Why start an ERG? And is it really worth the trouble?

November 20, 2022
Employee resource groups

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about starting an Employee Resource Group (ERG). And that’s fantastic! Or is it?

If you’ve read a bit about what an Employee Resource Group is, and the benefits of having them, you’ll know the basic business case of how they can help a business. But for every benefit, there’s a challenge to overcome.

Employee resource groups

When you balance the benefits with the challenges, maybe you’ve caught yourself thinking ‘will it really be worth it?’

If you know anything about us and our mission here at WORK180, it might be pretty easy to guess that of course we are going to say – yes, it’s worth it! But we don’t expect you to just take our word for it.

We took the question to 11 of our Endorsed Employers. Maybe their stories will energize your motivation to get started. At the very least there are a few great tips to make getting started a little easier.

Examples of the impacts of Employee Resource Groups (and tips to find similar success)

Mott MacDonaldMott Macdonald logo

Engineering | 10,001+ employees

Since its inception in 2014, the UK Advance network has gone through a few structural changes, but it was originally formed as the outcome of a proposal submitted to an internal innovation competition by two women within the business. They had noticed that their peers were leaving the business and wanted to do something to proactively encourage more people to stay and develop within Mott MacDonald

That early iteration of the network was instrumental in encouraging the business to recruit its first full time equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) professional, whose remit began in the UK business and later expanded to cover the whole of Mott MacDonald Group. Our internal EDI team has since grown and is now seven strong. 

The Advance network has grown alongside the EDI team and there are now branches of Advance in all four of our global business regions. The network has broadened its focus from the inclusion of women to also look at other areas of underrepresentation or marginalization. The UK network has five Advancing groups each focusing on a specific area of inclusion: disability & neurodiversity; gender; LGBTQ+; race & culture; and parents & carers. 

The Advancing groups provide invaluable guidance on the lived experiences of marginalized people from each of the demographics they represent. They also act as a ‘critical friend’ to the business, speaking up when they see something that needs improving to better support the communities they represent.  

Mott MacDonald’s tips for success

“I would say to anyone wanting to form an Employee Network Group to work closely with your EDI team as much as possible, as they will help you to implement and grow. Also grow a relationship with all your social media, communications, HR, Talent Acquisition, Leads, and any other key persons, they are vital to your success. 

“Most importantly, have a strategy of a few things you want to deliver, deliver these, and then grow a bit more.

Say what you want to do and then do it! Always think long term and short term and prioritize. Do not worry if things take longer than expected; it’s all part of the journey. Each time you learn and grow, take the lessons learned and become more efficient. Remember to network with other similar groups and share as much as you can collaboration is key.” 

Vanessa Burton – Advancing Race and Culture Network Chair

TBH (Tracey Brunstrom & Hammond)tbh logo

Consulting & professional services | 101-250 employees

Seeing a need to better define the company culture and values, TBH’s employee-led Inclusivity and Diversity (ID) Committee worked with the business to identify the main reasons employees love TBH and the ambitions they have as a company. By engaging with all employees and the TBH Board, the ID Committee established their five core values which embody their current ideals and their ambitions for the future of the company.

The ID Committee has also been actively involved in improvements to the benefits and formal policies of TBH. While TBH employees have always had access to support and flexibility, the ID Committee saw an opportunity to improve the formal communication of policies relating to flexible work arrangements, parental leave, and the engagement of Indigenous Peoples. This has resulted in improvements to the inclusive language of their policies and the benefits and support they formally offer their employees.

On a side note: The ID Committee was also responsible for becoming an Endorsed Employer with us at WORK180! 

Some of the current focus areas for the ID Committee include:

  • Increasing women in leadership positions in TBH through employee development and improved recruitment processes.
  • Increasing support for the LGBTQIA+ community through advocacy, training, and awareness.
  • Acknowledging the many significant dates and celebrations across their diverse business.
  • Increasing their engagement with Indigenous business and community.
TBH's tips for success

andrew tbh“For those who are thinking of starting an ID committee in your workplace, my advice would be to go for it! Be the change you want to see in your workplace (and in this world). Gaining executive support is an important step in having an effective group which can implement positive change, however, it can be equally important to ensure the group represents all employees as best as it can, so seek feedback from the broader business, talk to your peers and listen to people’s opinions. At TBH we asked employees to complete a survey about their experiences at TBH and used this to direct our focus.”

–   Andy Chew, Associate Director

Bendigo and Adelaide BankBEN logo

Banking, investment, & finance | 5,001-10,000 employees

In FY2022, the BEN Pride Employee Network re-launched a new committee for Bendigo and Adelaide’s LGBTQI+ employees and their allies. During FY2022 the group helped have the following impacts: 

  • Developing a LGBTQI+ Strategic Plan. 
  • Continued the focus on enhancing the Bank’s HR policies and practices, like the Gender Affirmation Policy and Toolkit. 
  • Cultivated internal awareness and connections through the celebration of Trans Awareness Week, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) and Pride Month. 
  • Continued sponsorship of Bendigo Pride and Queer Film Festivals. 

