Management of ERGs Differs by Region
We are currently in phase 2 of our study of employee resource groups, conducting interviews with diversity leaders in selected organisations. In the meantime, we’ve been crunching the numbers from phase 1 in which we surveyed 64 organisations about their ERGs. Some interesting trends are emerging. For one thing, we see some differences in practice between US-based companies and European organisations, especially around how ERG leaders and sponsors are managed:
Accountability of ERG Leaders
While in both regions democratic election of ERG leaders is the most common way of making sure they are performing their roles well, US-based companies are more likely than Europeans to use other methods, such as including ERG responsibilities in leaders’ performance reviews or charging D&I staff or business champions with evaluating the effectiveness of ERG leaders and replacing them if necessary.
Support for ERG Leaders
The top three types of support offered leaders of ERGs in both regions are coaching/mentoring by the D&I staff, tools and templates for managing the groups, and diversity awareness and skills training. One big difference is in the prevalence of leadership training for ERG officers: 67% of the US firms provide it, compared to 14% of European respondents.
Support for ERG Sponsors
Eighty-three percent of European organisations provide diversity awareness and skills training for their executive sponsors, compared to 66% of American companies. On the other hand, the D&I staff coach and mentor executive sponsors in 82% of US firms, compared to 42% in European ones.
Alignment Among ERGs
Companies in both regions rely heavily on their diversity staff to coordinate the goals and activities of the various ERGs. Half of the respondents in both regions also provide collaborative web spaces and publications that allow the groups to keep each other informed. US companies, however, are more likely to set up an ERG council or hold a joint conference for ERGs.
What does it all mean? Maybe simply that ERGs are a somewhat newer phenomenon in Europe, so some companies may still be evaluating and developing their infrastructures. Or maybe there is a more fundamental difference in how companies in the two regions regard the role of company management in the operation of ERGs, with the D&I or HR function in European organisations taking a somewhat more hands-off approach. Whatever the reason, D&I leaders should be aware that when they contemplate starting ERGs in new regions, they should think about whether culture and expectations of the local organisation suggest modifications to the way the groups are structured and supported. As always, the best way to consider these issues is in partnership with local leaders and prospective ERG members.
If your company is starting new kinds of groups, involving ERGs in new ways, using technology in creative ways, or otherwise innovating and would be willing to participate in the phase 2 interviews, we’d love to talk to you! Please contact Michal Fineman or Liz MacGillivray.