to guide your ERG programming. 

Community

Community - benefitting the community you serve. 

The community pillar is focused on external outreach. If you lead a Black ERG and your company is headquartered in Atlanta, find ways to benefit Black people in the Atlanta area. Get creative! Again, you can always work with your members to brainstorm community-service and community development projects. Ask members if they have any organizations that they would recommend, and if you find a few that align with your company’s values, reach out to them to see how you can support their work. 

Culture

Culture - raising awareness of social and cultural issues. 

One of the primary reasons that people from underrepresented groups need the support of ERGs is because there are often social, cultural, or economic forces that keep these people from achieving their goals. It’s likely that in-group members an ERG are already aware of these forces, so your ERG needs to focus on raising awareness for employees that don’t identify with the group. Create and share content, host book or podcast clubs, or go to a film screening. Use your ERG as a catalyst for change within your company’s walls by providing people with insight that they likely didn’t have before. 

Example programs and initiatives

Now that we’ve covered the 4 C’s framework and what each pillar means, here are some example initiatives and programs that would fall under each pillar.

Commerce

  • Write or review blog content for your marketing team
  • User test a new feature for your product team and provide feedback
  • Host networking events with the recruiting team and allow your ERG members to invite their friends

Career

  • Create a mentorship program for junior-level employees to connect with senior leaders
  • Provide stipends for members to attend one career development conference annually
  • Host a lunch-and-learn series with an external (or internal) speaker around career development topics - financial literacy, side hustles, real estate investing, etc.

Community

  • Partner with a local school to host a student mentorship program
  • Gather donations from employees and donate the proceeds to a local charity. Bonus points if you can get your employer to match contributions
  • Run drives for people to donate items during different parts of the year - school supplies in August, coats in November, etc.

Culture

  • Prep crisis management templates to be sent via email to your company. These can be used if/when a negative social event occurs - a police shooting, a natural disaster, etc.
  • Bring in a (paid) speaker to discuss social issues that affect in-group members of an ERG

Metrics You Should Use to Measure ERG Success

One of the foundational challenges to DEI work as a whole is the lack of quality data. It can be difficult for DEI leaders to demonstrate the impact that their work is having because they typically don’t have data to tell the story.

“What gets measured gets managed.”

- Someone really smart

If you’re working on your company’s employee resource groups, it’s absolutely critical that you have established metrics to track the success of your programming and strategy. Having metrics in place can be the difference between your groups getting additional funding for the upcoming fiscal year and your groups getting dissolved entirely. 

The question is: what metrics should you track? 

Depending on where your ERGs are in their development, some metrics might be easier to gather than others, which is why we’ve broken this up by ERG maturity level. Select the maturity level that most applies to your groups, and continue reading to learn what types of metrics you should be gathering to show how your ERGs are successfully making your company a better place to work. 

An illustration of the employee resource group maturity model.
Illustration inspired from the work of D. Chip Newton

Affinity Group

Groups at the Affinity Group stage are less formal and focused primarily on creating networking opportunities for their members. For earlier-stage groups, this might mean that your group is housed in a Slack channel and that you’re still working on establishing your leadership team.

Here are metrics that companies at the Affinity Group stage should track:

Overall membership

  • Track the number of employees that are members of your group. For this, you need to define what membership means. At this stage, this can be people that have opted into the distribution list or joined the Slack channel.

# of events held

  • Track the number of events held per quarter or half-year, or full year. Identify a target number (i.e. one event per month), and make sure that each event has an objective. 

Note: we’ll cover how to plan successful ERG events in a later section. 

Event attendance

  • Track the number of people that are signing up to attend your events (accepting the calendar invites), and the number of people actually attending the event. For virtual event attendance, look at the number of participants halfway through the event.

Employee Resource Group (ERG)

Groups in this phase of the maturity model are further established than their Affinity Group counterparts. They have a set structure, a leadership team, and a regular event schedule. They also support business objectives, although they might not do it regularly. 

In addition to the metrics for companies at the Affinity Group stage, here are metrics that companies at the ERG stage should track:

Recruiting referrals

  • Track the number of recruiting referrals that members of ERGs submit. If there’s not an option to do this in your applicant tracking system, consider creating a simple Google form where people select the ERG they are part of, and send each new submission to the recruiting team.

Mentorship program participation

  • Track the % of your ERG members and of your overall company that participates in your mentorship program in a fiscal year. Decide if the program is exclusively for ERG members or open to anyone at the company. 

