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ERG

How to Create an ERG Toolkit for New Program Leaders

Sam

Sam Cook

Content Director and Employee Engagement Researcher

Jun 21, 2024

While some people get excited about being asked to take on a leadership role at work, most people feel a sense of dread when asked to lead. A mixture of imposter syndrome, fear of failure, lack of confidence in their own skills, and much more can easily shut people down — or cause them to reject the leadership offer. For diversity officers hoping to launch or expand employee resource groups more broadly, that can make finding people willing to take on the challenge of (often unpaid) leadership, well, a challenge by itself. However, if have an ERG toolkit for new program leaders ready to go, you’re far more likely to reduce apprehension and friction toward leadership.

Creating that toolkit is something that is best done in-house. After all, your ERGs will reflect your company culture and employee needs. Still, we’ll help set you on the right path with some helpful tips on what top include in your ERG toolkit, and how to make the best use of your time as you create it.

Why Do My Program Leaders Need an ERG Toolkit?

There are two common misconceptions about ERG leadership that we need to dispense with right away:

  1. Anyone can do it.
  2. People should be grateful to be asked.

There are two major issues to address underlying both of those assumptions.

First is the belief that anyone can do it. While ERG leadership may seem simple on the surface, there are many different moving parts involved in the process. ERG leads need to plan, organize, advocate, communicate, and report. What’s more, they’re looked at to make decisions about their groups that can be consequential both to the group members and the outcomes that executive leaders are hoping to see as a result of ERG participation.

Those who have never been in leadership roles may have little to no experience in planning events, or communicating with teams, or reporting on membership dynamics and participation. And, let’s face it: Finding people with the passion for leading an ERG in an (again, often unpaid) role is more a situation of “beggars can’t be choosers.”

You may have people willing to take on the challenge but feeling compelled to do so because either nobody else is stepping up or they are looking to expand their horizons and skill sets. Preparing them properly will help them succeed.

Second, don’t assume people should be grateful for being asked to lead. Few people in your company are going to be eager to take on extra duties outside of their current role. While this can boost their resumes and give them more visibility within the company, many will view it as a burden instead of a blessing. Being asked can help provide a sense of accomplishment and boost someone’s confidence in their work, but it still adds responsibilities to their day-to-day.

As well, if nobody is eagerly stepping up and you find yourself in a position to have to ask for volunteers, most of those saying yes are doing so because they have a personal sense of duty to their team and their colleagues, not because they’re excited or grateful for the selection. Take that into consideration as you build out your ERG leadership teams. Those individuals, especially, will appreciate you making their transition into ERG leadership much easier on them by giving them the proper framework to succeed.

What Should Go Into an ERG Toolkit?

Now that we’ve covered why people a toolkit, let’s focus on what type of information your toolkit should provide. A good ERG toolkit should help your ERG leaders do the following:

  • Understand how to create a clear purpose statement and set ERG goals
  • Create an effective, visual, and appealing brand that aligns with acceptable company policies
  • Create an ERG leadership structure that keeps the group organized and sustainable
  • Create a group charter that’s clear and matches the intent of the group
  • Recruit and engage members
  • Record, track, and measure success data and organizational impact
  • Scale the program as needed

As noted earlier, your ERG toolkit will need to reflect what’s important to your organization, and fit within your company’s general guidelines and expectations for groups of this nature.

With that in mind, let’s dive into some recommendations for how to proceed with delivering content to your ERG leaders that meet each of these needs. Below, we’ll cover some important dos and don’t’s for the type information you should include for your ERG leaders in your toolkit.

1. Defining the ERG’s Purpose and Goals

Helping your ERG leaders create a clear purpose statement and goals for the program will give the program the kind of direction that can be measured. At a high level, ERGs are designed as a space for people with similar backgrounds and experiences to find community within at work. However, it’s a good idea to have your ERG leaders create something a bit more tangible within their purpose statement and goals.

Executive leaders are strongly supporting ERGs, but they’re looking for ERGs to have a more measurable impact on key business objectives, such as turnover and productivity. For that to happen, the ERG needs to have goals that are aligned with those business purposes.

Purpose statement

Help your ERG leaders focus on creating a clear, actionable purpose statement.

  • Identify core values: Encourage leaders to align the ERG’s purpose with the organization’s broader mission and values. This alignment ensures that the ERG supports the company’s strategic goals while addressing the unique needs of its members.
  • Exercise for purpose statement: Conduct a brainstorming session where leaders identify key themes and values. For instance, the Families ERG might focus on work-life balance, shared experiences, and career growth. Have leaders draft multiple versions of a purpose statement to refine the message.

Setting goals

Goal setting will help tie the overall purpose of the ERG (and its purpose statement) to something more tangible and measurable.

Image of SMART goals from Indeed to be included in an ERG Toolkit for new program leaders.
  • Align goals with business objectives: Goals should contribute to broader business objectives, such as enhancing employee engagement, supporting talent development, or fostering innovation. By doing so, ERGs can demonstrate their value to the organization.

Example: “Our Women’s ERG strives to connect women across the organization into relationships that foster personal and professional development and growth within a safe and supportive environment that ensures psychological safety for all members.”

