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Defining Employee Resource Groups And Their Role In Remote Working During Crisis

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The centre of every company is its employees. Employees execute out a company's mission, engage with consumers directly, and are accountable for production level and efficiency. They can make or break a company.

We all know that happy employees are the most significant factor when we think about increased productivity and satisfied customers. There are several effective ways to keep your employees happy and loyal. One such way to create employee engagement and the sense of oneness is by introducing Employee Resource Groups.

The Definition Of Modern Employee Resource Groups

"Employee resource groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led associations where team members join together in light of common interests, backgrounds, or demographics."

Employee Resource Groups have continued to grow and change. Notably, they have started to show up in the past 10 to 15 years as essential business assets. Some corporations' top management has begun to regard their ERGs as instrumental to their business success.

ERGs have become much more than just a niche. Some of the more popular groups that we find in companies today are:

  1. Veterans: ERGs provide veterans with a place to meet up, collaborate, and learn. It helps to build camaraderie among themselves by sharing experiences.

  2. People With Disabilities: People with disabilities seem to be less happy at work. Most of them feel nervous, isolated, and anxious in the workplace setting. Disability ERGs, with the help of executive sponsors, helps to:

    • Raise awareness of workplace problems that concern disabled people.
    • Build a supportive and empathetic environment where disabled people and their allies can freely address the problems they face.
    • Boost progress on fair and inclusive workplace hiring.
    • Provide input to other stakeholders on issues related to physical and digital accessibility.
    • Reduce implicit racism towards disabled people.
  3. LGBTQ: The LGBTQ community is more likely to experience discrimination and mistreatment in the workplace. LGBTQ employee resource groups are essential for helping LGBTQ workers and making them feel a sense of belonging. It's the perfect way for them to share values and tie bonds based on their membership to the group, fearlessly.

  4. Working Parents: The work-life balance for working parents is a particular juggling act- with many issues. Connecting with those who are struggling with similar problems will help solve work-life problems and relieve some of the stress. That's why employee resource groups for working parents is so important.

  5. Women: Women's ERGs has a focus on helping the company recruit, train, and retain a higher percentage of women. It also works on mentorship through targeted group conversations, looking for better ways of engagement. In simple words, it helps women to form connections and shape their professional future, aligned with organizational goals.

History Of Employee Resource Groups

The first employee resource groups were, in fact, "Workplace Affinity Groups." It was formed in the 1960s when racial tensions escalated in the United States. The groups focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. In 1964, the former Xerox CEO, Joseph Chamberlain Wilson, created the idea following several race riots in Rochester. He, with his black employees, organized and introduced the National Black Employees Caucus to tackle racial conflict and the workplace discrimination issue.

As its history says, Employee resource groups (ERGs) have a tradition of contributing to calming down during difficult times. Fast forward to 2022; they have gone through several evolutions. Their interests are now extended to recruiting and retention, marketing, brand enhancement, training, and growth of the millennial employees. It has now become a powerful source of engagement that helps isolated young professionals who work from home.

The Role Of Employee Resource Groups In Remote Working During Crisis

1. They Plan And Review

Your employee resource group remains proactive in case of any emergency. Once a crisis is about to hit, the members of the group review the situation in advance. Once it's done, they get on to the best ways to connect with the employees.

They plan out everything in place long before the disaster hits unknowingly. Of course, in extreme cases like COVID-19, it is difficult to control the productions and the day to day malfunctions. But employee resource group members can control how the entity communicates in the wake of the event. It helps the employees to remain alert to possible disruptions.

This way, a part of the crisis is resolved.

2. Make Communication Centralized

In any crisis like the global COVID 19 outbreak, employee resource groups can act as the crisis response team. This team should generally consist of not more than 5-7 people. It can include a member of the leadership and communications teams each, an HR executive, and an expert in the area of concern.

This team is responsible for monitoring the situation from their respective place of work carefully. Being the primary source of information, it should update the groups regularly. It has to be brief, clearly expressed, and transparent, and mention their sources of information.

One of the top global corporations, Intel, has a standing pandemic leadership team. Equipped with experts, it acts as a centralized decision making body in case of such natural calamities. To reduce the effects of the pandemic, it leads to promoting a healthy work environment.

The goal here is to maintain business continuity without any delay. This way, their efforts never stop.

3. Improves Productivity

While working from home, employers are continually searching for ways to increase the overall efficiency of the employees and boost profitability. Many leaders even fail to explore unique options to make it happen. ERG members can help boost the morale of remote employees, which has been proved to increase efficiency and productivity of the employees significantly. It also helps with talent and leadership development.

In times of crisis, transactional leaders can help maintain the status quo and “keep the ship afloat,” so to speak.

In a crisis, leadership necessitates the understanding of needs, as well as structured study and practice of more than just basic abilities. Thus, in crisis and emergency situations, transactional leadership is effective. ERG members as transactional leaders take charge of explaining what is expected of team members, communicating the benefits of executing jobs successfully, describing the penalties of failure, and providing feedback to keep workers regularly.

4. Let Employees Be Heard

In the current situation, when 90% of employees are working from home, they run a high risk of being singled out. The fear of inability to seek healthcare facilities or of lost wages or a lost job runs even higher.

It mostly happens because of one-sided, top-down communication. In addition to offering employees with accurate and timely information, employee resource groups work to bring attention to the employees' concerns.

With the help of a collaborative forum, their lighter concerns are being heard and addressed before it goes up the ladder. As a result, it saves a lot of time and effort by the top management. It helps the employees to feel valued and stay engaged even during the emergency.

Thanks to social media and group chat apps like Skype that are making communication feasible, beyond emails and phone calls.

5. Helps In Retention

During a crisis, the work from home employees requires continuous support and thought leadership. Without it, many employees might feel the need to move for either professional or personal reasons. The employee resource group can partner with the Human Resources executive to understand the circumstances and take steps to retain the employees. However, employee inputs need a special consideration here.

Their continuous care for the remote employees ultimately makes employees feel like they belong to the organization. They become more engaged, more productive, and, ultimately, improve your business performance.

This article is written by Susmita Sarma, a digital marketer at Vantage Circle. She was involved with media relations before shifting her interest in research and creative writing. Apart from being a classical music buff, she keeps a keen interest in anchoring and cooking. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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