# of community service/corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives held

  • Track the number of community service initiatives led by your ERG in a given fiscal year. These can be volunteering, food or clothing collections, donations, or any other form of community service/CSR.

Business Resource Group (BRG)

As mentioned earlier in the toolkit, every group should strive to become a business resource. This means that not only is your group providing a community for employees from underrepresented communities at your company, but that you’re also supporting critical business functions that improve the bottom line. 

In addition to the metrics for companies at the Affinity Group and ERG stages, here are metrics that companies at the BRG stage should track:

# of feature requests from BRG members

  • Track the number of feature requests submitted by your ERG members. The same way that your product team gathers feature requests from customers, it can work with members of your ERG to figure out how to make your company’s product more inclusive and/or attractive to a different demographic.

# of leads from BRG member referrals

  • Track the number of sales leads submitted by ERG members. Similar to the recruiting referral, create a system for members of your ERG to submit potential sales leads to the sales team. Bonus points if the submitting employee gets commission upon closing the deal.

# of promotions for high-potential mentorship program

  • Track the number of people participating in your high-potential mentorship program. Unlike a traditional mentorship program, this one should be focused on identifying successful middle-managers and giving them resources and support to make their way into company leadership.  

Be aware, these metrics are foundational. In other words, there are levels to this. For example, as your groups get more established at your company, you might go from tracking the number of people in each ERG to categorizing members by level within the organization, department/team (i.e. product, sales, marketing), and office. For events, you might start sending feedback surveys to attendees asking them “how likely are you to recommend this event to a colleague?” to gather an NPS score in addition to tracking the number of events held.

Regardless of what stage your ERGs are in, it is imperative that you have metrics associated with your groups. If you can show the impact that your ERGs are having with digestible data, it’s much easier for you to make the case for increased budget or more involvement from leadership.


How to Pick Your ERG Leaders

When it comes to employee resource group leadership roles, none is more important than the overall group Lead. As mentioned above, ERG’s are primarily employee-driven, and it’s important to have people at the helm that are passionate about the success of their communities within your company.

What to look for in an ERG lead

As you identify the goals for your groups, you want to make sure that the people leading your ERGs are capable of executing those goals. You should be looking for ERG leader that have:

  • Good standing in their performance reviews. These leaders should be people who constantly meet or exceed the expectations of their day jobs.
  • Trust amongst employees from their identity group. Part of being an ERG leader is about getting buy-in from your members to where they feel comfortable telling your lead what they want and need from the group.
  • The ability to create and lead effective teams. Although your ERG leader will be the face of the group to the rest of the company, running an ERG is a group effort. It’s important that your lead can manage a team of people who handle different pieces of the work that the group does - planning events, tracking budget, etc.

How to pick your leads

Depending on what stage your groups are in, there are a few approaches you can take to choosing an ERG lead:

1. Find volunteers

For groups in the affinity group stage, your best bet for identifying potential ERG leaders is to ask people to volunteer. In most cases, there are informal groups already present at your company that exist in Slack channels. Try to figure out who organized that group from the beginning, and ask if that person would be interested in taking on the role of ERG lead.

2. Nominations

If your groups are in the employee resource group phase, asking members for nominations can be a great way to identify leads. People that get nominated are likely already respected in your organization, which means that they should be able to quickly get buy-in from the people they are looking to serve and hopefully get buy-in from company leadership.

3. Applications

Another option for groups in the employee resource group phase and beyond is taking applications for ERG leaders. This approach will work best if there are existing leads that can speak to the experience and benefits that come with being an ERG leader. You want the position to be something that people are excited about taking on, and accepting applications ensures that people are being intentional about the role and its responsibilities. Taking applications also gives you a sense of the type of leader the applicant will be. Do they have a set plan for how they would improve the group? What programs do they plan on implementing? Be sure to include these sorts of questions in your application.

Click here for a sample ERG Lead application.

4. Elections

Finally, consider doing elections for your ERG leads. This is something that more advanced groups - those in the business resource group stage - can opt to utilize because the groups should be relatively large and should have an active member base. Ask candidates to apply first, and then put the top applicants to a vote amongst the members. Ask people why they think the candidate would be a good fit for the role.

Additional considerations for choosing your ERG leads

Identify a set number of goals that you can judge your ERG lead’s success against (more to come on identifying ERG goals in a later chapter). Consider mandating at least one event per quarter or an annual heritage month celebration for leads to work towards. This helps demonstrate the impact that your ERG leads and the ERGs are having overall, and it clearly articulates what the leads should be working towards.

