Many organizations have developed special supports to help employees network and develop connections within organizations. One of these supports are Employee Resource Groups (ERG).
The first U.S. ERG was formed by African-American employees at Xerox in 1964 to address issues of discrimination. Today, groups support many types of affinities: women, Asian-Americans, working parent, veterans, peopel with disabilities, and so on. These groups help their members build internal networks, access mentors, and gain knowledge.
You might be wondering whether it makes sense to join an ERG at your company. Here are a few ways to determine whether Employee Resource Groups are right for you.
Four Reasons to Join an Employee Resource Group
Do you often feel alone at work? Being an “only” can be hard. You might be the only woman on your team, the only person of color in your division, the only person with disabilities with your title, or the only gay director. Regardless of what your “only” is, being without peers can be challenging. You may feel like you need to tamp down those parts of yourself or you may find yourself talking in ways that aren’t natural to you. Being among people with whom you share a significant quality can be rejuvenating and affirming. Why not allow yourself a space where you can relax and express more of yourself?
Do you struggle to navigate a complicated organization structure? A woman once confided that she had had four managers in the one year due to the number of reorganizations in the company. One of the best things ERGs can do for their members is help them find the people or resources they need. Try going to an ERG event and asking people for their advice on how to find someone expert in a specific topic. You’ll probably get enough great leads to make the entire event worthwhile.
Do you like to mentor people and help them grow? Employees who mentor others report higher job satisfaction, rekindled creativity, learning, and organizational rewards for talent development. If you’re feeling burnt out, in need of energy, or seeking the satisfaction that comes from helping others, ERGs are great places to meet people who might become your next protege. And don’t think you can’t mentor until you’re a senior employee. Some of the best mentoring occurs peer-to-peer as employees help each other think through challenges and share expertise.
Are you an introvert? If you’re an introvert, chances are that large group events make you shudder. But ERGs aren’t all large group events. In fact, one of the best way for introverts to develop their networks is by joining an ERG as a volunteer. With a concrete job to do, you don’t have to worry about approaching strangers and flailing for conversation. Instead, you get to do your job and talk with purpose. It’s a much easier way to develop connections.
And if you’re still on the fence about whether Employee Resource Groups are right for you, check out this article in strategy+business that shows the difference one ERG made for women in one Northeastern company.