Establishing an Employee Resource Group
When either starting or maintaining an employee resource group, it is important to consider the support you will need, possible negative reactions, and the goals of the group.
Find the organization’s policy toward such groups – does it recognize them or provide support? If so, what are the required steps for establishing the group? If there is no process in place for forming groups, ask if you can create one. Then, find a few people interested in forming a group to address LGBT workplace issues – you’ll have considerably more success if there more than two of you.
Goals and mission
Write a mission statement for your group, formulate and prioritize goals for the short and long-term. Examples of initial goals include focusing on the employer’s LGBT-related policies and recommendations for improvement in that area and evaluating the LGBT-inclusiveness of the organization’s diversity training programs. Draw up a tentative plan to accomplish your goals and draft a budget.
Possible goals for an employee resource group:
- Encourage your employer to improve its policies and practices and participate in the Corporate Equality Index
- Establish a mentoring program to enhance leadership skills, particularly for younger employees.
- Push for the company’s chief executive officer to publicly endorse LGBT-inclusive legislation.
- Identify opportunities for business to engage LGBT consumers (e.g.: obtaining a booth at a LGBT pride event, launching a LGBT-inclusive advertising campaign and strategic philanthropy to GLBT organizations)
- Identify opportunities to recruit LGBT employees (e.g.: LGBT recruiting fairs, working with LGBT groups at local universities and strategic philanthropy to LGBT organizations)
Don't forget to give the group a name that includes all of its members.
Make it clear that group membership is open to all employees, and thus complies with your organization’s anti-discrimination policies and applicable law. Many employers make it a point for the executive champion of a particular ERG to not be a member of that group.
Finding and committing an executive champion or sponsor to the ERG creates clear lines of communication between the ERG and the organization's leadership. Find a sponsor or advocate for the group in a senior leadership position – preferably someone who is personally connected to LGBT issues. Sometimes the wisest choice is not necessarily a known ally. Getting an open-minded skeptic on board can sometimes have greater long-term benefits.
The 2013 Corporate Equality Index reported that 96 percent of LGBT ERGs are sponsored by an executive champion who connects the group to the upper management of the company. Furthermore, over half of these executive champions identify as allies. This relationship should be maintained throughout each stage of the ERG’s formation and continue when the ERG begins to serve the company, ensuring the employer and employees’ goals for the group remain connected and ultimately supportive of one another.
What other employee resource groups exist? Think of how those groups can work together, and how they support the employer’s business objectives. Make sure you have established guidelines and reasons for forming the group prior to announcing it, and be open to dialogue on what other groups might be formed, if employees express interest.
What do we do about the objections of some employees who don't want to see us organize and work for our goals?
Education programs sponsored and supported by the organization are the best way to do this. Senior managers must make known that this group is sanctioned and approved by the organization. Also, this group's goals and mission must be in keeping with the overall goals, which should be to ensure the productivity, profitability and safety of the workplace for everyone to the betterment of the organization as a whole and to every person who works there.