Also, once you’ve elected an ERG leader, that person does not (and should not) remain in that position in perpetuity. Establish a rotation schedule for other employees to come into the position at your company. This gives you a regular, fresh set of eyes that can review your group’s progress and identify gaps that previous leads might have began to miss.

Finally, encourage your leads to challenge your company and its leaders. For your organization to grow and make true strides towards inclusion and equity, it’s important for your ERG leads to take risks. Encourage your leads to challenge the company status quo by speaking up about antiquated or unfair practices that might be harming the success of their ERG members. Your leaders should have access to company leadership, and it’s important that they use that access for the betterment of their groups.

Being an ERG lead is an opportunity for employees at your company to have a genuine impact on the experiences of people that identify similarly to them. It’s also a great career advancement opportunity. For this reason, it’s critical to the success of your groups that you identify the right person(s) for the job.

ERG Budget Considerations

This section of the toolkit is based on our November 10th event Money Talks! Planning Your 2022 ERG Budget hosted by Jes Osrow. 

Do it yourself! Use our ERG Budget Worksheet.

One of the most commonly asked questions around launching and managing ERGs is "how much budget should I give my groups?" This article will explain why a budget for your groups is important, how to approach identifying your budget, and strategies for determining your budget.

Having a budget is critical for creating successful ERGs

If you have ERGs, then you need to have a budget allocated to them. Much of the programming that your groups will do - events, recruiting partnerships, swag purchases - will require funding. It's important that you equip your groups with the resource they need to achieve their goals. 

Acquiring a budget for your ERGs also demonstrates to your Leads that your company is behind them. Being an ERG Lead is already so stressful; if people in that role have to figure out how they're going to pay for the events that they want to put on, you're going to make that job even more difficult. More difficulty for ERG leads = under-performing programs = lower ROI = lower employee retention

How to approach your annual budget

According to a study by DiversityInc, the average budget for employee resource groups is between $7,000 - $15,000 per year, but for large companies, that number can go as high as $75,000 - $100,000 a year. 

Let's be honest, though; that's probably not helpful. You need to figure out what stage your ERGs are in, and what your group's goals are before you finalize your group's budgets. The best way to approach it is to figure out what programming you want to accomplish, and estimate how much that programming is going to cost.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

1. What do our Leads hope to accomplish?

A foundational rule of anything that your company does for diversity, equity, and inclusion should be to work backward. Don't try a random set of programs just because you see other companies doing them. Figure out what your employees need, and build your strategy around that. 

This same concept applies to your ERGs and your allocated budget. Your leads should work with their members to figure out what they are hoping to get out of joining the group and build their programming around that. See if there are any goals that they can accomplish that require little to no budget.

2. How can you be transparent with the budget?

You want your group Leads to know how you came to these numbers. If they give you a list of six major events that they want to hold throughout the year, and you can only afford four of those events, let them know. Give them reasons why - the overall budget can't handle it, they don't have enough members to warrant that many events, etc. You want to build trust with your Leads as quickly as possible, and being transparent about your approach to budget development is a great way to do that. 

3. What's a reasonable budget for other ERGs?

Okay, I know we just said not to base your strategy on what you see other groups doing, but hear me out. 

If your company already has ERGs, and you're just trying to request a new one, ask the other Leads what a reasonable budget would be. If you're launching your first set of ERGs at your company, then try to talk to other DEI leaders working with companies of similar sizes, industries, and/or geographies about what their budgets look like. 

Hmm... if only there was a way for you to connect with ERG Leaders at other companies...

4. How do we categorize our spending?

To make sure that your money is being spent appropriately and that members are benefiting from the programming, you'll want to track how the money is being spent. 

You should start by tying each expense to a Pillar (i.e. one of the 4 C's). Next, you should categorize your expenses. Here are the categories that we recommend:

  • Community Service
  • Donations
  • Food
  • Recruiting
  • Speaker
  • Supplies
  • Swag
  • Training
  • Other / Misc. 

Three ways to determine your budget

Here are three ways to determine your annual budget.

1. Lump-sum

With a lump-sum approach, all ERGs pull from the same pool of money. These funds would likely be owned and managed by the overarching DEI team. 

  • Pros - easy to track since all of the money gets charged to the same account.
  • Cons - harder to compare ROI between groups as one group could consume a larger share of the overall budget than other groups. 

