7 Essential Features for ERG Management Software
Diversity Equity and Inclusion Director for MentorcliQ
May 1, 2023
Almost every large company now has ERGs. In fact, 100% of the companies on Fair360’s DiversityInc Top 50 list now have them. Furthermore, the average company on its list has around 10 ERGs, regardless of the number of employees. Because ERGs continue to expand as a must-have engagement tool and DEIB solution, there’s a growing and critical need for robust ERG management software. Picking the right tool is important, but that starts with understanding what features your program leaders and participants will need to be successful.
Your top priorities are likely:
- Providing the best experience for ERG program leaders and participants
- Ensuring your results-hungry executives have the results data they need.
This article will help you delve into the realm of ERG management software and explore the top five features your organization should look for to nurture and support your ERGs effectively.
Why Do ERGs Need Management Software?
All good software is designed to solve a problem. ERG software is no different.
Employee Resource Groups have a large number of moving parts. Within any program, you’ll need to consider:
- Participant enrollment
- Scheduling and hosting events
- Group communications
- Group management
- Skill development opportunities
- Mentoring relationship matching
- Resource allocation
- Mobility tracking
- Participant polling and surveys
- Gamification and rewards
- Data tracking and data analytics
And that’s just the shortlist! When expertly designed, ERG software can help you mitigate many different issues you’ll encounter when running programs. There are two, in particular, which may make all the difference for HR leaders:
1. ERG management software reduces the tech stack required
With ERG management software, you can create programs that are more efficient and more effective from a user experience perspective. Without software, leaders and participants must use multiple apps and tools to manage and engage in ERG programs with any level of efficacy.
While some of these tasks can be accomplished by leveraging tools you likely already have available (such as Google Sheets, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Excel, Slack, and Zoom), there are several problems with relying on a bucket of tools to manage and participate in groups.
Chief among these is the lack of efficiency and the increased risk of getting things wrong. Creating a standardized approach to program management without a single source of truth via one platform quite often creates a wild, wild west of ERG management. And that means every ERG participant is getting a vastly different experience (and not always a good experience).
2. ERG management software significantly reduces time investment for leaders and administrators
ERGs are commonly managed by non-executive employees who volunteer their time and energy to make these programs work. A survey by The Rise Journey found that just 6% of ERG leaders are compensated for their time spent managing and leading their ERGs. That means the overwhelming majority of ERG leaders are doing it because they care about what ERGs represent and the impact ERGs can have on the targeted populations within the organization.
Without management software, these employees may spend far more time trying to manage programs than is reasonable for a volunteer assignment that’s so often unpaid. Meanwhile, there may be benefits to those employees’ careers from the visibility gained in taking on a leadership position. This may lead to frustrations on the part of participants and program leaders and could lead to leaders calling it quits on the role (or never signing up for ERG leadership roles at all).
One respondent to a Great Place to Work study on ERGs puts it rather succinctly:
“There’s more spent on a bagel budget than the ERG budget.”
The benefits of ERG management software are felt across the board
ERG software houses as many ERG management and engagement tasks as possible within one platform.
That way, you don’t have to worry about trying to set up multiple applications to work with your ERGs. You also don’t need to worry about managing and switching between multiple applications. Administrators, leaders, and participants can rely on expertly-designed features that improve efficiency and user experience for everyone.
Now that we know why ERG management software is necessary let’s explore some of the must-have features to include on your checklist as you investigate software.
Feature 1: Intuitive interface for a user-friendly experience
A well-designed interface can make all the difference in how efficiently and effectively ERG initiatives are managed within an organization. It can also influence how likely participants are to engage in the program.
Organizations should think of their ERGs are an engagement and retention strategy. Take AT&T, for example, which at one time reported a nearly 86% retention rate among its Black ERG program participants. When employees feel supported, they are more likely to stay. But in today’s time, support also comes from what resources you put into improving the user experience that meets participants’ high expectations.
