Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be a company’s secret weapon. If utilized correctly, they can create opportunities for companies to engage with their employees in a variety of ways, from recruitment, retention, and advancement to helping with business goals. Following two years of political unrest and a global pandemic, ERGs have been critical assets to their organizations in confronting the challenges that have been reflected in these complex issues, including systemic racism and healthcare inequities. But with the push into a virtual or hybrid work environment, many companies have felt unsure of how to pivot, realign, and promote their ERGs to ensure their positive impacts continue. Now, ERG leaders are being tasked with finding new ways to engage in a newly hybrid workplace.
“The last two years were a time of change for all of us. We faced a variety of challenges. We had to adapt to a new way of working and acquire the ability to build business relationships with clients and colleagues remotely. Our ERGs have faced the same issue,” Marcelo Vasquez, Senior Director of Diversity Best Practices at Seramount, tells me. “ERG leaders are asking themselves: ‘How do we keep our members engaged? What can we do to maintain the warm networking we experienced when we were on-site?’ and so on. But I’ve seen ERGs transform something negative into something positive. They are finding ways to break geographical barriers and are creating spaces to support mental health for many communities. They are creating a stronger sense of unity among ERGs through collaboration, increasing their will to make a stronger impact.”
Seramount’s most recent guide, “Four Ways to Pivot Hybrid and Remote Employee Resource Groups,” explores tactics several of our partner companies have successfully incorporated to solidify employee engagement, improve virtual culture, and ensure employee communities continue to thrive in a remote or hybrid work environment.
In our recent Diversity Best Practice Member Circle: Redefining ERG Engagement in a Hybrid Work Environment—an interactive discussion with DEI practitioners at every level—we discovered that engagement has been one of the most challenging aspects for some companies in moving to a virtual workplace. In fact, pre-pandemic employee engagement with ERGs was rated only slightly higher on average compared to current engagement. So, how do employers keep their talent engaged and tuned-in with company initiatives and culture when their managers and coworkers could be spread out across the country?
Vasquez says: “Many of my clients have started thinking outside of the box to foster innovation. I have seen clients offer visibility to a broader group of leaders in this virtual environment with no geographical barrier, even featuring their global executives at their events. Partnership with Executive Sponsors and the DEI office can further enhance ERG programming, helping to find attractive ways of engaging audiences, whether by videos, word clouds, trivia, and more. This helps to streamline and promote more intersectionality within the events and allows ERG leaders to stay close to their members while developing recognition programs and learning offerings.”
Encouraging two or more ERGS to co-host one large event can provide greater reach within the company, creating conversations across a wider base. This allows the event to be more impactful with more opportunities for networking. It’s important to encourage follow-up conversations for those who couldn’t attend the main event so that they have an opportunity to engage with the larger group, either by video platforms or through internal communication hubs.
Technology is key in a hybrid work environment, and it can make or break an engaging, company-wide conversation, especially when the topic may be a more difficult undertaking. ERGs need access to tried-and-true platforms and tools when hosting events (think Webex or Zoom) that have a variety of capabilities to promote attention and engagement (such as the ability to create breakout rooms for smaller discussions). These tools will be important in mitigating challenges that larger, co-hosted events can cause. Utilizing familiar platforms that are used on a daily basis by employees can also limit technology issues for those attending.
Expand the reach of ERGs—it is important to building a global community. Gen Z employees see themselves more as global citizens than was true of any previous generation. This can be an important company culture addition for the success of newer and future employees. Embracing the term “digital worker” rather than “remote worker” is critical to opening doors for better communication and collaboration, not only across departments but across cultures.
“Our hybrid environment reminds us that ERGs are more critical than ever for the success of employees, the community, and the business. In the almost 60 years that ERGs have existed, they have overcome numerous challenges, and expanding globally provides an excellent opportunity to regroup and reconnect with their purposes,” says Vasquez.
To download the full guide, click here.
If your company has ERGs that deserve to be recognized, nominate them and their leaders for Seramount’s ERG Impact Awards (formerly the Above & Beyond Awards), which honor ERGs for the critical contributions they make to drive change in the workplace and broader communities.
Learn more about Diversity Best Practice’s Member Circles by contacting [email protected], and be sure to check out the next DBP Member Circle: Self-ID and Workplace Inclusivity, being held on June 28.