2. Per ERG

From our research, the per ERG approach is the most commonly used method for determining budget. Each group gets the same amount of money to spend on programming over the course of the year. 

  •  Pros - gives ERG leaders accountability and ownership of their groups.
  • Cons - if there are discrepancies between the sizes of your groups, certain groups might need additional funds to cover the expenses of programs.

3. Per-person

This is our favorite approach. With a per-person approach, the budget is based on the size of the group, and each ERG is given a set amount of money for each member. For example, if group A has 100 members and group B has 50 members, and groups are given $100/year/member, then the annual budget for Group A is $10,000, and the budget for Group B is $5,000.

  • Pros  - fairest way to distribute funds.
  • Cons - requires DEI administrators to have an accurate count of ERG membership. May be more difficult for companies with larger groups. 

Sample ERG event budget

To give you some additional context, here is a sample ERG budget for a Black@Chezie, a 500-person tech company with a leading employee resource group management software (😉).  

Black@Chezie

  • uses the 4 C's as their ERG pillars (Community, Culture, Career, and Commerce). 
  • has 75 members.
  • determined their budget with the per-person method. They've allocated $20/member/month or $240/member/year.
  • determined that their goals were to hold four total events this year; one for each pillar. 

Planned events:

Community - Black History Month Happy Hour

  • Schedule - Q1 2022
  • Cost - $2000
  • Category - Supplies, Food, Venue

Culture - Lunch and Learn - Microaggressions - hosted by an external speaker

  • Schedule - Q2 2022
  • Cost - $1500
  • Category - Speaker

Career - Stipend for Professional Development Conference

  • Schedule - Q3 2022
  • Cost - $2500
  • Category - Training

Commerce - Product Review Workshop with Product & Marketing teams

  • Schedule - Q4 2022
  • Cost - $300 (for lunches)
  • Category - Food

Here's how you'd show the budget for this group:

Sample ERG budget
Sample ERG budget

Now, the above budget assumes that the group doesn't have non-event expenses (t-shirts, recruiting partnerships, donations, etc.) that would require an additional budget, but it should help you visualize and think about what needs to be considered to determine your ERG budget(s). 

Determining a budget for your ERGs can be daunting, especially if you've never done it before. However, you can't use that as an excuse. Your ERGs need money to be effective, and if you're smart about how you strategize for your groups, you should be able to give your groups the resources they need.

How to Determine Compensation for your Employee Resource Group Leads

Only 28% of ERGs compensate their leads, according to a 2021 report by The Rise Journey. Simply put: that number is way too low.

Employee resource groups are often the centerpiece of a company's diversity, equity, and inclusion work. To maximize your group's impact, you should compensate your ERG Leads to keep them incentivized and motivated to continue building your groups. So to help you get to paying your leads, here's a guide to paying your employee resource group leads.

Why should I pay my Leaders? 

Your Black ERG Leads have taken on this role because they want to help other Black employees navigate their early days at the company. Your Women's ERG Leads took on the role because they want to help more women break into leadership positions.

Most often, these people are selflessly spending extra time on this work because they want to see people that share their identity or affinity succeed at your company. When a crisis hits the community that an ERG Lead serves, that Lead often has to take on the emotional labor and manage the feelings of your employees. You should never ask a marginalized community to solve its own marginalization, but that's exactly what so many companies do by asking their employees to take this work on as unpaid labor. Unless your company is 100% equitable 100% of the time (hint: it's not),  your ERG Leads contribute to your company building an equitable culture. 

Also, paying your ERG leaders speaks toward your company culture. Your Leads will recognize the support that they have from their company leadership, and compensation is a way to demonstrate that they have that support. It also helps prevent burnout and resentment from doing work that they do not feel is appreciated. 

Different Forms of Compensation

Most likely, you'll need to present the case for paying your ERG leads. To do this, have an idea of how you will actually distribute payment and what forms of compensation you will use. While cash compensation is most ideal, there are several different types of ERG compensation:

  • Annual stipend (our personal recommendation) - this is a flat rate annual stipend that ERG Leads receive for their work. This approach has recently been noted as the chosen payment method for companies like LinkedIn and Justworks
  • Professional development - this could be tickets to a conference of the Leads' choice or exclusive access to mentorship from an internal or external leader. These opportunities are things that your Leads can speak to in their annual performance review. Being an ERG lead should be a career advancement opportunity for your employees, so work to identify ways to help them hit their career goals, and work that into the compensation.
  • Swag/gifts - these would be non-monetary gifts that you give to your leads, like t-shirts, mugs, or gift boxes. Bonus points if you partner with an external organization that provides gifts from the same demographic group that your Lead looks to serve. 
  • Stock options - consider allocating additional stock options for your Leads. Similar to their current options, these would vest over time. This also shows that you're interested in supporting your ERG Leads for the long haul.

