Originally known as affinity groups or networks, what are now called employee resource groups (ERGs) were established in the 1960s and 1970s primarily as social spaces where individuals with shared identities could come together to discuss common issues. Initially, these groups were focused on women and Black employees.
Over time, ERGs evolved and became company-sponsored, taking on a more structured approach with mission statements, executive sponsors, and specific goals. They shifted their focus to recruitment, education, and advancement, while still remaining affinity-based. Thus, some companies have started calling their resource groups Business Resource Groups (BRGs).
In recent years, there has been a trend toward the BRG model, which emphasizes the importance of allies and advocacy. This model introduces metrics and performance evaluations for leaders and links the groups directly to business goals. These goals can include internal initiatives, such as increasing representation, retention, and promotion rates as well as marketplace goals such as improving cultural competence about customers, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives, and increasing supplier diversity.
Seramount has been making strides in our resource group efforts, partnering with companies including American Family Insurance and MITRE to enhance their workplace cultures. We recently helped American Family Insurance consolidate their Business Resource Groups (BRGs), and we supported MITRE in transforming their Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) into BRGs. It’s important for ERGs to align with business initiatives as well as foster a greater sense of belonging and safety in the workplace. As organizations continue to advance their DEI efforts, many are recognizing the value of BRGs over traditional ERGs. At Seramount, our experts have conducted extensive research on the benefits of BRGs and why they may be the next step in your journey toward a more inclusive workplace. To ensure a successful alignment of resource groups with your organization’s structure, we recommend that you take these three considerations into account if your organization is contemplating this transition.
The budget for a BRG can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the size of the organization, the specific initiatives that the BRG supports, and the number of members within the group. If the budget offered by the organization is not sufficient to cover the expenses required to achieve the BRG’s goals each year, then fundraising may be another viable option for the group to consider, provided it is permissible according to the organization’s policies. Additionally, it is essential to have transparency and accountability in the use of any funds raised to maintain trust and credibility with the organization and its stakeholders.
In addition to fostering a sense of community and belonging within the organization, BRGs can also play an important role in helping their members develop professionally. One way that organizations can support this growth is by providing access to external resources such as professional events and networks.
Professional events, such as conferences and seminars, provide BRG leaders and members with opportunities to learn from industry experts, share best practices with peers, and gain new insights and perspectives on emerging trends and issues. Attending these events can also help members feel less isolated and more connected to the broader professional community, which can be especially valuable for underrepresented groups.
Similarly, external professional networks can provide a valuable source of support, mentorship, and leadership development for BRG members. These networks can connect members with others in their field and offer resources and training to help members advance their careers.
In addition to budgetary considerations, BRGs may require access to a variety of tools and resources to effectively carry out their activities and initiatives. These resources can include survey software, design software, internal communications, social media platforms, mailing lists, specific video chat profiles for the group, planning and collaboration tools such as Google Drive or Box, and access to the company’s intranet.
Survey software can be useful for gathering feedback and input from BRG members and other stakeholders, while design software can help the group create professional-looking materials and assets for events and initiatives. Internal communications and social media platforms can be used to promote events and activities as well as to foster engagement and collaboration among BRG members.
Mailing lists can be used to communicate important updates and information to the group, while specific video chat profiles can be helpful for facilitating virtual meetings and events. Planning and collaboration tools such as Google Drive or Box can help the group stay organized and on track with their initiatives, while access to the company’s intranet can help ensure that the group’s activities align with the organization’s broader goals and objectives.
By providing BRGs with access to these tools and resources, organizations can help them more effectively carry out their activities and initiatives while also promoting collaboration, engagement, and innovation within the organization. However, it’s important for organizations to ensure that the tools and resources provided align with their policies and security requirements and that appropriate training is provided to ensure that they are used effectively and responsibly.
While the considerations mentioned above are important, implementing BRGs involves many other factors that may require careful planning and execution. As Cathy Lively, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Hillenbrand, emphasized in a recent fireside chat with one of our experts about implementing global BRGs, it’s essential to tailor your approach to what works best for your organization. This may involve starting with employee resource groups and gradually transitioning to business resource groups while maintaining open communication and actively planning for the future.
At Seramount, we’re committed to helping organizations create productive Business Resource Groups (BRGs) that align with their goals. Our Center of Excellence features a team of dedicated experts who can guide you through the complexities of E/BRG initiatives. If you’re interested in leveraging the power of BRGs to drive positive change, we invite you to learn more about our services and how we can work together.
Additionally, if your resource group leaders and members are making outstanding contributions to your organization and community, we’d like to invite them to attend our EmERGe Conference or consider nominating them for our ERG Impact Awards. These gatherings are an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the amazing work that E/BRGs are doing to make a difference.