The importance of employee resource groups (ERGs)

Employee resource groups, or ERGs, are networks of employees that form based on shared common needs in the workplace. ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups with an aim to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. This can benefit an organization like University School of Milwaukee by highlighting ideas and perspectives that are shared by faculty and staff, which in turn can also benefit students. ERGs also serve to increase the visibility of unique and diverse groups of people, and also provide insights into the needs of individuals with shared backgrounds. ERGs are found in 90% of Fortune 500 companies.

Connections and cultural competencies

At USM, we are open to continuous improvement, growth, and lifelong learning. By offering faculty and staff opportunities for social interaction around a variety of topics, new connections with colleagues can be formed, and existing connections can be strengthened. This may also be particularly useful for new employees or those looking to build ally competencies. ERGs can hold informal conversations, host panel discussions or Q&A sessions with outside guests, and offer informal coffee groups, lunch-and-learns, or social outings. They can also help to increase the cultural competencies of the entire USM community by inviting allies to learn from and support their colleagues.

Examples of ERGs

ERGs are driven by the unique needs of members of the USM community. One ERG was already established in the first year of the strategic plan—an ERG for employees of color—and has already been meeting to discuss and share topics. Other possible ERGs that have been discussed within the community include:

  • Social identity-based (age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, etc.)
  • Family structure-based (single parents, adoptive parents, multi-generation households, etc.)
  • Employees pursuing (or considering pursuing) a terminal degree
  • New hires
  • Shared job responsibilities

Employee retention and recruitment

The more an individual feels like they belong in an organization, the more likely they are to stay with that organization. ERGs can not only offer USM faculty and staff a greater sense of belonging, but can also help move mission-aligned initiatives and objectives forward. Many prospective employees looking at an organization’s culture will often ask what types of ERGs exist in order to determine its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Members of ERGs also tend to be great ambassadors for their organizations, since they feel valued and supported in their work, and also feel safe bringing their whole, authentic selves to work each and every day.