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The Critical Role of Employee Resource Groups in Employee Engagement

By Leah Battin, Senior Associate, Company Advisory, CECP

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as, “employee groups that come together either voluntarily, based on a common interest or background, or at the request of a company. Examples of common ERGs are those formed around race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, parental status, national origin, religion or belief, or generation.” 

ERGs serve an important role in corporate purpose and employee engagement. In a survey conducted by and ACCP in 2021, 97% of respondents had any ERGs, and 43% had 6-10. Over half of the respondents identified promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was the primary objective for ERGs; the next most common objective, identified by 17% of respondents, was to build a positive work culture. 

CECP affiliates’ ERGs are making impacts across both the enterprise and their communities. The examples below demonstrate the commitment and value of ERGs in helping companies to build community, foster belonging, drive employee engagement and raise awareness of key issues, causes, and solutions:

  • AbbVie’s PRIDE ERG brings in expert speakers from community partners like the Center on Halsted, the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ+ center, and hosts workplace events to build awareness and visibility. The Abbvie Foundation provides an annual $100,000 grant to each ERG to distribute to nonprofits of their choice.
  • As one of its ten actions toward racial equity, in 2020 McKinsey engaged the McKinsey Black Network (MBN) to direct the majority of its $5,000,000 community investment in, “nonprofits at the forefront of creating equity-centered opportunities and combating racism.” Through a participatory process, MBN members identified and selected local, national, and international organizations supporting Black communities.
  • 3M designated $1,000,000 in 2021 for its Employee Resource Networks (ERNs) to support culturally specific economic development initiatives and organizations in its headquarters region. The company explains, “Our ERN-led philanthropic model centers the voice of our employees to influence our philanthropy and recognizes lived experiences as an important asset in making community-related investment decisions.”

Are you or your company thinking of launching or adding ERGs? 

Are you and your team exploring or expanding the role of ERGs in your business and talent strategies? 

Determine if it’s best for you to ERG or not to ERG by attending CECP’s Ignite Your ERGs Accelerator. Launching this June, we will explore how companies are elevating, empowering, and partnering with ERGs to maximize strategic outcomes. This virtual community of practice will expand participants’ thinking on the ERG model.  For four weeks we will dig into how companies are best equipping their ERG leaders, tackling tough conversations, aligning DEI efforts, and taking ERGs to the next level. For more information, the full schedule, and to register, please contact Meka Moskowitz.