Employee Resource Group (ERG’s) was first institutionalized in Xerox in 70s. It has been part of most of the noteworthy organization in some form or shape for almost quarter to half a century. ERG’s were initially focussed on race but quickly encompassed gender and other subjects to accommodate requirements of specific minority groups. That said, questions are now being asked of its relevance in today’s age and time. Deloitte ERG has been the first major company to disband after 24 years but am sure other organizations also would be introspecting on the progress made in last few years and path forward.
Reasoning for this step is given as inclusion cannot be achieved by excluding White Men. One thing which we all have to realize is awesome mentors and sponsors come from different region, colour, gender. Lot of learning can be achieved, as long as we do not restrict ourselves by mentor’s background
The reason for half a century long successful run of ERGs is nothing else but ability to bring value on the table. Atleast wherever it has been implemented sincerely and with clearly defined purpose. Companies like Frito Lay have got stream of product ideas from minority ERG’s that boost their bottom line.
So what could be the reason for going back on ERGs:
Mix of employees and background has changed a lot. Now sum total of all minority groups are in majority in most of the organizations
The kind or magnitude of problems seen in workplace in last century are very different from the ones present today
Millennials joining the workforce have been exposed through real world interaction or Internet the cross cultural learnings and are way more accommodative than previous generations
By the very nature, ERGs are exclusionary as they leave out certain group of people and hence would not align with prevailing inclusive practices
So is it truly the beginning of end of ERGs. Yes and No- The way ERGs or BRGs are set up today may not be the most effective way to continue in future. Following are few of the points for consideration:
Open up BRGs/ ERGs for group membership for outside the group’s core audience. Encourage 20-30% members from outside of core constituency. This will ensure diversity in opinion and inclusion. LGBT Allies is a benchmark
Purpose of the group should be clear and achievable and tracked over time. Say support in increase of Women employee representation in Organization or in particular function, enable business or commerce
Sponsor/ Champion should be preferably from outside of the ERG minority group
Define purpose and road map in first few engagements and track the progress
Change in the business environment is happening so fast that we may not even realize that functions enabling Organization also need to stay ahead of curve. It is about time for ERGs to evolve and continue to deliver value for all the stakeholders.