Diversity and Inclusion

4 Critical Lessons for Your Employee Resource Group (ERG) (Blog Post) %

500+ employee resource group (ERG) leaders and members. 110+ companies. 20+ countries.

From April to November 2022, Catalyst’s four-part virtual event series, EnERGize Your Workforce, brought together a cohort of passionate and committed ERG participants and Catalyst consultants and experts to learn from each other.

“I loved the actionable events and practical information shared that can support other companies. Having examples … gave me lots of ideas for my own company,” one attendee noted. Another added, “It was validating to know that we are already doing many of the best practices mentioned [by the speakers].”

Speakers included Catalyst experts and successful ERG leaders from global corporations, including the Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bank of America, BMO, Raytheon Technologies, and Deloitte.

“[ERGs] really drive inclusion at the grassroots level,” said event host Vandana Juneja, Vice President and Head, Advisory Services, Catalyst. “All of you bring tremendous value to our organizations and from leading culture change.”

Regardless of how large or well-established your ERG may be, the event offered some critical lessons for success. Here are the top four:

Use your ERGs to build impact beyond your company’s walls.

Betty Vasquez-Stevens, co-lead of the LA VIDA! (Latinx/Hispanic Advocates: Voices for Integrity, Diversity, and Advancement) ERG at Guardian Life Insurance Company, spoke about her learning journey as an ERG leader—and the impact she realized she could have in this role.

“When I first joined the group [in 2020], I was thinking solely about employees—representation and professional leadership opportunities,” Vasquez-Stevens said.

But she quickly discovered that the ERG could influence the Latinx community in other ways. “I look at the conversations that are happening today that didn’t always happen—how we are servicing our customers, [what] we’re lacking. A big win for us is being brought into conversations to engage on products and consumer mindset.”

Make sure employees know the value of ERG participation.

Participating in or leading an ERG can be a major time commitment—separate from an employee’s day-to-day job. As a result, some employees may not recognize how ERG participation can benefit their careers.
BMO has worked to change that perspective, said Souroth Chatterji, Lead, ERG Program. During the 2021 annual review season, executive sponsors sent more than 500 letters to the managers of active ERG participants, outlining how each team member contributed to their ERG over the course of the year.

“It’s been a fantastic method to get people the recognition they deserve and have earned but also to help expand our [ERG’s] sphere of influence,” said Jeff Harrell, Co-Chair of the GenBMO (bringing together multigenerational employees) ERG.

Kaitlyn M. Hartranft, Co-Leader of Guardian Life Insurance Company’s Pride Alliance ERG, also shared how much her career has benefited from ERG leadership. “It’s really helping enhance my day job… I’m getting exposure to budgeting, planning, building partnerships and relationships across the organization that maybe in my day job I wouldn’t get the chance to,” Kaitlyn said.

Get buy-in from people outside your ERG.

Bank of America’s Joanne Gilmoran, Executive Co-Sponsor of the LGBTQ+ Pride Network in EMEA, said that building support among leaders who are not members of the network has been critical to its success.

One tactic employed at the company-wide level is an “ally portal” where employees can volunteer to be publicly listed as LGBTQ+ or an LGBTQ+ ally. During Joanne’s tenure in 2020-2021 as regional lead for the network in Europe, she held dialogue sessions with small groups of people. In just six months, allyship numbers in her business line grew from 18% to 82%.

“Conversations can do so much to break down barriers,” she said.

If you aren’t collecting data, start now.

Lainie Passero, co-lead of Bank of America’s Leadership, Education, Advocacy & Development for Women (LEAD for Women) network, advised leaders to start tracking engagement and membership as best they can.
“Don’t be afraid of manual data entry and spreadsheets—if you are a small or young ERG, you have to start somewhere,” Lainie added.

Some key data points that Lainie recommended are active membership numbers, event attendance and feedback, and percentage of budget utilized.

She cautioned, however, against using data to compare your performance to other ERGs. “Data [should be] used for chapters to measure their performance against priorities they have set for themselves. Some chapters are only two months old, and others are 18 years old. You can’t really compare them to each other.”

Want even more resources on building and growing your ERG? Check out Catalyst’s curated collection, Employee Resource Groups: Ask Catalyst Express. For additional work on ERG strategies, reach out to our experienced consultants at [email protected].

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