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Key takeaways:

  • Establish Clear Governance: Implementing governance structures ensures ERGs align with global strategies, preventing turnover and enhancing engagement.
  • Promote Collaboration: Collaboration among ERGs with shared missions fosters community and inclusivity through cultural events, discussion panels, and educational initiatives.
  • Emphasize Collective Learning: Encourage continuous learning and alignment with company objectives, supported by direct leadership, virtual engagement strategies, and active listening from senior leaders.

Maximizing the global impact of your employee resource groups (ERGs) can help you achieve your organization’s ambitious growth goals, along with meeting the high expectations from employees.

You can’t risk having lackluster ERGs, because they are a driving factor in creating a sense of belonging enterprise-wide and creating opportunities for career development for diverse talent and underrepresented groups.

As a senior leader of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at a large enterprise, keeping all your ERGs on the same path to reach your goals may be a daunting task in itself. So how can you restructure your ERGs to optimize their impact?

Here are critical insights from DEI leaders on creating governance frameworks for global teams, collaborating between ERGs with shared missions, and using collective learning to achieve goals.

Governance Frameworks for Global Employee Resource Groups

While it may be easy to lead ERGs with an American-centric lens, it will help if you create governance frameworks that all ERGs can follow internationally. Your governance framework helps establish clear roles, responsibilities, and communication guidelines and keeps regional ERGs aligned with global strategies.

Without clear governance structures, you may run into issues with starting new ERGs and keeping existing ones engaged in DEI efforts.

“We previously had very loose government. We had about 60 chapters across the globe, but they were just networking groups with informal dos and don’ts,” said Southwest Airlines Senior Leader of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consuelo Rodriguez in a DiversityInc article.

When serving as Dell’s Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Consuelo shared how the lack of structure limited the forming of new chapters and resulted in a lot of turnover for ERG leaders.

One of the key first steps to help establish a governance framework is creating roles to guide ERGs. Some positions include program managers and executive sponsors who can create accountability for DEI with senior leaders.

Laura Folks, Manager of Global Inclusion Programs at Indeed, talked about how these roles help gain leadership buy-in.

“Managers at all levels should understand the business need behind diversity and inclusion. As such, ERGs are not a ‘side gig,’ but rather, a huge contribution to the company,” Laura said.

Senior leader involvement helps create governance frameworks with objectives for resource groups. It also helps to gain input from those within the ERGs to understand what they need to succeed and what they value in your organization.

Managers at all levels should understand the business need behind diversity and inclusion.

Laura Folks, Manager of Global Inclusion Programs at Indeed

It’s critical to have established missions and goals for ERGs in your organization, which can vary with employees across the globe. But you can use the insight from the employees to help you understand where to focus your efforts.

Once you understand the missions for ERGs, it helps to create guidelines to achieve your goals. These guidelines should be clearly communicated between ERG leaders, executive sponsors, and the C-suite to know what’s happening to advance the mission.

Collaborate Between Employee Resource Groups with Shared Missions

How can ERGs with shared missions work together across regions to maximize impact? Cross-cultural relationships can be key in achieving shared goals between ERGs. The fundamental background of ERGs being inclusive allows employees of all backgrounds to address topics in shared spaces.

In a Sustainability Magazine article, Barclays Group Chief Diversity Officer Ray Dempsey shared how collaboration within their ERGs helps create a sense of community.

“They provide an opportunity to build a community of colleagues and allies with shared goals and interests,” Ray said.

Many ERGs have goals aimed at providing career development, connections with peers across the organization, and inclusive environments — but what are some of the initiatives you can implement to allow ERGs to work together on these shared goals?

They provide an opportunity to build a community of colleagues and allies with shared goals and interests.

Ray Dempsey, Group Chief Diversity Officer at Barclays

Cultural events can be a great initiative to allow ERGs to collaborate on business objectives and raise awareness for their missions. Juna Jones-Moore, former Director of Diversity and Talent Acquisition at GameStop, shared how annual conferences helped promote ERGs and provided professional development for employees in a story by Affirmity.

Discussion panels can also help ERGs better understand shared beliefs and goals within your organization. The open forums can be an excellent way for senior leaders to learn more about the impact groups are having on your business and for employees in different ERGs to hear how others are addressing emerging issues.

Collaboration also allows for education. For example, one of the key goals for ERGs is addressing unconscious biases and discrimination in the workplace and educating how outdated practices limit underrepresented talent.

LinkedIn highlighted how Uber leveraged different ERGs through events to educate associates on critical issues. The article explained how their “Los Ubers” ERG worked with other resource groups to teach about diverse cultures and heritage and how allies can help elevate voices from underrepresented groups.

When ERGs work together, they can learn and create best practices throughout the company.

Collectively Learn Between Employee Resource Groups

What best practices should all ERGs adopt? What pitfalls should they avoid? It’s essential to align all resource groups to your company’s business objectives while at the same time addressing the priorities of employees in ERGs.

DEI Board Chair Cheya Dunlap, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Honeywell, recently shared how all ERGs should have direct leaders in charge during a DEI Board panel discussion on setting up ERGs for success.

“That really sets the tone for how important this is and that you’re going to get support, and you’re not going to spin your wheels for months and months to try to get things moved through the system,” Cheya said.

Siobhan Calderbank, Senior Director of Talent Management at LCBO, explained how ERGs must also create points of connection in virtual workplaces. She talked about creating engagement points through small breakout sessions and polling questions.

PepsiCo executives regularly meet with ERG leaders and members to listen, learn, and develop programs and policies that meet the needs of underserved communities.

Tina Bigalke, Global Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at PepsiCo

Employees pay attention to the initiatives companies implement and the efforts that senior leaders specifically employ. Tina Bigalke, Global Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at PepsiCo, shared with HR Dive how active listening is one of the best practices for DEI leaders looking to advance ERGs.

“PepsiCo executives regularly meet with ERG leaders and members to listen, learn, and develop programs and policies that meet the needs of underserved communities,” Tina said.

Benchmark How to Maximize the Global Impact of Your ERGs

Cheya, Siobhan, and Tina are all members of the DEI Board – the peer-to-peer community that supports and connects the leaders of DEI at large companies so they can better create diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces and advance belonging within their industries.

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