Other forms of compensation include mentorship opportunities, gift cards, and cost-related travel. 

Though there is a clear and most equitable choice here, at the end of the day, any form of compensation is a step in the right direction. 

Determining how much to pay your Leaders

Okay, now let's address the elephant in the room. How much should you pay your Leads?

We wish that there was one magic solution for this, but the answer really depends on your organization. If this is something that's new to your company, your goal should be to get some form of monetary compensation into the system. Take what you can get.

If you want some help determining a number to ask for, The Rise Journey recommends starting with a basic formula:

An illustration of compensation calculation formula
An illustration of a formula for calculating compensation

For a lead that puts in five hours of work per week, that comes out to $3900 per year. From there you can determine how the money is actually paid (quarterly, annually, etc.) and which Leads receive the compensation - is it only the chairs? Or do those leading individual committees also receive payment?

Using this formula, it should be much easier to determine how much money to ask for. It's important to remember, though, that $15/hour should be the absolute minimum you compensate your leads.

Additional things to note

As you work to determine your compensation, here are some additional considerations:

  • No, ERG compensation should not come out of the group's annual budget - We already discussed the importance of ERG budgets. If you're working to find a way to pay your ERG leads, ensure that the money for that comes from the additional budget and doesn't subtract from the existing annual budget of your group. 
  • Yes, you should be grooming your Leads to become future leaders within your company - The Two important traits for any good leader: time management skills and respect from peers. Being an ERG lead is an investment of time, so the case there should be obvious. 
  • Yes, it's a good idea to create a recognition plan for your Leads - While paying your leads is great, getting formal recognition is an easy (and low-cost) way to recognize them. Consider adding an 'ERG Lead Highlight' section to your company's all-hands meetings to showcase a Lead that's doing great work. 

Conclusion

Paying your ERG leads is the right thing to do. These employees are adding these ERG-related responsibilities to what is likely already a long list, and they deserve to be paid for what has been, until recently, unpaid labor.

ERG Goals and Objectives

Your company probably has goals that it wants to hit for things like revenue, number of users, press, feature releases, etc. Your ERGs should be no different. 

While there are some core things that every ERG should do - create space for employees, boost cultural competence for societal causes for different demographic groups, improve employee satisfaction, etc. - ERGs don't become business resource groups until they are run the same way as other business functions. Every event, program, and initiative should be tied to one of your group's goals. 

How ERG leadership should identify goals

We recommend two approaches for identifying your group's goals: talking to your members and working with your executive sponsors.

1. Talk to your members

As you know by now, employee resource groups should be employee-led and employee-focused. This means that your goals should be crafted around the wants and needs of the demographic that you serve.

If your Asian ERG members are looking for professional development opportunities to help them achieve their career goals, then create objectives that give those members of your workforce the chance to build the skillsets and line themselves up for promotions. If your Disability ERG members are looking for networking opportunities, then make sure your goals are tied to connecting people with disabilities. 

2. Work with executive sponsors to tie ERG goals to company goals and values

One way to demonstrate your Group's impact is to align your employee resource group's goals with that of the company. This is the purpose of the executive sponsor leadership role: to provide the ERG's leaders with access to the company leadership team.

Your company probably already has OKRs that it goes over during all-hands meetings, so try to find ways to align your ERG's goals to those. Work with your executive sponsor to help you figure out what those goals should be. This also helps promote the ERGs, and DEI as a whole, as a core part of the company culture because it gives you top-down support.

Examples of effective goals for employee resource groups

Your goals should be based on the maturity level of your ERG. Here are a few example goals for the different stages of employee resource group maturity:

Affinity Group - your focus should be on transitioning into an employee resource group.

  • Establishing your foundation - leadership structure, charter, mission statement, etc.
  • Gathering basic data on membership and event attendance
  • Holding simple, regularly-held events

Employee Resource Group - your focus should be on demonstrating impact and working into supporting business outcomes. 

