One year into the Great Resignation, companies are still facing high rates of employee turnover. An open line of communication between employees and leadership is vital. After all, how can you fix a problem when you do not know the problem exists? To retain employees, corporate leadership must engage their employees.

One way to foster communication is by asking employees what they need. Employee resource groups (ERGs) can be used to identify and remedy any gaps in communication.

What Is an Employee Resource Group?

By definition, an ERG is a voluntary group of employees formed around a common identity or interest. Common ERG themes include employees of color, LGBTQIA+ employees, veterans, parents and young professionals.

Generally, ERGs are a vehicle for employees to share their experiences, but that vehicle can manifest itself in many different ways. This may entail a monthly meeting, a Slack channel or planned activities outside of the office — this would be decided by the employees rather than prescribed by leadership.

Two essential traits of ERGs are that they are voluntary and employee-led. Although leadership can (and should) encourage their employees to get involved, ERG membership should remain voluntary. Making sure that all employees feel welcome to join also encourages allyship.

A representative from leadership should remain involved in ERGs and keep leadership informed of new ideas or initiatives that are brought up, but employees should feel safe to drive the conversation and speak freely.

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How Companies Can Benefit from ERGs

Ultimately, ERGs are a tool for engagement. Employees should feel comfortable sharing their opinions — as they converse, they will feel more included at work.

Studies show that millennial and Gen Z candidates are interested in companies that care about their well-being and offer an inclusive workplace. Companies interested in increasing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives may look online for general tips or programs that could be implemented.

But ERGs may be able to point to specific areas of improvement within the company, such as a need for wellness programs or gender-neutral bathrooms. ERGs may also identify additional training to combat unconscious bias or to teach employees how to use more inclusive language. Over time, giving employees the space to share freely bolsters innovation.

In addition, ERGs can be an avenue for identifying and developing leadership. Because ERGs are employee-led, they present an opportunity for employees to step into a leadership role and to exhibit skills that may not be a part of their regular role.

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