Blog Post

Why ERGs Are Your Organization’s Secret Weapon

By Stefanie McNamara
January 31, 2022

Attracting underrepresented talent (URT) is an ongoing challenge for most companies today, but Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be an extremely powerful tool for organizations that strive to bolster recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding practices—when tapped into correctly. “As a DBP Advisor, one of the most common practices I see with my clients is how their ERG communities have shown up during this time as a way to support different groups impacted by these tumultuous times. And many have done an outstanding job,” Marcelo Vasquez, Senior Director, Diversity Best Practices at Seramount, told me recently.

Community is essential for keeping employees connected to one another. Over the past two years, as remote work has become the norm, ERGs have been valuable conduits to employees, giving them a sense of belonging.

In times of major disruption, finding ways to network and build relationship capital can be a huge challenge—even more so in a virtual workplace. Through past listening sessions with our corporate partners, we’ve learned that ERGs are looked upon as invaluable lifelines by women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups who are feeling isolated. And now amidst “The Great Reshuffling,” there is growing interest among job candidates in learning about an organization’s DEI practices, even before accepting a position.

“ERGs leaders are considering how we can return to the topic of diverse talent pools within their organizations, particularly in light of the ‘Great Reshuffling.’ Lately, we’ve received more and more questions from members about how to effectively engage ERGs in the talent acquisition and onboarding processes,” said Vasquez.

Utilizing ERGs throughout the recruitment, interview, and onboarding process can help organizations build a robust URT pipeline and help to ensure they don’t leave within the first two years of employment, as some underrepresented talent does.

Here are three key ways ERGs can help drive positive impact within your organization:

1. Elevate Your Initial Outreach to Candidates

Start your recruiting tactics early by developing mentorship programs in targeted high schools, community colleges, and universities. These can be organized through ERG partnerships with local community organizations that aim to increase access to employment for minority students in underserved communities, LGBTQ+ students, students with disabilities, and STEM programs aimed at girls. ERG members can attend school conferences and/or career fairs and recruitment events, as well as  host networking events in their communities. ERGs can also collaborate with ERGs from other companies in the same region to host these events.

Through these measures, companies can foster strong relationships with a diverse pool of potential candidates for internships and employment. When reaching out to candidates, it’s also important to showcase the work of ERGs and their accomplishments to demonstrate how the company engages, empowers, and supports DEI in the workplace.

2. Showcase Your Company’s Commitment to DEI in the Interview Process

The interview and hiring process leads to an applicant’s first personal interaction with your organization, and given today’s labor market, this touchpoint must count.

Among Sermount’s 2021 Inclusion Index companies, 68 percent report that they interview job candidates with a diverse panel. “In my conversations with many of our members, when asked if ERGs participate in the process, the number is considerably lower. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to include ERGs as a best practice in this partnership and demonstrate an authentic, inclusive culture,” says Vasquez.

He suggests being proactive by bringing your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion into the conversation and letting candidates know the company values and supports diversity of thought, gender, nationality, and background. Having a panel of ERG members during the interview process can give voice to the company’s commitments to DEI as well as highlight what the ERGs are working on both internally and externally. Discussing ERGs is a subtle way to let an employee from an underrepresented group, especially those with hidden disabilities or those who are LGBTQ+, know that the organization is supportive and inclusive.

3. Provide Onboarding Support for Underrepresented Talent

Successfully hiring URT is just half the battle. According to DBP’s Building an Inclusive Talent Strategy: A Guide, one of the greatest retention risks occurs in the onboarding period following hiring; nearly half of Millennial new hires said they would quit their employer within two years. The onboarding experience sets the tone for a candidate’s future at the company, particularly for URT. Commit time and resources to provide an inclusive onboarding experience that immerses new employees in the company’s culture and brand and helps them establish the relationships and social capital needed to become productive team members. Employee Resource Groups can play an important role.

Onboarding tactics offer a variety of engagement measures to ensure new hires are aware of the ERGs, the work they are doing, and how new employees can participate. ERG-hosted welcome events or new hire “social hours” hosted by an executive sponsor are also ways to help employees build relationship capital, meet leaders, and build community, while shining a light on any company-wide initiatives taking place around DEI needs.

ERG-buddy programs can help new employees understand the culture and dynamics of the organization, as well as give them time to cultivate a sense of community within the company. ERG-developed onboarding guidelines such as “unwritten rules” and “understanding our acronyms” and “tips for career pathing and finding a mentor” will all help foster a sense of belonging right at the start of employment.

Give ERGs the Resources Needed to Succeed

Over the past two years, ERGs have been relied upon more than ever before, and companies need to recognize the positive impact they have, not only in the talent acquisition phase but also throughout the employee lifecycle. ERG leaders work hard to keep DEI a priority within their organizations and can be an organization’s secret weapon when utilized correctly. They serve as a resource for Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs), DEI leaders, and executives, but they need nurturing, development, and investment. It’s important to remember that ERG leaders take on these responsibilities above and beyond their “day job,” so incentives are necessary to keep them engaged and committed, especially when burnout rates could be high. Incentives and rewards can be tangible or monetary; either way, they demonstrate a commitment to the work of ERG leaders and their successors.  

Give ERGs the recognition they deserve, and nominate your ERGs and their leaders for Seramount’s ERG Impact Awards, honoring ERGs for the critical contributions they make to drive change in their workplaces and communities. “This is an opportunity to keep your team connected with the practices of other ERGs in other corporations as well as an opportunity to assess how impactful you are as an ERG. It is a great learning opportunity for the ERG community,” said Vasquez.

To learn more about how a Diversity Best Practices membership can help advance your ERG goals, please contact us.

About the Author

Stefanie McNamara
Director, Marketing Communications