Supporting workplace inclusion through Employee Resource Groups

Create safe spaces for all staff using Employee Resource Groups

What are Employee Resource Groups?

As the workplace becomes increasingly diverse, it's important for companies to create safe spaces where employees of all backgrounds can feel comfortable expressing themselves. One way to do this is by forming employee resource groups (ERGs). ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that promote a sense of community and inclusion within the workplace.

ERGs are usually led and participated in by employees who share a characteristic, whether it's gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, lifestyle, neurodiversities, or interest. The groups exist to provide support and help in personal or career development and to create a safe space where employees can bring their whole selves to the table. Allies may also be invited to join the ERG to support their colleagues.

What’s the purpose of an Employee Resource Group?

While each ERG defines its purpose and goal, common drivers are:

  • An ERG program creates an open forum for employees who share a common identity to meet and support one another in building their community and sense of belonging.
  • ERG programs empower these groups by offering them financial support, organisational support and access to decision-makers (executive sponsors).
  • ERG programs facilitate a clear line of communication from ERGs to leadership to voice concerns and solve problems.
  • ERGs provide a resource for leadership regarding employee and community issues, needs and policies.
  • ERG programs seek to advance a respectful and inclusive company culture and reinforce the importance of inclusion.

Why are ERGs important to champion neurodiversity?

ERGs deliver value to organisations and their workforces in multiple ways. For employees with neurodiversities they can help to build a sense of community and belonging by connecting people in a social and professional way and encouraging interaction between employees.

Neurodiversity ERGs provide support and advocacy for employees with neurological conditions, such as ADHD, Autism, and Tourette's. These groups can be instrumental in breaking down barriers and fostering a more inclusive environment. For example, they may host educational events to increase awareness and understanding of neurodiversity, or provide mentorship and coaching for employees who are seeking accommodations. Additionally, neurodiversity ERGs can serve as allies and advocates for employees with neurodiversities during company-wide initiatives, such as unconscious bias training or recruitment drives.

By creating safe spaces for employees to come together and form connections, companies can not only support their neurodiverse employees, but also tap into the valuable perspectives and insights that they have to offer.

Best practices for ERGs in supporting neurodiversity

In order to best support neurodiversity, ERGs should be aware of these strengths and talents people with neurodiversities bring to the workplace and leverage them. One way to do this is to provide visual aids and detailed instructions when working with individuals. This will help them to better understand tasks and make the most of their strengths. Additionally, it is important to create a flexible work environment that accommodates different neurodiverse needs. For example, some individuals may prefer to work in a quiet space or at odd hours. By being understanding and accommodating, ERGs can create an inclusive environment that allows everyone to succeed.

Webinar: Uncovering the power of neurodiversity champions & Employee Network Groups

At work, it’s important that your employees achieve a sense of belonging. Without it, staff can feel unhappy, and lack motivation. In fact, a strong sense of belonging at work results in a 56% increase in performance. We thrive best in environments that support us, value us, and where we feel celebrated.

In this recorded session, explore the power of community initiatives when it comes to creating a truly inclusive culture. Gain advice from Barrie Morgan-Scrutton, Founder of North West NHS Dyslexia Network. Barrie shares how to develop these initiatives, and uncover the impact they can have on your people.

4 reasons why ERGs are good for business

Employee Resource Groups create a safe, supportive space for employees who share a common identity. They benefit the business as a whole by:

According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management, 90% of companies examined said ERGs helped make new employees more comfortable during the onboarding process, and 70% of organisations relied on ERGs to build a workforce to reflect the demographics of their customer base.

ERGs empower employees by giving each group a collective voice to speak with decision-makers and management. Conversely, ERGs also provide a resource for leadership and decision-makers regarding staff/community issues, needs and policies.

ERGs can provide their expertise and experiences to improve equality and equity across an organisation as a whole. They can also be an asset in business decisions to make better, more inclusive products and services.

They can also support retention because employees are likely to stay with the company longer if they have built or are part of a strong community within the company and feel heard.

How ERGs can scale up allyship for disability and neurodiversity inclusion

In this short video, Ryan Graham, Texthelp's Chief Technology Officer, dives into the transformative potential of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Discover how ERGs can serve as passionate allies on your organisational journey, driving positive changes and fostering confidence, creativity, and inclusion throughout your business. 

How to create ERGs in your organisation

If you or other employees within your organisation would like to start an ERG, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some basic steps you can take to get your ERG program up and running.

1. Align ERGs with your organisation’s objectives

For an ERG to be successful, the purpose should be tied to the organisation’s overall mission and values. Is the business focused on giving back to the community? Or is your goal to build a more diverse workforce?

Choose a topic around diversity and inclusion for your employee resource group that aligns with overall company goals. Writing a mission statement for your ERG that touches on the organisation’s core values is usually a good place to start. Showing how your ERG advances the overall strategy will help earn support from other areas of the organisation.

2. Secure executive support

Executive support for an ERG is essential for continued success. To gain buy-in, find executive or C-suite sponsors who are personally committed to diversity and inclusion or social impact initiatives. Executives are busy and usually metrics focused, so it may be helpful to come with talking points and data that show how an ERG will make a positive impact on the organisation.

Make sure the People Team are invested as well, as you’ll need their support to share ERGs during the onboarding process and in promotional materials for the ERG.

3. Build your ERG team

Before launching ERGs, develop a communication plan and identify markers for success, including long-term goals and potential challenges. Recruit colleagues willing to take on a leadership role, such as committing to a monthly meeting or making time to plan and execute events.

Next, find other like-minded coworkers who are passionate about supporting the ERG. It’s just as important to have members who are willing to participate and spread the word as it is to have leaders and planners.

4. Deploy your ERG program

A strong communications plan is a major component of an employee resource group’s success strategy. Begin by creating a simple presentation that outlines the ERG’s goals, events and ideas for participation. This is an effective way to clearly communicate that your ERG is supported by leadership and is an important initiative.

Equipped with your members and materials, generate excitement for the ERG by hosting a company event. It’s a great way to introduce your ERG’s mission, lay out future events and recruit attendees to grow your group’s core membership.

5 key learnings for leading a successful ERG

Christine Lloyd, Director and Global Lead of the Disability ERG at FleishmanHillard healthcare practice, offers advice on effective ERG leadership:

  • 1. Embrace diversity in ERG dynamics
  • 2. Stay open and adaptable
  • 3. Recognise your impact
  • 4. Gain leadership buy-in
  • 5. Share responsibility for DEI

Christine underscores the diverse nature of ERGs, emphasising that each group offers unique strengths, from providing informal safe spaces to driving actionable change within the organisation. Flexibility in structure and purpose is key to accommodating varied member needs and goals.

Read about our ERG journey

Here at Texthelp we've been on a journey to establish our own Employee Resource Groups. You can read about our experience in this fireside chat with our Chief People Officer Cathy Donnelly and CEO Martin McKay.

Webinar with Valuable 500: Supercharge your disability inclusion strategies

We work with many like minded organisations who have inclusion at the heart of everything they do. In a recent webinar, Alix Horton, Disability Employee Network Group (ENG) Lead and D&I Champion at IBM shares share her experience as a disabled woman in the workplace, leading an award winning Disability ERG and why we should all aim to drive diversity, equity & inclusion as a business priority.

In the recorded session, you’ll also hear from Chris Holloway, Digital Accessibility Manager at a multinational professional services brand on how they are driving change in the workplace and beyond, with a 5 point plan, diversity networks, and ambitious targets that inspire success.

Short for time? You can also pick up Alix’s main suggestions on making D&I a priority in this recent blog.