Simple Solutions Blog

What is an employee resource group?

 October 14, 2022     UFG Insurance    We are UFG  Read Time: 3 min
A female employee participates in a multicultural ERG group.
For companies that lead on diversity, equity and inclusion, employee resource groups (ERGs) are often a key piece of their strategy.

ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups organized around a focused characteristic or interest, such as racial identity or philanthropy. Originally created in the 1960s to serve employees from underrepresented backgrounds, the ERG concept has gained steam in recent years thanks to its ability to provide support and build connections among today’s diverse workforce.
Whether you’re looking to start an ERG program of your own, or you’re a jobseeker looking for companies committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, here’s what you need to know about ERG programs in the workplace.

What is an employee resource group (ERG)?

Employee resource groups (sometimes called “affinity groups”) are organized around a focused characteristic or interest, and provide members the opportunity to discuss issues within and outside of the company in a safe, welcoming environment.

Those characteristics or interests can include:

  • Racial, ethnic or cultural identities.
  • Sexual identity or orientation.
  • Religious affiliations.
  • Socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Shared interests (wellness, volunteering, etc.).

Because employees lead ERGs, they are largely in charge of establishing meeting schedules, agendas, activities and so on. Some groups may function as a forum for discussion topics, while others may develop specific programming or invite guest speakers to address topics of interest. That’s the true beauty of an ERG — it allows employees to create an experience that speaks to them in a way that top-down programming can’t.

Here at UFG Insurance, employees have helped to create three strong ERG groups: the EPIC Women’s Forum, a multicultural group, and a well-being group that focuses on physical and mental health. These are open to anyone, and regularly attract employees ranging from entry-level associates to senior executives for enlightening, in-depth discussions.

Who can join an ERG?

Employee resource groups are meant to be inclusive, not exclusive, meaning that employees of all backgrounds and identities are allowed to participate in any ERG, provided they’re committed to the safe and respectful space that an ERG represents. Employees who consider themselves allies to a specific group or identity are encouraged to join these conversations to learn and contribute their diverse perspectives to the group. 

When it comes to sustaining an ERG over the long term, participation and engagement is critical. Here at UFG, we’re proud to say that more than a quarter of our workforce participates in our employee resource groups. 

What are the benefits of an ERG?

A more welcoming, inclusive environment
While today’s workplace is more diverse than ever before, employees and groups may still struggle to find a sense of belonging. ERGs make it easier for employees to come together and express their true thoughts and feelings with others who relate without judgment. That, in turn, can give them more confidence to be their authentic selves at work, creating a more inclusive and accepting environment. For allies in the workplace, ERG conversations can be a valuable way to learn about different perspectives and experiences that help shape their colleagues.

A more transparent, proactive environment
All employees have opinions about company policy and management actions, and ERGs offer groups an open and safe place to express concerns or problems within a company. Most companies focused on diversity, equity and inclusion work directly with ERGs when developing solutions to those problems, maximizing employee buy-in. At UFG, members of management regularly join employee ERGs to listen and take back ideas for improvement to the company's leadership.

Personal and professional growth
Because employees from all corners and levels of a company are invited to join ERGs, they have the potential to become important networks for employee growth. Mentorships, leadership development and cross-department connections all regularly spring from these groups.

Improved employee satisfaction and retention
In today’s labor market, companies are looking for any edge they can find in talent recruitment and retention, and ERGs have emerged as a promising tactic. According to a survey by Catalyst, 50% of ERG members surveyed reported “an increased intent to remain at their job long-term and higher levels of commitment.” Considering the minimal investment it takes to launch an ERG, it’s an easy way for any organization looking to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.

If you're looking to learn more about starting your own employee resource group, or how we use them here at UFG to create a more inclusive workplace, contact us or check out our current career opportunities. We're always happy to share information about our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and improve the workplace for all.

The information provided is for informational purposes only. Every attempt is made to ensure that the information is accurate; however, it is not intended to replace professional advice. For more information, see Disclaimers & Other Legal Documents.