BENability is Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s access and inclusion employee network. The network has members from across the organization who have lived experience with disability, a passion for building an inclusive workplace, and accessibility experience from a range of personal and professional backgrounds. 

Members of the BENability network continue to play an important role in growing the Bank’s disability confidence and to the delivering of actions in their Access and Inclusion Plan. Members like Justine Minnie, the Chair of BENability: 

“I was asked by BENability sponsors Nick and Mick if I would be interested in being both part of, and chair of our group. Without hesitation, I agreed as I am a strong believer that all people of all backgrounds and abilities should be treated equally. I am passionate about the work we do and the difference we can make in BENability. I am fortunate I have a leader and a team who are fully supportive and allow me to contribute to such an important area and allow space for this to happen. As all great leaders should!”

Palo Altopalo alto logo

IT, digital, & online media services | 10,001+ employees

Rebecca Teece, Senior Recruiter ANZ at Palo Alto shares more: 

“For me personally, to drive inclusion and diversity, we need to bring everyone on that journey. Together we can lift each other, and that is why I believe our employee groups are so important. There are rich benefits to embracing diversity and starting employee groups. It helps establish a safe space where people can show up as their authentic selves and celebrate their individuality and each other’s commonalities. It brings people closer together and helps drive progress. 

“It is also essential to know that allyship is incredibly important, and the message of inclusion underpins all our ENGs. As an LGBTQIA+ ally, it is more about ensuring I am a supporter and advocate for equity and fairness for all, celebrating what makes us all unique and what connects us.”

Palo Alto's tips for success

“For anyone thinking about setting up an ENG, I would encourage them not to wait for the perfect time when they have the right resources but just to go ahead and do it. Now is the time, and if you lack resources, I recommend that you start small with a clear charter and achievable goals. You can continually expand these and be more ambitious with stretch and aspirational goals. I would also highly recommend that you have an executive sponsor to help drive things forward, as they will be key to its internal and external impact.” 

– Rebecca Teece, Senior Recruiter ANZ

Cumminscummins logo

Manufacturing & operations | 1,001-5,000 employees

ERGs align not only to the culture at Cummins, but also the values that Cummins stands for as a company. They believe that ERGs let employees feel valued and provide an opportunity to share their different opinions and contribute to decision-making.

Across the Asia Pacific, they have a vast number of ERGs including People with Disabilities ERG, First Nations ERG, Pride ERG, Women Empowerment Network, the Asia Pacific Cultural Resource Group ERG, and many more.

 The impact of their ERGs can be felt across the company, and across the globe, as each group runs events that bring the people together. These virtual events give people the opportunity to learn and be inquisitive while also creating a sense of belonging and community. 

Cummins's tips for success

jason cummins

“My mother and cousin are persons with disabilities. I want to champion the message that everyone should be given the chance. Our leaders and colleagues at Cummins are very open minded and were willing to give me time and listen with their hearts when it came to discussing our plans and what activities we wanted to organize to start the People with Disabilities ERG. My advice to those thinking about starting an ERG is to find the right-minded people who believe in your cause and urgency for a change.” 

  Jason Poh – One of the founders of the People with Disabilities ERG  

sam cummins“The Women Empowerment Network is a place where I can have a say and be an advocate for women to be equal in the workplace. I can be an advocate to find candidates who would excel at their role and bring value to the company, even if this means they don’t work a normal 9-5. My advice to those thinking about starting an ERG is to be clear and have a vision. See how it connects to your company values and jump in with both feet.”

  Samual Rickard – Chair of the Women Empowerment Network ERG 

 

Commonwealth Bankcba logo

Banking, investment, & finance | 10,001+ employees

CommBank have six employee-led networks that celebrate everything that makes their people unique while providing them with platforms to grow personally and professionally.

They were able to hear from members of each to see the impacts each had on their members.

Learn more about CommBank's six employee-led networks

AdvantAge focuses on an age-inclusive workplace. 

“Being part of Advantage means I’m more than an employee within a business unit. I’m part of a like-minded community that’s passionate about improving the lived experience for our people across CommBank.”

– Richard – General Manager, Financial Services Technology

ENABLE focuses on disability and accessibility. 

“For some people, it can be difficult to put themselves out there by disclosing their disability. It’s really important for me to be involved, speak up and make things better for my peers where I can.”

– Scott – Continuous Improvement Manager 

Mosaic is their cultural inclusion employee-led network.

