What is an ERG?

‘ERG’ is a term that is increasingly heard in the workplace. No, I’m not talking about an ‘erg’ – a landform consisting of a flat, lifeless area of desert named after an Arabic word for field of sand dunes. Nor am I referring to the psychological theory of Existence, Relatedness, and Growth (ERG). No, by ERG, I mean an Employee Resource Group.



So what is an Employee Resource Group? Well, an ERG – also called an ‘affinity group’ – is essentially a network of employees who all have something in common. Examples are groups for women, LGBT persons, and working parents. The group might be formally or informally constituted, and the members can meet, share resources, or raise awareness about the issues that affect them.

Research shows that organizations that feature ERGs are among the best places to work. But what concrete advantages do ERGs bring? Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits.

Support network

People bond over things they have in common with others. While each ERG member’s personality obviously isn’t going to be solely defined by whatever trait it is that constitutes the ERG, they will each have at least something in common, and this provides a valuable starting point of connection for employees.

In addition to the potential for social bonding and camaraderie, ERGs also allow people who share something that might make them feel different from the majority of employees to feel comfortable with this difference. 

Professional development and networking

ERGs can be a great forum for members to help each other in networking and professional development. Businesses thrive when learning and information is distributed throughout the organization. ERGs are one way for such information to be passed on in a way in which employees will enjoy and in which they will be invested. In addition, employees growing a larger network of contacts will not only help them but will support increased cooperation between different departments of the company.

Cultivate mentoring

Mentoring can be enormously rewarding for both mentor and mentee. But how can a person find a great mentor? Well, through an ERG, employees might be able to get in touch with someone who has faced similar challenges to them throughout their career, which could make them a perfect match for a mentoring relationship.

Raising awareness of issues

Certain groups of employees face issues that might be invisible to some of their colleagues. They may face subconscious bias or discrimination, for example. Or single parents might face a working culture which doesn’t accommodate their needs. Through an ERG, these employees have a platform to not only compare experiences but to communicate to the company as a unified voice about these issues – rather than each person going through the frustrating experience of trying to explain their lives to their colleagues in isolation.

Employees set up ERGs to improve their own experience at work. But given that having happy employees provides a number of benefits to companies, like improved employee retention, the increased satisfaction that ERGs bring rubs off on the company itself. From time to time, employers might want to keep an eye on any problems that ERGs raise, such as taking up too much of employees’ time. But overall, ERGs have a net positive effect on employees and businesses alike.

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