Organizational Wellness

How Employee Resource Groups Can Boost Your Team

Feb 8, 2023
Last Updated Dec 11, 2023

Beyond a mere checkbox on corporate to-do lists, the pursuit of DEI is an important task that propels organizations to innovation. Improving DEI requires being aware of the types of diversity and actively striving for workplace equity. 

Many businesses have a long way to go to overcome DEI gaps, but the results are well-worth it. Gender-diverse and inclusive teams have been shown to outperform gender-homogeneous teams by 50% on average, while lack of diversity can actively hurt company performance. 

Fostering inclusion by implementing employee resource groups is a great way to bolster your DEI efforts. Here’s how to leverage ERGs in service of making your organization more welcoming, and effective. 

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What Are Employee Resource Groups? 

An employee resource group, or ERG, is an employee-led collective that aims to foster diversity and inclusion. Typically the employees that participate in ERGs will share a common characteristic. They might all be of the same gender identity, religion, ethnicity, race, lifestyle, sexual identity, or even interests. Sometimes allies of a particular group may be invited to participate in the ERG as well as allies.

In most cases, members gather to discuss topics specific to their shared identity. It might be a space to discuss issues that management might otherwise miss, help members know about resources they have (like policies that benefit them or how to file a report with HR), work together to find solutions to company-wide problems, or simply connect with people who share their experiences. 

These groups are led by an employee of the company. This representative is sometimes paid to dedicate time to helping with the employee resource group.

The first ERG emerged at Xerox in 1970 — the Black Employee Caucus — and the practice has spread across industries. Today, 90% of Fortune 500 companies have employee resource groups. Many have more than one. In a survey examining ERGs among large companies, researchers found that 25% of companies had one to two ERGs, over 50% had three to six, and about 20% had seven to fifteen. 

Benefits of Employee Resource Groups

ERGs are among the most effective ways to combine business and diversity interests. So let’s look at what employee resource groups can do and the benefits they can provide both the employees and their workplace.

Improve the Work Environment for Marginalized Employees

Research shows employees are more likely to leave when a company does not invest in DEI: 81% of employees surveyed by GoodHire said they’d quit if their employer didn’t commit to DEI. 

Employee resource groups are a tool companies can use to live their commitment to DEI and to improve the work environment for marginalized groups. They provide a safe place to talk, connect, and share resources. 

Help Identify Future Leaders

Keep an eye on those who step up to lead an ERG. This can be a great way to identify future leaders that might otherwise be overlooked. And, at the end of the day, diverse leadership is good business: Companies with more diverse leadership generate 19% more revenue than their lower-diversity counterparts. 

Improve Organizational Culture 

ERGs help make your organization a supportive place where people want to work. They can be a part of your organizational development and strategy, and you could use them to improve your company culture. A culture that’s inclusive leads to higher employee retention and recruitment. 

Address Issues

Suppressed DEI issues can lead to toxic environments. Employee resource groups are a great way to start addressing issues so that they don’t reach a  tipping point and begin to degrade your company culture. 

Hurdles for Employee Resource Groups

So what are the struggles employee resource groups face? Here are a few that come up and how to mitigate them. 

Dissent from Outside Groups

ERGs for women and minorities have sparked dissent from white men who felt excluded. You definitely don’t want the workplace to be a place of conflict, so what can you do here?

  • Put management support behind the employee resource groups. If they’re legitimized company groups, non-members will see more legitimacy to their existence. 
  • Create a variety of ERGs where many people can be involved in one that pertains to them.
  • Explain the purpose to employees regularly, so everyone knows what the goal is and why dedicated space for diverse voices is valuable and important. 

Lack of Leadership

ERG’s are often led or instigated by diverse individuals themselves. This can lead to excess burden on those minority groups. Group members might also have different ideas of what “success” looks like, or not have the capacity to properly organize efforts among their other workplace responsibilities. Support from management is key here, so groups have the capacity to engage in thorough leadership and define their resource group’s purpose.

Some Find Other Committees More Successful

Some people find other committee structures to be more successful at DEI than employee resource groups. But in reality, DEI committees can be a stepping stone to creating ERGs, and both can have their separate place to benefit the company. 

How to Facilitate Employee Resource Groups 

So you want to take advantage of the benefits of employee resource groups. How do you facilitate a group and actually make it happen? Here are some tips: 

  • Allow time for groups to meet. ERGs shouldn’t have to meet off-the-clock. Give them time during the day to meet because they are doing important work that contributes to your company. 
  • Offer financial support for ERGs. If you want your employee resource groups to be able to make valuable contributions, they need the funds to make that happen. Consider paying team leaders. 
  • Offer resources. Resources help an ERG expand its impact. Evaluate what support you can offer groups, such as team building activities or event budgets. 
  • Advertise ERGs to employees. Employees can’t join something they don’t know about. Help new employees (and established employees who might’ve missed it) learn about your ERGs by spreading the word in company meetings and communications. 
  • Involve executives. Like we discussed earlier, involving executives helps mitigate problems, and it gives diverse employees support. The history of executives and employee resource groups is strong and positive (the first ERG was started by Xerox’s CEO after all). 
  • Quickly approve ERGs. Focus on mindful leadership and approve requests for ERGs quickly, so they can get off the ground easily and feel supported.

Leveraging ERGs for Comprehensive Wellness Initiatives

In this section, explore how ERGs can play a vital role in promoting comprehensive wellness initiatives within the organization. Discuss how these groups can provide insights into the unique wellness needs of diverse employee populations and contribute to the development of tailored wellness programs. Highlight examples such as:

  • Cultural Wellness Programs: ERGs can inform and guide the creation of wellness programs that are culturally sensitive and inclusive, catering to the diverse backgrounds of employees.
  • Mental Health Support: Utilize ERGs to address mental health issues specific to various groups, offering targeted support and resources.
  • Networking and Mentorship: Illustrate how ERGs can facilitate networking and mentorship opportunities that contribute to the overall well-being and career development of employees, especially those from underrepresented groups.
  • Feedback Mechanism for Wellness Programs: ERGs can serve as a valuable feedback mechanism, helping HR teams understand the effectiveness of existing wellness programs and identifying areas for improvement.
  • Promoting Work-Life Wellness: Discuss how ERGs can advocate for policies and practices that promote a healthy work-life balance, recognizing the different life circumstances and needs of their members.
  • Hosting Wellness Events and Workshops: Showcase how ERGs can organize wellness-related events and workshops, such as stress management seminars, fitness challenges, or health awareness campaigns tailored to their group's interests and needs.

Unlocking the Power of Employee Resource Groups

Ultimately, employee resource groups are a powerful tool if you let them be. They’ve been used in many organizations to help with diversity, equity, and inclusion, and they’re a way your company can improve DEI. 

Boosting DEI is a way to show your employees that you care about them and their wellbeing. One  way to help every employee feels appreciated is to offer wellness programs that cater to the unique needs of your entire population. When every team member has access to benefits that fit their needs, it shows that the organization cares about them as a person.

Ready to learn more about programs that can support employee wellbeing? Talk to a Gympass wellbeing specialist today.

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Gympass Editorial Team

The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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