And why wouldn’t they have those expectations? Who wants to navigate through a convoluted system that only adds to their workload?
ERG management software, when done right, utilizes commonly accepted principles of UX design, which can include:
- Less is more
- Visual hierarchy
- Information architecture
- Familiarity principle (also known as the mere-exposure effect)
- Mobile vs desktop-based differences
If you plan to invest in ERG management software, you also need to ensure your ERG participants will use it. Otherwise, the ROI won’t be there. Part of convincing them to use through opting for a platform that’s designed its tool around UX design.
Feature 2: Robust data security measures for safeguarding sensitive information
Data breaches are increasingly common in the digital world today. Organizations now prioritize the security of sensitive information. This is especially important for ERG management software, which may interact with sensitive employee data, their interests, and group initiatives. Therefore, ERG management software must have strong data security measures.
If you’ve been through the process of purchasing third-party tools, you likely already know that your company’s IT team will get involved in the vetting process. They’re going to be quick to reject any tool that doesn’t mean a minimum level of security for user and company data.
Before even bringing the tool to the table, make sure that your ERG management tool carries passes audits under the following security measures:
- SOC2 Type I or Type II
- ISO/IEC 27001:2013
- HTTPS over TLS 1.2 and SFTP with PGP
- Vulnerability Scanning and Annual Penetration Testing
- Complies with GDPR
Your ERG management software will likely integrate with other third-party tools like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Workday, and Okta. If so, it will have already had to pass rigorous third-party security tests to gain those integrations. Nevertheless, you and your IT team should verify the tool’s security protocols and request documentation. Consider that a red flag if the company can’t produce the requisite documentation.
Feature 3: Seamless integration with existing communication and collaboration tools
One crucial feature of ERG management software is its seamless integration with existing communication and collaboration tools. This integration is necessary because communication and collaboration are the primary ways participants will engage within the program.
For ERGs to thrive, they must be integrated into the organization’s existing communication and collaboration channels. Not only does that help smooth over the security concerns IT teams may have, but it also reduces the time participants need to learn how the tool works.
Imagine a scenario where employees constantly switch between different platforms to access information or communicate with their ERGs. This would be chaotic, time-consuming, and counterproductive. Seamless integration with your existing communication and collaboration tech stack solves this problem.
We already mentioned some of the tools you’d likely want to integrate within the previous section. However, there could be more. As you investigate software, consider what communication and collaboration tools are widely adopted at your organization. Then, check each platform’s website to determine if it integrates with those tools.
Note that not all integrations may be listed. Some third-party app integrations are difficult or impossible, while others may be in the works. We recommend that you ask about specific tools when you book a demo.
Feature 4: Customizable reporting and analytics capabilities for comprehensive insights
ERGs are now seen as a crucial part of diversity and inclusion initiatives as companies strive to create inclusive work environments. Still, like any program that falls under employee engagement and development, ERG metrics must align with business goals. To prove that the programs (and ERG management software) are worth the budget, executive leaders need to see the data.
The ERG software you choose should allow you to collect and analyze a large amount of data related to participant engagement. It should also connect with your HRIS system so you can get far more granular with the reporting, such as assessing retention and internal movements broken down by employee demographics.
Some executive leaders may believe all of this is possible without software. That’s usually not the case, at least not with the level of accuracy and efficiency that are needed for effective reporting.
If companies force their administrators to do manual data collection and reporting, they’ll increase the cost and decrease the efficacy of that data.
As Marcus Buckingham once wrote in a Harvard Business Review article, “Most HR Data Is Bad.” The more you can remove the human element from data collection and analytics, the better and clearer the data will be. Executive leaders that truly care about understanding the value of ERGs need to invest the money necessary in ERG management software.
