Let’s Chat About ERGs

Welcome to the Diversity Executive employee resource groups (ERG) blog, where we will focus on topics of interest to those who establish, lead, sponsor and manage ERGs. What we today refer to as ERGs, or as some prefer to call them BRGs (business resource networks), originally started as social activism efforts on the part of employees designed to bring together people with similar social-bounded identities that were underrepresented in the company. The goal of these networks was to enable their members to feel and become more included.

During the past few decades, the number and size of these networks has increased while their scope and mission have evolved. Today, the best ERGs appear to be hybrid networks that serve the interests of both members and their organizations. Accompanying this growth and expansion, we’ve seen an increased interest in benchmarking, innovation and practice approaches for ERGs. The purpose of the blog is to address these needs.

During my years as Siemens’ diversity officer in the United States, I participated in the expansion of ERGs from 12 local networks into more than 60 local networks and three national networks in seven years. After leaving Siemens in 2012 and launching my own consulting practice, I’ve continued to lead client efforts to define and grow these groups in a manner that continues to develop their value to people and organizations. I personally believe that these hybrid employee/employer groups will continue to play a growing role in harnessing human and social capital in a manner that will become increasingly significant to both companies and members. For a fuller discussion on my thoughts on the value and importance of ERGs, I invite you to read my Diversity Executive article titled “A Little Help From My Friends,” published in March of 2011.

This year, we will focus on a number of timely topics for discussion and exploration. In addition to commenting, I invite you add your own questions and topics to the conversation. I also invite you to take part in the ERG survey questions Diversity Executive will be sending out in the near future. Your responses will be used to prioritize areas of special interest.

I’m looking forward to a dynamic discussion with you around what I believe is one of the many important practices arising out of the initial diversification of organizations in the latter part of the 20th century and what I also believe will become the engine for tapping deeper into our collective capabilities in the 21st century. Enthusiastically yours, Joe.