  • Partnering with one company department
  • Regularly reporting on your ERG metrics (we suggest quarterly to start)
  • Expanding the ERG program into other pieces of your DEI strategy like recruiting, mentorship, or training

Business Resource Group -  your focus should be on representing the needs of the demographics or affinities that you serve and supporting business objectives (yes, plural).

  • Partnering with two company departments
  • Identifying your Group's impact on recruiting and retentions
  • Gathering more detailed data - spending per member, event attendance, newsletter open/click rates, etc.

Here are some example goals by Asana's ERGs (per Jopwell):

  • Drive inclusion and engagement: ERGs build a place for community and learning. They provide a safe space for discussions and idea-sharing. 
  • Understand what matters to colleagues: ERGs help build a culture of allyship by providing a forum for discussion and learning.
  • Promote personal and professional development: ERGs provide access to and support for learning initiatives and growth for their members. 
  • Involve the external community: ERGs present opportunities to get involved with the community, partner with other similar groups, and drive service initiatives. 

Additional considerations as you work to build a culture of inclusion through ERGs

You might have the urge to make your goals very rigid and quantitative, but we encourage you to avoid this. Placing strict goals and objectives on your ERGs can put undue pressure on your Leads (who likely already have enough on their plates). Also, if for whatever reason you aren't able to hit all of your numbers, it could have the unwanted effect of sparking doubt from any stakeholders that aren't already bought in. For example, if you have a goal to have 250 people attend your monthly event, and only 150 attend, middle management might start to question why they are letting people from their teams participate in or Lead the ERGs if they aren't being effective.

Timing is another consideration. Every goal that you create should have a timeline or cadence associated with it. Be it weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually, you want to make sure that your Leads know what the expected timeline is for your objectives. 

Lastly, share your goals with members! Besides the administrative pain points (tracking members, scheduling events, reporting, etc.) boosting engagement is the #1 pain point that we hear when having conversations with people leading ERGs. When you create your goals - likely at the start of every calendar or fiscal year - be sure to share your goals with your members in a newsletter or even a series of Slack/Teams posts. Consider asking members if they're willing to contribute to any of these goals, and do some simple reporting on them every quarter so members know how you're progressing. This increases buy-in and makes your members feel like they are really part of the change happening within the company. It's also a good way to spot anyone with ERG leadership potential 😉.

Conclusion

Establishing and tracking employee resource group goals is critical to demonstrating the impact that your groups have and creating a truly inclusive culture. Creating goals and objectives doesn't have to be super complicated, so do so based on where your groups are today, with a focus on where you want to be. 

How to Conduct Employee Resource Group Outreach

Now that you have identified your ERG Leads, created a charter and other necessary documents, and secured some budget, it's time to think about how to actually get people to participate in your groups. We call this ERG outreach.

There are two types of ERG outreach: internal and external:

  1. Internal outreach is promotions or marketing that you do to get your employees to participate in your groups (the Culture and Career pillars in the 4 C's framework). 
  2. External outreach is promotions and marketing, but targeted at working with groups outside of your company like non-profits or small businesses (the Community pillar in the 4 C's framework). 
Companies with ERGs have employees that are 11% more likely to feel like their perspectives were included in decision-making and 9% more likely to feel like they could make an impact.

Source: Culture Amp

Conducting solid outreach is critical to getting high levels of employee engagement and ultimately maximizing the potential of your ERGs. 

Internal outreach

Knowing the impact that ERGs can have on the employee experience, companies should want to get as many people to participate in their groups as possible. Internal outreach is all about finding ways to 1. raise awareness of your ERGs, and 2. boost participation in your ERGs. 

Here are some best practices for conducting internal outreach:

  1. Include ERG Programming during onboarding - One of the most common practices for improving visibility into ERGs is to host a comprehensive session during new employee onboarding. This information should include the names, demographics/affinities, missions, and leads of each ERG. 

If you want to take it to the next level, send people a welcome email from all of your ERGs with each group's mission, Slack channel link, and contact information for a Lead if they have questions.

