Five common employee resource group issues and how to solve them

An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a critical component of most Fortune500 companies in today’s business world.

ERGs bring countless benefits and serve as a key element for an organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy. There’s no wonder why so many of the top companies in the world value ERGs. 

However, ERGs sometimes have issues and can lose focus of what their true purpose is. Like any other group, they can become ineffective and not bring any benefit to an organization at all. Luckily, there are ways to combat this and keep ERGs on track. 

Here are a few of the most common issues that employee resource groups face and how to solve them.

Problem 1: Not Enough People Want to Join an Employee Resource Group

Getting a new Employee Resource Group off the ground is a challenging task for an organization, especially if it is the first one or if there have been failed attempts in the past. 

Many people in the office might not know what an ERG is or don’t see the value it can bring to the company, or to them personally. That’s why the most important first step is to get the word out about the group. 

Advertise the ERG to all team members and educate them on the purpose of the group. Highlighting the benefits to the individual, such as a chance to connect with like-minded associates and build personal and professional mentorships, will be sure to draw interest from employees. 

Additionally, it’s important to get an executive of the company to buy into the program. If a manager or other leader openly supports the ERG and encourages others to join, other people will follow.

Problem 2: Some Employees Don’t Fit Into An Employee Resource Group and Feel Left Out

If an ERG appears to be an exclusive club, they will not succeed. In fact, making others feel as though they aren’t welcome is the opposite of what these groups are supposed to do for an organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy.

In order to avoid the divide, make sure everyone knows they are invited and welcome. It doesn’t matter if an employee thinks they don’t meet the background or interest requirement to be part of the group. More people involved means more ideas and perspectives being shared.

Problem 3: Employees Feel Bad Taking Time Off for ERG Events

Maybe employees are interested in an ERG but are afraid to be involved because it means missing work. This is another instance in which executive buy-in is essential.

If team members see upper-level leadership bringing up ERG events in meetings, they will see the group’s value. When team members see leadership taking time out of their day to participate in such events, they get the go-ahead sign that involvement in these groups is acceptable and that they won’t be penalized for attending.

Problem 4: ERGs Turn Into a Place Where People Just Complain

To be clear, ERGs are supposed to be a place where employees can gather to raise concerns, discuss workplace issues and work to solve those issues. They are not, however, a place where the focus is on complaining and there’s no subsequent action taken.

To help ERGs stay focused, a charter should be written at the creation of the group that outlines the ERG’s mission, goals and metrics. Periodically, these goals and metrics should be evaluated and revised to ensure that the group is effective.

Additionally, creating leadership positions within the ERG is a great way to keep the group on track. Leaders should be responsible for guiding discussions, creating constructive gatherings and events and acting as a liaison between the group and company executives. This ensures that the group will have their problems and solutions heard by upper management.

Problem 5: The Use of Social Media

Employers have the ability to offer a variety of communication options such as messaging services, social media spaces or intranet platforms where employees can discuss ERG topics. Yet, these platforms can cause problems if employees act inappropriately.

For example, an employee could post negative, discriminatory or harmful comments in the group or share another colleague’s post without permission. Furthermore, it becomes hard for employers to assess what is considered inappropriate.

This is why an ERG should set clear, written and agreed-upon policies and regulations upfront, especially concerning conduct that is blatantly obscene, violent, defamatory or harassing. It’s also a good idea to provide anti-discrimination training to ERG leaders or the entire team.

Many problems can arise with employee resource groups. However, by establishing group goals and rules, getting company executives to buy-in and inviting all employees, many of these problems can be avoided to keep ERGs running smoothly.

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