How do Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) become more than just a “nice to have”? By impacting and influencing company goals and the bottom line.
Once seen as a social group and/or a safe space to share concerns and ideas, the value proposition of company ERGs is shifting. Forward-thinking corporations are now leveraging their ERGs into a valuable business resource – one that ties back to corporate objectives and impacts their brand in the marketplace. Some companies see this as such a valuable business resource that they are dedicating P&L dollars to a full-time position to run it.
Turning your ERG into a strategic business partner can boost your bottom line. Here’s how:
#1 – Define the Value Proposition
One of the biggest mistakes I see ERGs make consistently is in not clearly defining their value proposition. Not only why they exist, but more importantly how they can help move the needle forward as it relates to the company objectives. It is imperative that they not only identify the mission and goals of the group but also have a clear understanding of what the corporate objectives are so they can map out how to leverage the group to maximize impact.
The second part to this is clearly articulating the tangible outcomes that have been achieved. Some ideas are:
- Sharing with senior management what they have heard in the ERG that may be helpful to them in maximizing employee engagement.
- Showcasing the number of meetings participants have had with senior leaders to pitch ideas.
- Tracking the number of volunteer hours (if this is a company value).
- Highlighting examples of Because A, B, & C happened, X, Y, and Z were possible.
#2 – Utilize Your Women’s ERG to Drive Business
Women make 85% of all consumer purchasing decisions. Therefore, understanding their behavior and mindset will enable organizations to make more effective market decisions.
I recently attended the Diversity Woman’s Business Leadership conference where one of the speakers referenced a bid they actually lost because they had no diversity and inclusion programs at their company. It mattered to the client that they were working with a company that valued their employees and was offering them this type of programming.
Having strategic ERGs can make a significant impact on the bottom line.
Here are some ideas:
Invite your clients to participate in some of the programming – I worked with a law firm in Atlanta where the female partners invited their female clients to a workshop. We had 80 women in the room. They loved the content and more importantly, they loved that the law firm was giving them value-added benefits for being a client AND it validated their choice in choosing this firm because they invest in their women.
Offer one of your clients to come in and present to your ERG as a subject matter expert – Have your ERG put together an opportunity for one of your clients to present their product/program to some of their potential prospects.
Conduct focus groups either with current or prospective clients to gain insight into purchasing decisions.
The possibilities are endless.
#3 – View Your ERG as a Talent Development Pipeline
Participating in ERGs gives women exposure to leadership competencies that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to cultivate in their current role – project management, executive presence, strategic problem solving, team building, and leading a committee. This may give them an edge as they apply for their next position AND make them a more valuable employee.
Participation gives them exposure to senior management and allows them to hone the skills necessary to interact on a more senior level.
Managers – Incorporate discussions into your one-on-one sessions about your employee’s participation in their ERG. Ask them what skills they are learning. Outline how their involvement in the ERG can become part of their development plan.
Employees – Discuss with your manager the impact of your participation: Being part of the ERG enables me to build x, y, and z which are critical leadership competencies identified by our company. I would also like to develop A, B, and C. Can you let me know when you see me exhibiting any of these?
#4 – Choose the Right Executive Sponsor
Be strategic in who you choose as an Executive Sponsor. This can’t be a check-the-box type of role.
When implemented effectively, the sponsor can learn valuable business intelligence that they can use to direct strategy. Just as the ERG needs clearly defined roles and responsibilities of its leadership team, so too does the sponsor.
How many sessions will they be required to attend? How will they represent the ERG at Executive-level meetings? How will they ask for suggestions/ideas as to possible solutions to challenges the company faces? When done well, the sponsor gives the ERG members a platform to get to know one of their Senior executives on a different level, provides them insight from a company perspective, as well as allows them to receive guidance and mentorship. They should feel the heat to produce.
Maximizing the effectiveness of your women’s ERG can be an untapped tool for success. What are some strategic ways that you are leveraging the possibilities within your ERGs?