“I’ve always fostered my relationship with my Indian heritage which has played a huge role in how I define my cultural identity. Being a member of MOSIAC allows me to express my culture in a supportive environment where differences are celebrated.”

– Rupali – Consultant, Institutional Banking & Markets Learning 

Unity is their LGBTQI+ and ally network.

“Advocating for our colleagues and being able to make a difference is what I enjoy the most. Our network provides a safe environment for people to share experiences, raise concerns and feel the support from the Unity family.” 

– Bradley – National Network – Co-Lead

WeCan is their gender equality network.  

“What I love most about being part of the WeCan group is the ability to build connections with like-minded people, who are passionate about topics that really matter. It’s a platform where I can grow my own personal brand and grow my network within CommBank.” 

– Rhiannon – Relationship Manager, Premier Banking 

Yana Budjari supports CommBank’s First Nations people.

“Often, the question I get asked is ‘I want to do something to support reconciliation, but don’t know what’ and joining our network is the first step. The more we learn, connect, and share our experiences, the more we respect each other. Being part of this network allows me to see the benefits of goodwill really turned into action.” 

– Lucy – Indigenous Engagement Manager

Ericssonericsson logo

Telecommunications | 1,001-5,000 employees

Ericsson’s Diverse Cultures Community was launched in June 2020 as part of several new diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives proposed by employees. The community seeks to celebrate the various cultural practices and festivities of Ericsson employees, while inclusively engaging and informing peers through live and virtual events.

The Diverse Cultures Community has been extremely successful in bringing together Ericsson employees from all backgrounds and cultures particularly through the challenging times over the past two years. The community embraces the full spectrum of human experience and celebrates the differences in cultures and beliefs. Cultural identity and faith are key aspects of being human, so they believe it is important to have a way to engage on these subjects, to create better understanding and connection between peers. 

Some examples of events run by the Diverse Cultures Community are: virtual potluck lunches, Easter and Ramadan panel discussions, cultural food-sharing events, NAIDOC week panel discussions, and mid-autumn festival celebrations. Most events have had over 100 attendees.

Ericsson's tips for success

devon ericsson“Originally an email was sent out by the D&I Council, asking for people to submit a proposal for a new workplace group/community. Both myself and another employee separately suggested similar ideas about sharing cultures over food and exploring our religious and cultural diversity through events. The D&I Council suggested we combine our ideas, and the Diverse Cultures Group was born!

“To anyone considering starting a group I would say don’t overthink it – just give it a go and get the ball rolling, you never know what will get people excited to come along. Also, be sure to make good connections with like-minded colleagues so that they can support the running of events. That way you don’t get burnt out.”

  Devon Arganaraz, Ericsson Network Engineer and founding member of the Diverse Cultures Group

Alstomalstom logo

Transport, shipping & logistics | 10,001+ employees

Sneha Sobti (she/her), Project Planner shared her experiences starting Alstom’s Pride ERG:

sneha alstom“I started the Pride Group after coming out during the COVID-19 pandemic. While rebuilding my life as a new migrant and a queer woman of color, I really appreciated the support and relationships I was building in the queer community. I started organizing LGBTQ+ awareness events at work, which received encouraging responses, so with the backing of the Leadership Team and support functions, I established the Pride Group in June 2021 – Alstom’s first employee resource group set up in the ANZ region.

We had over 40 employees join the Pride Group in its first year, and I am grateful for the support received so far. It is heart-warming to see members and allies uplift and make space for everyone. The group meets online and in-person every six weeks and is a non-judgemental, safe space where members can discuss LGBTQ+ topics, and propose ideas for more awareness within Alstom ANZ. We recently hosted an event focusing on the use of gender pronouns, and it is very rewarding to now see colleagues’ pronouns in their email signatures, as it is a visible sign of the Pride Group’s impact on Alstom ANZ. 

After a great first year, I look forward to the future of the Pride Group! I believe this space where we have uplifting conversations with empathetic listening, will have a significant ripple effect.”

Individual benefits for starting an ERG

sneha & team“Being part of the Pride Group has boosted my confidence significantly. With a Pride flag at my desk, and my colleagues as part of the group, I feel at ease knowing I have the support of my team. I can be vulnerable and share my experiences without having to hide any part of my identity, which is important for a healthy workplace environment.

It is an honor to be giving back to the LGBTQ+ community and bringing about change within my workplace. Seeing queer people publicly supported had a huge role in my acceptance of my queer identity, and I realized how pivotal it can be for people to see themselves represented. The Pride Group has enabled me to live one of my core values, inspiring and empowering people. Being Pillar Champion of the group has also greatly improved my leadership skills through running meetings, workshops, and catch ups for the Pride Group, colleagues, and the Leadership Team.”