When researching ERG software, look for tools that have customizable reporting and analytics capabilities. You will want to assess data across each group, different populations, and the ERG program as a whole. You’ll want a software platform to give you insights into the following types of data:
- Participant satisfaction
- Organizational impact
- Employee retention
- Employee promotions
- Leadership involvement
The more you can splice that data, the better. However, this will all start with making sure your selected program not only integrates with existing data sources like HRIS systems but that it also gives you tools to gather data.
Feature 5: Scalability to accommodate organizational growth and evolving needs
Focusing on scalability is particularly important for accommodating organizational growth and evolving needs. You’ll likely find that as your company grows, the number of ERGs you offer won’t change. As we noted in the intro, among the Fair360 DiversityInc Top 50 companies, the average number of ERGs is around 10. That’s irrespective of the number of employees each company had.
That means you may need to scale based on how many participants your programs can support. Some organizations do this by having different ERG chapters based on region. Others may add subgroups of other kinds. Either way, the ERG management software you use must be able to support an increasingly larger number of participants.
Scalability also involves integrating with other systems and platforms within the organization, such as HR software or communication tools, to streamline processes and improve efficiency. This feature enables a seamless transition as the organization grows and requires additional resources to support the ERG program.
Having scalable ERG management software is crucial for effectively managing ERGs and adapting to the changing needs of a diverse workforce.
Of course, that begs the question: What does “scalability” mean for an ERG platform? In many ways, it’s the same as you’ll find with almost any other software platform. From a high level, it’s the platform’s ability to handle a larger number of participants. For example, if you double the number of users on the platform, will it crash the platform with the added number of users?
Costs should also factor into scalability. When you double the number of participants, do the costs scale up in a way that’s reasonable?
As you research tools and schedule demonstrations, be sure to ask how the platform handles scale.
Feature 6: Streamlined administration and automation for efficient management
The efficiency of your ERG management tool will be a make-or-break decision. If the tool does not reduce how much time program administrators and program leaders must spend organizing and managing groups, there’s very little point to the software.
Administrators can minimize manual intervention and focus on strategic initiatives by automating processes and tasks. This ultimately enhances productivity and drives organizational success. That applies to ERG management, where leaders and administrators, who are already pressed for time, need to organize and manage groups as quickly as possible.
This will be particularly relevant for ERG leaders, who, as we stated early, typically serve in unpaid leadership roles. If ERG management takes too long, it takes too much time away from their regular day-to-day duties. While their ERG management role is important and adds significant value to HR initiatives, large programs that require excessive time investment can become counterproductive.
Feature 7: Mobile accessibility to facilitate remote ERG engagement
Effective communication is crucial in the fast-paced business world, where multinational companies operate across borders and diverse cultures. However, distance can impede communication and collaboration within ERGs, hindering their ability to produce effective results.
Mobile accessibility is pivotal in facilitating remote ERG engagement. With the rise of remote work and virtual teams, the ability to connect and collaborate from anywhere in the world has become a requirement. By incorporating mobile accessibility, ERG management software empowers employees to participate in ERG activities, regardless of location.
This feature enriches communication channels, breaks down barriers, and fosters inclusivity by ensuring no employee is excluded from the conversation.
A mobile-first approach is also great for leaders, who may need to communicate with their groups while on the go. Because today’s workforce is not working traditional hours, ERG leaders also need to find ways to communicate that extend beyond these barriers.
Start Your ERG Management Software Research Right Here
ERGs play a pivotal role in fostering diversity and inclusion within organizations. Although the approach has long been seen as “extracurricular,” its positive impact on employee retention and engagement now makes it a must-have for organizations with large and diverse workforces. However, the larger the company, the more ERG management software is necessary to ensure these programs work as intended.
ERGs generate a wealth of data, from membership demographics to event attendance and impact metrics. A comprehensive software solution should provide powerful analytics and reporting tools that enable your organization to measure the success of your ERGs and identify areas for improvement.
Diverst is exactly that solution you’ve been looking for. Book a demo today to learn more about how Diverst’s suite of features solves the biggest problems ERG leaders encounter.