2. Branding Guidelines and Considerating

Never underestimate the deep and resounding impact that good branding can have on your ERG. A strong and clear brand will help your ERG leaders as they work to gain executive-level support, recruit members, and continue to build support and engagement after the group has launched. Creating a strong brand and identity is essential for ERGs to establish a unique presence within the organization and effectively communicate their purpose.

Brand development

If there was ever a time to recommend cross-functional collaboration, it’s here. Brand development is a skill in itself, and you may want to steal some ideas from your marketing team. Additionally, we recommend you pair branding specialists with your ERG team leaders to support in the branding effort.

  • Visual identity: Guide leaders in creating a cohesive visual identity, including a logo, color scheme, and tagline that represent the ERG’s mission and values. Ensure that these elements align with the company’s overall branding guidelines to maintain consistency.
  • Messaging: Develop key messages that reflect the ERG’s purpose and goals. These messages should be clear, concise, and resonate with both current and potential members.

Promotion

Alongside branding, a partnership with your marketing teams will help your ERG leaders get real wins as far as information dissemination. Additionally, depending on the size of your organization, your ERG leaders may not guidance in navigating the approval structures required to start promoting both internally and externally.

  • Internal marketing: Use internal communication channels such as newsletters, intranet, and social media to promote the ERG. Highlight success stories, upcoming events, and member achievements to generate interest and engagement.
  • External visibility: If appropriate, share the ERG’s initiatives and successes on external platforms like the company website or LinkedIn. This can enhance the company’s reputation as an inclusive and supportive workplace.

Example: The LGBTQ+ ERG at a greeting card company developed a series of greeting cards that reflected their community’s experiences, showcasing their impact on the company’s product line and brand.

3. Creating and Planning the ERG Leadership Structure

You will likely select an ERG chair, and perhaps a co-chair, to help lead your ERG. Those individuals will be tasked with developing a leadership structure for their group for roles outside of the chair and co-chair. A well-defined leadership structure is crucial for the sustainability and effectiveness of an ERG, but chances are that many people taking on this task for the first time will feel lost.

Leadership roles

Leadership roles are subject to change and will likely depend on the size of the group. However, you can help your ERG leaders outline what roles need to exist as the group gets established and grows larger.

  • Define key roles: Identify essential leadership roles such as ERG chair, co-chair, treasurer, secretary, and communications officer. Clearly outline the responsibilities and expectations for each role to ensure accountability and clarity.
  • Role rotation and succession planning: Establish a process for rotating leadership roles to prevent burnout and bring fresh perspectives. Implement succession planning to ensure continuity and sustainability.

Building a leadership team

We recommend that you have a standardized document that helps ERG leaders understand how to build their leadership team. That should include eligibility requirements for team leadership and internal outreach strategies.

  • Diverse skills and perspectives: Assemble a leadership team with diverse skills, backgrounds, and perspectives. This diversity will enhance the ERG’s ability to address various needs and challenges effectively.
  • Training and development: Provide leadership training and development opportunities to equip ERG leaders with the skills needed to manage the group effectively. This can include workshops on project management, communication, and conflict resolution.

Example: At a mid-sized organization, ERG chairs create an interest survey that they send to group participants with roles that need to be filled. They then go through a review process that includes outreach to those individuals’ direct managers to ensure interested participants have the capacity to serve in those roles.

4. Developing a Group Charter

A formal group charter provides a clear framework for the ERG’s operations and ensures alignment with the organization’s goals. The charter is distinct from the purpose statement and group goals in that it outlines the objectives, roles, responsibilities, and scope of the ERG. Think of it as a document that provides a definitive structure to how the group is run.

It may make sense to create a standardized group charter that your ERG leaders can modify for their purposes with aligned language suiting their specific ERG and it’s focus.

Elements of a group charter

We’ll reiterate here that it’s a good idea to have charters mostly standardized across your company’s ERGs, with some allowance for variance in certain aspects, such as mission and goals. Consult with your HR teams, especially, as it relates to membership criteria, as this can be a thorny subject with rather consequential people-related impacts if not handled properly.

  • Mission and vision statements: Define the ERG’s mission and vision, reflecting its core purpose and long-term aspirations.
  • Objectives and goals: Clearly outline the ERG’s short-term and long-term goals. Ensure these objectives are specific, measurable, and aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities.
  • Membership criteria: Specify who can join the ERG, including any eligibility requirements and expectations for member participation.
  • Governance and decision-making: Detail the governance structure, including leadership roles, decision-making processes, and meeting schedules. Ensure transparency and accountability in all ERG activities.
  • Code of conduct: Establish guidelines for member behavior and interaction to foster a respectful and inclusive environment.

Example: A Families ERG charter might include objectives such as hosting monthly support meetings, organizing family-friendly events, and advocating for flexible working policies.

In this video, Grant Herbert offers some additional insight into building a team charter.

5. Member recruitment and ongoing engagement

Recruiting and retaining active members is essential for the success and longevity of an ERG. It’s important that you help your ERG leaders avoid putting the cart before the horse here in their eagerness to start recruiting members. Help them with recruitment strategies so that they don’t get overwhelmed or frustrated by this process.