–   Sneha Sobti (she/her), Project Planner

Kingking logo

IT, digital, & online media services | 1,001-5,000 employees

The ERGs at King are all created by their employees for their employees. They are a manifestation of their culture and the commitment of their ‘Kingsters’ to diversity, equity, and Inclusion. 

They currently have three of them: 

  1. Royal Unicorns, focused on the LGBTQIA+ community and allies 
  2. Kaleidoscope, representing the multiculturality at King
  3. Women@King, that focuses on women and allies 

Every year, they share events, talks, panels, external partnerships, and educational content to spread knowledge and awareness and foster positive change. 

Some of the examples are annual Pride participation celebrations, and explanations of different cultural events like Diwali, Lunar New Year, Carnival, and Easter, to name a few. Women@King also has a week dedicated to talks, panels, and the celebration of women every March. 

Some of these events also focus on helping charities and giving back to the community. 

The ERGs are open to all employees, and they also give the volunteers a chance to hone skills that might not be possible in their day job. Skills like project management, stakeholder management, creativity, collaboration, and company-wide communication.

Some benefits of the ERGs at King

Desiree Brathwaite, Head of Production for Portfolio Games, shared with us her perspective on founding Kaleidoscope, their multicultural focused ERG: 

desiree king“I founded Kaleidoscope so that Kingsters identifying with an underrepresented cultural heritage, ethnicity/race, or simply the experience of the intersectionality of more than one identity or perspective, could feel supported for their particular needs for inclusion. Our DE&I Manager at the time was very helpful and encouraged me and two other colleagues to formalize our group and get financial support through King’s sponsorship. 

 “I definitely recommend starting an ERG at one’s organization as it can be one of the most impactful ways to retain valuable talent as well as ensure a healthy and productive work environment.”

BAE Systemsbae systems logo

Defence & emergency | 10,001+ employees

Bae Systems’s Veteran Advisory Committee has been in operation since 2021 and has challenged historical ideas to drive updated, relevant policy and activities which actively supports their veteran community. By having a central voice, with hard-working volunteers, they now have a platform to make a change and provide focused support, in close collaboration with other functions within the business.

In addition to their Veterans ERG, they launched another five enterprise-wide ERG’s in September. These include groups for Gender, First Nations, Disability & Neurodiversity, LGTBQIA+, and Cultural Diversity. The ERGs at Bae Systems will provide a voice to underrepresented groups, programs to enhance personal and professional growth, input into diversity and inclusion strategies, have direct access to senior leadership, and help make real change at the grassroots level.

BAE Systems tips for success

“The creation of a veteran advisory committee was driven by a recognized need to provide evolved support to our veteran community. This was actively championed by our executive and drove immediate outcomes which ensured our business maintained its position as an employer of choice. My strongest recommendation is to secure executive leadership support and build a team who are committed and invested to roll their sleeves up and drive outcomes”

– Jeremy, Veteran Advisory Committee Chair.

 

“I joined an ERG after a call for volunteers initially – the group that formed turned out to be a really passionate group of people and we were (and still are) able to harness that enthusiasm to make real change. The business support was excellent and included provision of an external consultant to get us on our feet. My advice would be to get a group of similarly motivated/passionate people together, and harness that to generate a bit of momentum – then take this to senior leaders in the business and ask them for their support.”

– Ed, Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Group Chair

Toyotatoyota logo

Automotive | 1,001-5,000 employees

At Toyota, they call their ERGs their Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Action Teams.

These teams are supported by an internal DEIB Council. The teams are made up of a cross-section of their employee group who are engaged and passionate about DEIB in the organization. They currently have four groups that target key focus areas in our business, Gender Equality, Disability Advisory, LGBTQI+, and First Nations.

The teams have common goals, and work together to bring a sense of belonging to Toyota’s Teammates. They measure workplace belonging through their Enablement & Engagement (E&E) Survey with key questions aligned to the following four elements:

  • Valued & Connected
  • Safe & Open
  • Empowered & Growing
  • Respect & Equality

The DEIB Action Teams are leading the way by embedding Toyota’s DEIB strategy through all levels of their business. Initiatives supported and implemented have a direct impact on creating a workplace where our people can feel confident and comfortable to bring their true, authentic selves to work.

Toyota's tips for success

toyota meeting “Just get started. Any steps towards ensuring that your people feel that they belong in a more inclusive and diverse workplace, are steps worth taking on the journey. It’s important to have buy-in at all levels and we have found that this employee led solution has had a positive impact.”

Nicky McCarthy, Senior Manager, Organizational Development

Want a career with an organization that’s committed to closing the gender pay gap?

Check out the current job vacancies for the employers featured in this article.

Alstom | BAE Systems | Bendigo and Adelaide Bank | Commonwealth Bank | Cummins | Ericsson | King | Mott MacDonald | Palo Alto | TBH | Toyota

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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