Sunday, August 17, 2014

Employee Resource Groups (ERGS) are Good for Business and Great for Employee Engagement

ERGs - good for business; great for engagement 

This year Mattel, Inc. hosted the third annual Employee Resource Group (ERG) Leadership Summit at their learning center in El Segundo, CA.  The Summit was sponsored by Mattel, Sony Pictures, Direct TV, the Center for Effective Organizations at USC and eePulse, Inc.

We had over 120 participants, up from the two prior years.  The room was packed, and the energy was high.  We had a very cool group of people in the room, and they learned a lot from each other.

ERGs are inspiring.  

The people who run these groups and who are members do so on a voluntary basis.  They join these groups because they share a common interest with others in their organization. The tie may be based on a demographic (e.g. Asian Americans, Hispanic origin, Women, etc.), an experience they had (veterans, cancer survivors) or a combination of traits, demographics and/or cause (LGBT, sustainability, young professionals). 

What's fascinating about these groups is that they get work done - and they do it very well, without any formal hierarchy or use of incentives / punishment.  People join and create ERGs within firms because they want to do it. 

1.  People come together due to a commonality - and as a result they trust each other. 

2.  The people are not bound by hierarchy - they trust each other; they do not report to each other.

3.  There's a large variety of occupations represented.  

4.  Members can be themselves - they can take risks; they speak out - people are not on guard. 

Because of these 3 items above, ERGs are the perfect place for innovation in organizations.  We saw lots of evidence of creativity, innovation, high energy and inspiration at the Summit.  

ERGs create an environment for people to be  truly engaged at work. 

When I say engaged, I am going back to the original definition of the term, which was focused on "bringing yourself to work."  Today that definition has morphed into something else; the modern version of engagement is giving all your time and energy to work - going above and beyond to help the company.  But in the early days it was all about the company providing an opportunity for people to bring themselves to the workplace.

Employees contribute to ERGs  because they can be themselves, and they can share the things about themselves that make them proud.  They inspire each other by demonstrating skills and talents that often are not used in the workplace.  

Are ERGs only for large firms?  

No - it's time to try them in small and mid-size firms. 

When you look at the benefit of ERGs to larger firms, you have to ask how small and mid-size firms can get in on this action.  These smaller businesses may not have enough employees to form as many ERG types as we see in larger firms, but I'm convinced there's a way for them to tap into the core concepts that we know work. 

* Groups of people who trust each other 
* Employees in different occupations and various job levels 

All working together for a common good - within the company or their communities. ERGS are about diversity in experience and similarity in values. 

Smaller and mid-size firms can use what we know about ERGs and create communities of practice.  These can be focused on community involvement, innovation or driving culture.  

Interested in learning more?  Contact us to chat. 

info@eepulse.com