Over the last three years, business leaders have been vocal about amplifying diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) efforts in the workplace. However, in this uncertain economy, some employers are reprioritizing — and DEIB efforts “are being pushed further down on the agenda or being taken off altogether,” says Misty Gaither, vice president of DEIB+ at Indeed. 

Yet viewing DEIB as optional is short-sighted. Diversity and inclusion are important as many groups are still not well represented in the workplace. In addition, these initiatives can be a powerful force for reaching business goals, according to a new survey from Indeed, conducted by The Harris Poll among 1,140 US full- and part-time employees. One example is the way that employee resource groups (ERGs) and business resource groups (BRGs) can make a tangible impact on the success of your organization. 

Though ERGs appear in only a small number of job postings on Indeed, their mention grew 497% from 2019 to 2023. In addition, the new Indeed survey finds that 56% of full- and part-time employees report having ERGs at their companies. Beyond that, 58% believe these groups benefit the business. This is especially believed by younger generations of full- and part-time employees (69% of 18-34 year olds and 68% of 35-44 year olds, compared to 49% of 45-54 year olds and 38% of 55-64 year olds). 

ERGs should play an important role in creating a positive employee experience, a community and a safe space for many marginalized groups. However, when digging deeper, only 25% of full- or part-time employees say their ERGs actually make an impact on their company culture. And just 23% say they make an impact on DEIB efforts. When it comes to businesses’ goals, only 21% say ERGs have an impact on their overall success, while 20% say they make an impact on business decisions. 

The data suggest that most companies aren’t leveraging ERGs to their full potential. Here’s how Indeed approaches ERGs — and how you can support your ERGs to benefit both your employees and your business.  

Indeed Gives Employees from Marginalized Groups a Voice in the Business

Indeed ERGs were previously called inclusion resource groups (IRGs) and are now known as inclusion business resource groups (IBRGs). The program includes 11 global IBRGs in 13 countries with roughly 5,000 members.

Indeed’s goal is to make sure business decisions include voices of employees from marginalized groups. Toward this goal, Indeed invites its IBRGs to provide expertise and advice to make sure products, services and employee training content are accessible and inclusive. Members participate in focus groups to test products, consult on marketing campaigns, provide input on Indeed’s Career Guides and serve as subject matter experts on /LEAD with Indeed content, such as this recent article on how company leaders can step up for LGBTQ+ employees.

But this isn’t all about the business. Just like ERGs and IRGs, Indeed’s IBRGs give members the opportunity to develop their leadership skills, build community and educate their colleagues on important issues. They have been doing this important work since their inception to influence business solutions, global benefits and company priorities.

“IBRGs have always been the goal,” said Ricky Brooks, manager of Global Inclusion Programs at Indeed. “We want Indeedians from marginalized groups to have a seat at the table and a voice in the business. If our offerings are not made by everyone, they won’t be for everyone. This is another step toward Indeed’s mission of helping all people get jobs.”

How to Support Your ERGs

Demonstrate the value of joining 

According to the Indeed survey, over half of full- or part-time employees who aren’t already a member of an ERG (53%) say they wouldn’t be comfortable openly joining one at their company. There could be a few reasons for this. Some employees, especially from underrepresented backgrounds, may already feel like an outsider, and that joining an ERG aligned to their identity may further “other” them. 

“Calling out our differences in the workplace can seem scary,” said Brooks. “However, ERGs can be a powerful tool for celebrating marginalized identities rather than ‘othering’ them.”

Others may think the additional responsibilities of an ERG could affect their work-life balance. This may be especially true for caregivers, since 59% of full- or part-time employees who are parents of children under 18 say they wouldn’t feel comfortable openly joining.

Empowering your employees to join ERGs may require an intentional culture shift. Create a culture of support for ERGs in managers and employees, with company leaders communicating benefits to both. Time working within an ERG benefits employees’ careers and the business as a whole. In fact, 43% of full- or part-time employees believe it benefited their career. This was especially true for employees under 45 years old (51% compared to 27% of those 45+) as well as Black employees (56% vs. 42% Hispanic and 39% White). 

See Also: How to Support Black and Other Minority Employees During Difficult Times

Invest resources into your ERGs

According to the Indeed survey, one-third of full- or part-employees (33%) believe their company should invest more resources, financial and otherwise, in their ERGs, and the number is slightly higher for those who are parents of children under 18 (42% vs. 26% among those who are not). By giving ERGs a budget, you’re showing that you value them. Some employers, including Indeed, offer ERG leaders monetary compensation for their work. 

If budgets are tight, company leaders should have a conversation with ERG leaders. Ask them what they need and be transparent about the potential limitations. Finding a solution together can create a positive relationship between leadership and employees. 

Investment doesn’t always have to be monetary, either. Showing up for your ERGs and giving them resources from teams across the organization is another way to show your investment in their work. For example, if an ERG is holding an event with a guest speaker, loop in your Employee Communications team to spread the word and offer up a designer to create graphics for the event. Or offer conference room space, time off for activities or snacks for an event. 

Track and measure your progress

The best way to build up your ERGs is to understand the impact they’re already making. This can be measured in a few different ways: ERG membership engagement, development of programs and initiatives, talent attraction, surveys and internal and external business engagements. 

Just like your marketing or engineering departments, ERGs should create regular objectives and key results (OKRs) to track progress against their goals, whether that’s ramping up member engagement or increasing involvement with key leaders on business decisions. This can help show the positive impact ERGs have on the company, resulting in more opportunities for marginalized voices to have a say in business decisions.

Engage executive sponsors 

Company leadership can make or break an ERG. One way to make sure these groups get the type of support they need is to enlist an executive sponsor. This person can link the ERG’s strategy to business goals and advocate for the group to the rest of the company. To do this, sponsors can actively participate in meetings, events and activities. 

Beyond just supporting the ERG, this can be a learning and development experience for the executive sponsor, as well. Meaningful involvement with an ERG can give the sponsor a deeper understanding of inclusion and belonging that can be shared with other leaders. And if it is a group they have a personal affiliation with, they can build ties in their own communities. An engaged executive sponsor is not just a sponsor — they’re a conduit for advancing change throughout the organization.

Leverage ERGs for hiring and retention

ERGs are also important for attracting and retaining talent. They can be valuable partners in sourcing new candidates who share their affinities through recruiting events, mentorship programs and workshop opportunities. In addition, when companies support and promote ERGs, more employees feel seen and valued, making them more likely to stick around.

Above All, Listen and Learn

Listening isn’t just about hearing what your employees are saying — it’s about hearing what the rest of the world is saying and then acting with your employees in mind. Open communication with your ERGs can build trust and create stronger relationships between leadership and employees. These conversations should always begin with humility and an open mind. If an ERG tells you that you missed the mark, listen and take the appropriate next step, whether that’s an apology, a change in decision-making or even just finding a new understanding of a situation. 

To best meet your ERGs’ needs outside the office, pay attention to what may be impacting ERG members in their daily lives. For example, in the wake of increasing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country, your LGBTQ+ ERG may need additional resources, such as additional budget for healing spaces hosted by external guests, to support its members. 

ERGs are not just a DEIB initiative — they can be a powerful part of the success of your business. By supporting and leveraging ERGs, your company can create lasting benefits for employees as well as the bottom line.

Survey Method:

The survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Indeed on June 8-12, 2023, among 1,140 full- and part-time employed US adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 3.3% percentage points using a 95% confidence level.