Last month, we sat with an impressive group of women from several organizations at our biannual Benchmarking meeting for internal women’s groups (or ERGs). Women at FT were wonderful hosts to the conversation, and we left with some powerful takeaways about the state of employee resource groups, key areas of focus, and the strategy behind lasting impact.
Participating organizations included:
So, how do you build an ERG that’s sustainable and actually moves the needle? Here are a few key strategies:
1) Build a business case: ERGs are good for Employer Brand. Remember that the business case doesn’t just have to mean “X amount of women in leadership yield Y amount in profit.” It can also refer to related measurements of success in business--for example, talent attraction and talent retention. Growing numbers of job applicants are considering diversity and inclusion when deciding if a company is the right fit for them, and ERGs can be readymade marketing content for a strong employer brand to attract top talent. Further, developing community with significant purpose and proven achievements within an ERG can provide the level of purpose that individuals require to stay in a job longterm, driving retention across the organization. Communicate with your HR leadership, and offer your ERG as a tool for building employer brand.
Build a clear case and be ready to showcase stats to your leadership team. The more executive buy-in, the more influence your group will have over decisions that will drive lasting change (e.g. hiring the first female CEO at your company!).
2) Find influencers within the organization to help promote your ERG and your events. There’s been a lot of talk about allies (some of it from us, here at CFW), and while we’ve identified individuals who want to join our cause, we don’t always know how to actually utilize them effectively. Look outside your group for influencers in your company—be it the quiet person with the most impressive list of awards or the gregarious person who hosts the annual barbeque. Find them, ask them if you can buy them a cup of coffee, share the mission of your group, and ask for their feedback. Ask them directly to share your events or achievements with others in the company. Don’t be shy—you’re doing good work, and it’s not a big ask for a good cause.
3) Keep things simple. Something we’ve heard repeatedly when speaking with ERG leaders is that the key to sustainability in these groups is developing a program that includes simple, easy-to-execute events. While the larger, more resource-intensive events can be really impactful, small ones can help you keep the momentum and build organic relationships. Great ideas we’ve heard:
a. Recurring monthly lunches for a few group members with female leadership and/or executive sponsor
b. Quarterly happy hours
c. Speed-networking events
d. Attending outside events together (CFW Changing the Conversation or Ellevate)
e. Podcast club meetings (we recommend HBR’s Women at Work)
Our benchmarking meetings always remind us of how valuable it is to share with each other what’s working and what’s not so that none of us are reinventing the wheel. Putting your head together with ERG/internal women’s group leaders at other organizations is an absolutely key way to objectively assess whether you’re on the right track, brainstorm, and share goals, ideas, and strategies. If you’d like to be a part of CFW’s ERG benchmarking, reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll loop you in!