  1. Create a sense of FOMO - While people might be interested in learning about your ERG's mission and about the leadership team, the best way to get them to participate is to make them feel like they're missing out on professional development, networking opportunities, or other interesting initiatives. Be sure to take screenshots, (or pictures for in-person events) of every event and initiative hosted by your ERGs. Ask for testimonials from attendees that you can share with the rest of your employees during All-hands or team meetings, internal company newsletter, and general company Slack channel.   While it isn’t expected that everyone participates in ERG activities all the time, it is important to share their work and the impact those initiatives are having on the organization.
  2. Create Multiple Channels for Participation - Yes, events (in person or virtual) are important and likely take up the bulk of ERG bandwidth, but they shouldn't be the only channel for participation. Give members multiple ways to participate and support the ERG. Brainstorm ways that members can do to contribute to the group on their own time. Some examples: support recruiting initiatives; welcome new members; or lead an ERG onboarding session.

External outreach

External outreach is a great way to support the Community pillar. The Community pillar in the 4 C's is about working to support the surrounding community of people that share the group's identity. This is an often-overlooked piece of ERG programming because companies (understandably so) are primarily focused on creating inclusive environments for their own employees. The thing is, partnering with community organizations is beneficial for your employees. The work is not only fulfilling, but it also provides professional development opportunities and a chance for members to grow their leadership skills. 

Here are some types of groups to consider reaching out to:

Charities and community development organizations

It's likely that members of your ERG already work with some local charities and non-profits. Work with your members to gather a list of organizations to support, and then make a decision on which charity to partner with that aligns with both the ERG and company's mission. 

Colleges and universities

Partnering with nearby colleges can be great because they'll have student groups for just about any identity that your employee resource groups represent. This is also a great way to support your HR/Recruiting team (again, the goal is to be a business resource group and support multiple pieces of your company's operations) and showcase your company's commitment to diversity to a diverse student group. Additionally, it can provide an opportunity for team members to be mentors to students in their community.

Local businesses

Local businesses can be great partners. If your company has a supplier diversity program, these businesses might even be potential vendors.  Also, if you buy company swag, give client gifts, purchase snacks or goods for the office (remote or otherwise) these are all opportunities to support specific communities that align with ERG identities.

Here are resources for finding businesses to partner with:

If you're in need, here's a sample cold outreach email that you can send to organizations:

Hi!

My name is Toby Egbuna. I'm a Software Engineer at Chezie, and I'm the Community Outreach Chair for our Black@Chezie Employee Resource Group. 

Just for more context, Chezie is an Atlanta-based company working to create more inclusive workplaces. The Black@Chezie group looks to create a safe space for our Black employees and support the community around us. 

I'm reaching out to ask about the opportunity to partner with your organization. Several of our members suggested your organization as one that's doing great work in the Atlanta area, and we're interested in supporting you and your org's mission in any way that we can. This could be through a mentorship program, donation drive, or another initiative that you think would be beneficial. 

Do you have 30 mins to chat this week? I would love to get to know you and your team and brainstorm ways that we can collaborate. 

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best,

Toby Egbuna

Black@Chezie Community Lead

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ERGs can and should be a foundational piece of your company culture. It's impossible to demonstrate the impact of your ERGs without participation, and participation starts with outreach. Make your ERGs visible to employees from day 1 so they know how to join, how they can get involved, and which external organizations your group supports.

How to Work with Your Executive Sponsors

Your executive sponsors are a bridge between your ERG and the organization. While your sponsor might be eager to support your ERG and the work that you do, they might not understand how to best support your Group. However, there are a lot of things that you can do to set up your Executive Sponsor for success and turn them into an advocate for your Group. 

Set the Tone

It’s important to establish what your ERG does and how available your sponsor is to support the work that it does. Sending a questionnaire is an easy and effective way to set the tone, for you and for your sponsor. It will help you as a leader to know more about your sponsor, any connection they may have to your Group, what they understand about your community, and how they’re able to support you. 

This questionnaire can also be used to learn more about the current knowledge level of your community. Perhaps your sponsor is an ally of your community but doesn’t know about the most current issues that matter to the community. Understanding what they know and don’t know can help you determine what other resources you can use to catch them up on what your ERG is all about. 

When creating the questionnaire, try to keep it casual as well as short. If your Executive Sponsor can fill the form out in about 5 minutes or so, it’s even better. Executives are often busy but it’s important to ensure that you and your sponsor are in alignment prior to working together. 

Set Clear Expectations

Executive sponsors might be very eager to support DEI work through this position, but they may not totally understand what the role entails. Ideally, you will already have a mission and vision statement ready to send their way. However, ensuring that you establish clear expectations can help your sponsor understand what is expected of them and have a clear measure of what success looks like.

