The way employees identify themselves is changing dramatically. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of non-Hispanic/Latine Americans who identify as multiracial increased by 127 percent from 2010 to 2020. For people who identified as Hispanic/Latine, the increase was even higher. Younger people are much more likely to see themselves as multiracial and to align with several dimensions of diversity, such as having a disability (including neurodiversity) or being a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Some employers, recognizing this growing intersectionality, have been moving away from traditional affinity-based employee resource groups (ERGs), preferring to address all “multicultural” needs together. They have created Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) councils or other groups that have representatives from various affinities but look at DEI issues more holistically. Employers also are responding to requests from some employees who feel that affinity-based groups are unfair to those who haven’t been historically marginalized.
With these trends in mind, Seramount asked this critical question: Are affinity-based ERGs (centered on individual dimensions of diversity) still necessary? A Seramount survey of more than 200 ERG members finds the answer is a resounding yes.
Download the full report, The Future of ERGs: Are Affinity-Based Groups Still Necessary?
Here are some of our key findings:
Groups Based on Specific Identities Are More Crucial than Ever
Are affinity groups still necessary in the modern multicultural workforce? The survey found powerful evidence that ERGs remain important to underrepresented talent, including young workers. Some specific reasons that were highlighted by respondents include:
Respondents Urging More Collaboration with Allies and Other Groups
In a variety of comments, respondents overwhelmingly said ERGs need stronger allies—people who do not identify with the affinity group but are publicly supportive. When more senior company officials serve as allies (sometimes as executive sponsors) they can help elevate the needs of the affinity group. To help increase inclusion of underrepresented talent, workplace allies can:
Survey comments also revealed a need for more collaboration and intersectionality between ERGs. There is a difference between collaboration and intersectionality. With collaboration, companies may encourage a business unit, such as a design team, to partner with an affinity-based ERG, such as a group for Black employees, to create a product that would be well-received by the Black community. With intersectionality, a company might encourage a Latine ERG and a Mental Well-Being ERG to create a survey for the Latine community to determine gaps in the community’s mental well-being.
Linking Affinity-Based Groups to Business Impact Is Crucial
In recent years, more companies have moved toward the business resource group (BRG) model, linking these groups directly to business goals, including internal goals (increasing representation, retention, and promotion rates) and marketplace goals (market share, customer cultural competence or increasing supplier diversity). Lately, BRGs, and some ERGs, have also been linked to environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) goals, which may also include community impact initiatives. Comments from survey respondents centered on a need for greater acknowledgment of the impact ERGs have on business needs, with many saying ERGs can make a crucial difference to business outcome.
Respondents also stated that ERG leaders need to be credited for their roles—and they would prefer these roles not be for volunteers but be part of job descriptions. The respondents felt that creating evaluation and reward cycles for ERG leaders would increase their effectiveness.
Respondents Cite Need for Virtual, Global Mindsets
With so many now working in hybrid or fully remote workplaces, some respondents to the survey noted there are still few options and capabilities to take ERGs virtual and global. Having more virtual access will allow for more engagement and buy-in from employees, they said.
Based on the survey data and the decades of experience of Seramount’s DEI experts, we recommend:
To access the complete research findings, download our report, The Future of ERGs: Are Affinity-Based Groups Still Necessary?
Interested in learning more about Seramount and how we can help you to advance your ERG strategy? Contact us.