Recruitment strategies

ERG leaders may be eager to start recruiting, but often lack the experience in how to run recruitment campaigns. This is another area where collaboration with your marketing team can make a big difference in the content you create for your ERG leaders and the success they’ll have when they start recruiting.

  • Internal campaigns: Use internal communication channels to promote the ERG and encourage membership. Highlight the benefits of joining, such as networking opportunities, professional development, and community support.
  • Outreach events: Host informational sessions, open houses, and social events to attract potential members and provide an opportunity to learn more about the ERG.
  • Collaborations: Partner with other ERGs, departments, or external organizations to co-host events and expand the ERG’s reach.

Engagement activities

Recruitment is only part of the puzzle with ERGs. Leaders will need advice on how to maintain active group participation.

  • Regular meetings and events: Schedule regular meetings, workshops, and social events to keep members engaged and connected. Ensure a mix of professional development and social activities to cater to diverse interests.
  • Feedback and involvement: Encourage member feedback and involvement in planning activities. Use surveys, suggestion boxes, and open forums to gather input and make members feel valued and heard.
  • Recognition and rewards: Recognize and celebrate member contributions and achievements. This can include awards, shout-outs in newsletters, or professional development opportunities.

Example: The Hispanic ERG at a software company successfully engaged members by leveraging group involvement to launch and manage skills-based mentoring programs.

6. Recording and measuring success data

Tracking and measuring the success of ERG initiatives is crucial for demonstrating value and ensuring continuous improvement. There are various types of data your ERG leaders may be responsible for recording and measuring, and, let’s face it, it’s not something most of them will be able to do easily. ERG software will make this process easier on them (and you), and result in better programmatic outcomes. However, your ERG leaders should still be familiar with how data collection and analysis works.

Setting KPIs

  • Identify key metrics: Determine key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the ERG’s goals, such as membership growth, event attendance, member satisfaction, and impact on organizational objectives.
  • Data collection: Implement systems for collecting and analyzing data related to these KPIs. Use surveys, attendance records, and feedback forms to gather relevant information.

Assessment and reporting

  • Regular reviews: Conduct regular assessments of the ERG’s activities and progress towards its goals. Use this data to identify areas for improvement and celebrate successes.
  • Reporting: Prepare periodic reports for senior leadership and stakeholders, highlighting the ERG’s achievements, challenges, and contributions to the organization. Ensure transparency and accountability in all reporting processes.

Example: An ERG might set a KPI to increase membership by 20% within a year and track progress through regular member surveys and attendance records at events.

7. Scaling and Growing Programs

As ERGs mature, they may seek to expand their scope and impact within the organization. While your ERG leaders may not need this information immediately, they will hopefully need it later. Your ERG toolkit for new program leaders should be something they can come back to and reference even after they’re no longer “new” to leadership.

Growth strategies

  • Expansion plans: Develop a strategic plan for scaling the ERG’s activities, such as increasing the frequency of events, expanding membership, or launching new initiatives.
  • Collaborations and partnerships: Form partnerships with other ERGs, departments, or external organizations to broaden the ERG’s reach and impact. Collaborative projects can enhance visibility and provide additional resources.
  • Resource allocation: Ensure that the ERG has access to the necessary resources, such as budget, meeting spaces, and promotional materials, to support its growth.
In Part 1 of this 3-part video series on ERG Budgets, we help you understand the first steps to building an ERG budget.

Check out our guide on ERG Budgets!

Sustainability:

  • Leadership development: Continuously develop and mentor new leaders to ensure the ERG’s sustainability. Implement succession planning and leadership rotation to maintain fresh perspectives and prevent burnout.
  • Ongoing support: Provide ongoing support and resources to ERG leaders and members, including training, mentoring, development opportunities, and access to organizational support.

Example: An ERG might expand its activities by partnering with other ERGs to host larger events or by launching new initiatives that address emerging needs within the organization.

The Best Support You Can Give New ERG Leaders Is Time

With just 6% of ERG leaders getting compensated for their time, it’s easy to understand why finding leaders at all can be difficult. When you do find those individuals, the best thing you can do for them is reduce how much time and effort they have to put in to make these programs work.

Most ERG leaders are stepping into that role because they believe strongly in what the ERG means for them and their community. Burdening them with an excessive amount of extra work is…cruel, to say the least. This is why software is an exceptionally common-sense and compassionate resource for ERG leaders.

With ERG software, you can help your leads launch their programs with automated software, seamlessly engage participants with simplified scheduling and engagement tools, and importantly, track program participation, engagement, and other data. ERGs take time to run, but they’re run more effectively with software.

In fact, MentorcliQ customers that have both ERGs and mentoring programs see over 60% reduction in turnover. That’s all thanks to improving process efficiencies that make ERG management and participation easy on everyone, leaders included.

Sam

Sam Cook

Sam Cook is the Content Director for MentorcliQ and a former high school teacher who spent nearly a decade mentoring students and new teachers, both formally and informally. He combines his successful second-life career as a writer with his experience as an educator and mentor to help demystify people-led employee engagement, development, and retention strategies.