Prior to meeting with your sponsor, discuss expectations with your ERG leadership team. Different ERGs will expect different things, such as advocacy or mentorship, from their sponsors (which is okay!) just make sure that it is clearly outlined. Pro tip: Consider setting a time commitment for your sponsor as this might qualify (or disqualify) potential candidates.

Teach Them the Appropriate Lingo

Each community has terminology that is important to know. 

For example, the term “African American” may not be appropriate to describe the membership of a Black ERG since all members will not identify with that term, making it an inadequate coverall term for Black people. However, many executives continue to use the term “African American.”

The LGBTQ+ community is very diverse. However, your Executive Sponsor might not be fully aware of the subgroups that exist within your ERG if you’re leading an LGBTQ+ Group. Your Executive Sponsor might not know what the terms “asexual” or “intersex” mean and how they relate to your group.

“Neurodivergent” is a relatively new term within DEI that describes people with unique cognitive functions. As such, your Executive Sponsor may have not even heard that this term exists or that companies are developing ERGs dedicated to Neurodivergent people. 

Explaining these terms to your Executive Sponsor not only helps them better understand the diversity and uniqueness of your ERG, it can also help them communicate with you, your team, and your ERG members better and more authentically. Consider writing a document that has a list of terms that are unique to your community and ERG on hand for your Executive Sponsor.

Bring Them Up to Speed

Different communities will have different priorities for their ERG. Work within your ERG to brainstorm a list of 3-5 topics/issues of significant importance. These topics can be internally, within the ERG or the company, or externally, within society and the general public. 

What if your Executive Sponsor shares the same identity as your ERG? It’s still important to understand where the members of your Group are focusing right now and what matters to them. As an Executive Sponsor, they might want to know where they can place their time and attention based on what your ERG has highlighted as an important topic to the community. 

Show Them the Data

Just like any other business function, you should track everything within your ERG. This is especially important when you’re speaking to Executive Sponsors, who value metrics and data. Even if they’re not as familiar with your ERG as you’d like them to be, your sponsor will understand data and metrics if you show it to them. Data is a universal language! 

Walk them through how your ERG is performing. Show them all the metrics you’d tracked, such as event attendance, sign ups, and membership, as well as the goals and objectives you have for your ERG. When showing them your data, ask their opinion on how you can reach your ERG goals, increasing their sphere of influence. 

Make Specific Asks

Because your Executive Sponsor will most likely be an ally, making specific asks will allow them to be more involved in your ERG. 

For example, ask them for feedback on the operations of your Group, such as the website, emails, as well as your events. Getting feedback from an executive position can help you better understand how to get more executives involved with DEI and your ERG’s initiatives. 

Invite your Executive Sponsor to participate in your member meetings. They should know when they are and make them feel welcomed during those meetings. It’s a great opportunity for your members to get to know them and for them to get more familiar with the community’s overall sentiment.

Respect Their Time

Remember that your Executive Sponsor is busy. Try not to waste their time. If you have a meeting set with them, don’t cancel at the last minute. 

Just like with events, send an agenda at least 24 hours before meeting with your sponsor so they can prepare for the meeting and be aware of what will be happening. It helps keep your meeting on track and helps you host the meeting within the allotted time. 

Communication Channel - Open Them Up

Provide a way for you to have constant communication with your executive like a Teams or Slack channel. This way, if they have a one-off question, it will open up the lines of communication and allow you both to easily communicate, compared to sending them a more formal email or scheduling a meeting. 

If you don’t have a Slack channel, have a regular touchbase meeting - at least one a month. In these meetings, they can come in with any questions or concerns that they may have. 

Get to Know Them As People 

Even when your executive doesn’t have a connection or identify with your Group, know who they are. Building time into meeting agendas to have ice-breakers can help make the meeting more personable, allowing both you and your executive to get to know each other and connect better. Knowing your executive on a personal note will lead to them advocating for you in the future. 

Praise Authenticity - Forgive the Learning Curve 

Executives are often concerned about saying or doing something wrong, especially as allies. It’s important to remember that they are people and as such, they will most likely say and do the wrong thing without meaning to do so. Oftentimes, executives undervalue DEI work, so acknowledge the fact that your sponsor is actively trying to create a more inclusive workplace by working with your ERG.

Obviously, there will still be a learning curve and as such, when they do say or do something wrong, be gentle with the feedback that you provide and applaud their efforts. Understanding everything about your community isn’t something learned overnight, especially for executives that are allies and not a part of that community. Patience is very important when you have an executive sponsor.  

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