Monday, September 15, 2014 at 5pm

ERG: An Acronym You Should Know

MBA network

You just started your last year of your MBA program. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there. It is almost over. Wouldn’t life be grand if all you had to do was study? But how about a dose of reality – what happens after graduation? It’s time to get a job. Are you ready?

You do your due diligence and begin to research your target companies. If you are like me, you are curious about the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. While on the diversity and inclusion page, you will most likely see an ERG tab. ERG – what does is it mean? What comes to mind? It’s an acronym you should know.

ERG stands for employee resource group. Other lesser used terms include affinity groups or business networking groups. Current groups offer much more than mere professional networking opportunities. ERGs can be found in 90% of Fortune 500 companies. If I were you, I would either join an ERG or start one once you obtain employment.

What is an ERG?

Employee resource groups are formed by employees who share a common characteristic – ethnicity, gender, generation, religious affiliations, etc. ERGs Employee resource groups are based on providing support, enhancing career development, professional networking and overall contributions to personal development in the workplace. While the group is rooted in common characteristics, it is also aligned with the mission, values, goals, business practices and objectives of the company while also focused on diversity and inclusion. Senior management is involved usually serving in the capacity of executive sponsor or champion on behalf of the group.  Employee resource groups have existed for more than 25 years. I’m happy to report that the scope is expanding and evolving to include interest-based groups. Examples of interest-based groups include those based upon job responsibilities, the environment, volunteerism and wellness.

Employee resource groups are think tank type organizational support mechanisms that can impact the bottom line of a corporation. ERGs support organizations in areas such as recruiting and employee retention. You and other group members can turn thoughts into points of views & perspectives that can be converted to solutions that can solve diversity and inclusion issues faced by your organization. More on that bottom line impact later.

Professional networking through an ERG: What’s in it for me?            

Membership has privileges

You have nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain. The odds are stacked in your favor. Association with ERGs employee resource groups will provide an outlet for you to share thoughts and perspectives with likeminded individuals. ERGs provide professional networking opportunities, the development of your cultural competencies and training and development. Like American Express – membership has its privileges.  Being a new employee can leave you feeling like a fish out of water.  ERGs engage employees; help them feel welcomed, connected, and valued. 

Exposure

You will be presented with opportunities to engage with senior managers. Don’t take those opportunities for granted. Exposure to senior management and professional networking could lead to informal mentoring encounters. I can’t stress to you enough how your participation will help you gain visibility and access to executives so you can get discovered.  You want to be noticed by senior managers, after all.

Show off your expertise

Membership in ERGs employee resource groups offers you a platform to share your expertise. You can learn from others. You can build and strengthen capabilities through action. Take on a leadership role. Don’t just be a passive bystander!  

Bottom line company impact

Power

There is power in numbers. Individual vs group – I think you get it. The voice of a group carries much more weight and is more easily heard than the voice of one. I have witnessed instances when an ERG was able to affect policy changes, improve relationships among all levels of an organization and impact cultural changes. Executive leadership teams are turning to Employee Resource Groups more and more these days. They recognize the value that they bring to an organization. The senior leadership team understands how ERGs can shed light on specific issues while employing out of the box thinking to create game changing solutions. ERG members are able to provide various insights needed for the decision making process. Employee Resource Groups support, pilot and implement programs aligned with company strategies.

Recruitment & retention

Companies are always on the lookout for the best and brightest talent. More and more organizations are turning to ERGs to assist with recruitment and employee retention.  Let me give you an example of what I mean. The talent acquisition director has knowledge that several positions are about to be posted. One of the job requirements is an MBA degree. The director will go to the MBA employee resource group to submit names of potential candidates. ERGs provide referrals and easy professional networking to of other talented team members.

Public relations

Members of ERGs are magnificent brand ambassadors. Who better to involve in community outreach than members of ERGs.     

About Starla Trigg

Starla holds a MBA degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.  She has spent her career working in various capacities for Fortune 250 companies.  In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering, learning new things, and playing golf.

Starla holds a MBA degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.  She has spent her career working in various capacities for Fortune 250 companies.  In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering, learning new things, and playing golf.

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