Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) — voluntary, employee-led groups that serve traditionally marginalized or underrepresented employees — are important pillars of your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. With dedicated support and resources, your ERG program can contribute to a culture of inclusion and belonging while making a positive impact on your business.

In a previous post, we spoke with Laura Folks and Gill Quinn, Indeed’s Inclusion Resource Group (IRG) Program Managers, to gain insight on how to build an effective ERG program. Once you’ve established a strong foundation, you’ll want to unlock the full potential of your ERGs. So in this second half of our two-part series, we’re going to explore ideas that will help you grow your ERGs, and take them to the next level.

Use this for inspiration, but remember to ask members for input, too. Ultimately, your mix of programs and activities should serve your members, maximize available resources and align with your ERG’s goals and objectives.

Provide an inclusive and intersectional space to connect 

ERGs should offer connection and support to its diverse member base. This can include both informal events — like virtual coffee chats for members to connect and catch up — in addition to more structured conversations to address important issues impacting the community.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, Indeed’s Black Inclusion Group in America and Europe organized Healing Hours as the world continued to reckon with racial injustice and demand reform. Facilitated by therapists and psychologists, Healing Hours provided a safe space for Black employees to share their experience, while welcoming allies to participate as listeners and learners.

Take a look at what's going on in your own community. What resources can your ERGs provide to support employees during challenging times? It’s best to get these support systems in place before they’re needed in times of crisis.

Create networking and professional development opportunities for members

ERGs provide a unique outlet for relationship-building across functions and geographies, allowing employees to make valuable connections they might not have otherwise made. Volunteer responsibilities also present opportunities for leadership and skills development that go beyond what’s available in assigned roles.

Create pathways for professional growth by offering mentoring programs, stretch assignments or access to conferences like the ERG and Diversity Council Conference. For example, if you have an ERG member that would like to strengthen their project management skills, ask them to take the lead organizing your group’s next program or event. This not only provides a positive professional development experience for employees, it also builds a strong ERG leadership bench. 

“Watching our IRG leaders grow their confidence and capabilities has been a great experience for me,” Quinn says. “I believe that IRG leaders inspire new IRG leaders. They pave the way for others to start.”

Offer educational programs to expand cross-cultural competencies 

Consider hosting speaker series and panels with subject matter experts from throughout the company. For example, Access Indeed Tokyo recently led a virtual conversation about invisible disabilities and how to create a more accessible, inclusive workplace.

Storytelling is another powerful educational tool that encourages understanding, empathy and connection while providing a platform for ERG members to use their voice. For instance, Indeed’s Asian Network organized a task force to address the troubling rise in xenophobia and discrimination related to COVID-19. This resulted in the creation of a hub, where members can tell their stories and share educational resources.

Folks reflects on the hard work the Asian Network put into organizing this effort: “They leveraged their networks to get high-caliber speakers at no cost to discuss issues the Asian community was experiencing, and shared the importance of allyship during this difficult time.”

For companies with international operations, think globally by creating regional ERG teams, engaging local leaders and operating in multiple languages. Quinn shares, “This means understanding and adapting to local context, and ensuring that non-U.S. ERGs have a voice and are valued, seen and heard.”

In thinking about your own organization, ask yourself: where might employees benefit from a better understanding of communities outside of their own? How can you support ERG members around the world?

Contribute to business success and innovation 

Consider shifting to a Business Resource Group (BRG) model, which aligns ERG activities with the organization’s mission and goals for positive business impact. ERG members can support your recruitment efforts by becoming brand ambassadors, participating in recruiting fairs or industry events and identifying diverse talent sources.

For example, the Veterans and Allies Resource Group developed training for Indeed’s Talent Acquisition team, Folks shares. “Now when a job seeker with military experience applies for a role, recruiters better understand the unique skill sets and value the candidate brings to the table.”

ERG members can also provide a diverse lens for assessing product development and marketing activities. Consider setting up a council made up of ERG volunteers that can share their unique, invaluable business insights.

Indeed’s Global IRG Product Advisory Council allows us to incorporate diversity of experience, thought, background and perspectives directly into product development. For example, Access Indeed members review our products to maximize accessibility.

Serve your community 

ERGs can extend their impact beyond the business to serve the broader communities where they operate. What issues are your ERG members passionate about? Empower local ERG chapters to organize volunteer programs aligned with your community’s specific needs.

For instance, Indeed’s Latinx in Tech group hosted “Job Squad” events in both English and Spanish to help local community members find jobs using Indeed. In India, the Women at Indeed Hyderabad chapter led a virtual SheCodes event with over 2,500 participants, providing women an opportunity to showcase their coding skills.

Have fun! 

ERGs should also be an outlet for joy and celebration. Here at Indeed, we’ve enjoyed Verzuz Battles hosted by the Black Inclusion Group, virtual Zumba classes led by Latinx in Tech and even a virtual dance party organized by iPride for Pride Month. These popular, engaging events have been a welcome respite during challenging times.

Whether you’re hosting an educational panel or informing product innovation, the sky’s the limit for what an engaged and well-resourced ERG can do. Unlock its potential so you can take your ERG program — and your business — to the next level.