The Rise of the Super ERG and Allyship Groups
While employee resource groups (ERGs) have been around for many decades, their role and impact within an organization have changed significantly. ERGs are internal networks that are typically voluntarily led by employees focused on individuals with shared interests, lived experiences or demographics such as race and gender.
Seventy percent of Gen-Z respondents were more likely to apply for a company that had ERGs, and over 50% across generations indicated that the presence of ERGs in a company also positively affected their decision to stay, according to a Software Advice survey.
ERGs are designed to be a safe and empowering way to create connection and belonging amongst a community of employees. Employee groups create value in a variety of ways, and these benefits can strengthen the entire organization.
The social movements of 2020 have accelerated two trends that have elevated the maturity as well as highlight the importance of these types of employee groups that directly enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts: the rise of the “super ERG” and allyship groups.
What Is a Super ERG?
Super ERGs have evolved from their primary purpose of providing a forum, where members of the organization with common interests, concerns or concerns come together to address common interests — to multifaceted interests that influence the strategic diversity of the organization and inclusive efforts. Super ERGs can be powerful, strategic platforms that create internal alliances designed to amplify and empower a community of employees in ways that can create radical, inclusive change through the use of grassroots, self-organizing approaches. For example, an ERG’s influential reach can support a range of initiatives with a diverse, cross functional lens and voice for recruiting, retention, mentoring, leadership development, marketing, as well as client relations.
What Are the Benefits of a Super ERG?
One unique benefit of a super ERG is they can inadvertently become a feeder to a firm’s leadership pipeline, by providing visibility and sponsorship to talent at all levels to senior executives, which can help advance the careers of underrepresented employees.
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What Is an Allyship Group?
Allyship groups on the other hand, are the latest trend in the evolution of employee resource groups. According to Harvard Business Review, allyship is a strategic mechanism used by individuals to become collaborators, accomplices and co-conspirators who fight injustice and promote equity in the workplace through supportive personal relationships and public acts of sponsorship and advocacy. An allyship group is a community of like-minded employees of all backgrounds that come together to promote equity and inclusion within their workforce.
Allyship Initiative: Terumo’s Men for Change
One example of an emerging allyship group is at Terumo Medical Corporation, a medical device company based in New Jersey. Their soon-to-launch “Men for Change” allyship group was inspired by Catalyst’s Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) framework and designed for male associates at Terumo to leverage their experiences and access to be advocates for equity in the workplace.
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"In many companies, the work and responsibility of driving a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion often falls on members of groups that are underrepresented. Creating the Men for Change ally group will do two important things: 1) it will create an opportunity for men to use their influence and voice to advocate for changes that advance diversity, equity and inclusion across the company and 2) it answers the question we often receive from men in our organization, which is 'What can I do to support the associate resource groups (ARGs) at Terumo?'" said Kristina Connelly, Terumo’s vice president, professional and clinical education.
We asked Kristina how Terumo envisions leveraging allyship groups and ARGs. “Terumo is committed to cultivating a globally diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture where diversity is celebrated and supported. Creating ARGs and ally groups will allow our associates the space to learn and celebrate differences in perspective and lived experiences while being able to connect on shared experiences.”
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What Are the Benefits of Allyship Groups?
Allyship groups create a unique offering to a company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and can be a powerful way for everyone to play a role in advancing employees in the workplace. As Harvard Business Review indicates, in order to make progress in gender equity, men must be involved but sometimes are unaware of the barriers and biases to inclusion.
How Is a Super ERG or Allyship Group Formed?
Every ERG, regardless of its current status, can elevate its platform and priorities in a way that benefits its membership and directly aligns to business goals. An ERG or allyship group must ensure it has appropriate executive sponsorship, which should comprise several members of the senior executive team.
Intentional programming is key. Defining a vision and then identifying strategic priorities that meet business goals while giving its members an opportunity to develop and flex business skills is critical. From there, super ERGs and allyship groups should track metrics, success stories and communicate outcomes regularly to demonstrate their added value.
About the Author
Christie Lindor is the CEO of Tessi Consulting, a Certified B Corporation focused on helping leaders that want to create diverse, high performing and inclusive cultures, but do not know where to start. Prior to Tessi, Christie was a seasoned management consultant advising Fortune 500 clients at some of the world’s top firms such as IBM, Deloitte and EY.