The 4 C’s of ERGs

 -  2/24/12

ERGs are a valuable part of an organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy, but without reporting valid business and career-related metrics, no one will know it.

Imagine it’s 3 p.m. on a Friday. Dana, the employee resource group (ERG) leader, gets good news: She’s been invited to give a presentation on the value of her ERG at her company’s next senior executive team meeting. At first, she’s elated. This is a great opportunity for her and her ERG. She starts to mull over all of her ERG’s activities. As she jots down notes, she becomes concerned that while they do a lot of things, it’s difficult to articulate the value those activities produce for the company.

Dana’s experience, while fictional, is common. According to Robert Rodriguez, president of DRR Advisors LLC, a management and diversity consulting firm, and author of Latino Talent, “While ERGs have grown in sophistication, the methods their leaders use to measure effectiveness, contributions and progress have not.” The problem is not that ERGs aren’t doing enough beyond their roots as “home and hearth” for underrepresented employees, but that they usually don’t organize their activities in close alignment with business needs. Or, they don’t establish metrics that enable them to convey what they’ve done or plan to do in a meaningful way.

ERG Focus and Metrics
This lack creates a challenge because, in the absence of full integration with multiple aspects of the business, “ERGs may be seen as clubs, rather than ways to build community, drive engagement and deliver business impact,” according to Renee Anderson, global head of diversity and inclusion at Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical company. If ERG leaders want to have high-value impact, and they want recognition for their time and effort, they need to make sure they create value in a way that’s significant to their company by aligning to needs, and then create ways to easily communicate outcomes.

Many diversity practitioners within corporations, as well as consultants, have recognized this challenge and launched efforts to help ERG leaders address it. “Measure Employee Resource Groups to Yield Business Results,” an article published in October 2007 by the Society for Human Resource Management, explores in depth how ERG leaders can establish metrics to determine the value and impact their groups have on the larger business. Ask: In what specific and measurable ways does the group make the company more profitable? How does the network increase productivity by developing valuable skills in its members? How does the ERG impact talent attraction, engagement and retention?

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