Starting Black Employee Resource Groups (BERGs) in Your Organization
- Omer Usanmaz
- January 29 2024
Black Employee Resource Groups (BERGs) have grown in popularity to encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Black workers create and maintain these resource groups to provide a support structure where they may interact, advocate for their needs, and foster a sense of community inside their company.
Addressing BERGs is crucial because they can contribute to a more inclusive workplace. BERGs may encourage positive dialogues about race and discrimination in the workplace by providing a venue for Black employees to express their experiences and viewpoints. Furthermore, by establishing BERGs, firms may demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, which can contribute to attracting and maintaining diverse talent like indigenous people. BERGs can help to promote fairness and social justice in the workplace.
Understanding Black Employee Resource Groups
BERGs are voluntary, employee-led organizations created to provide a safe space for Black employees to connect, share experiences, and talk about their needs within the company and through various levels of leadership. The primary purpose of BERGs is to create a sense of community and belonging for Black people while addressing systemic racism and discrimination within the organization.
BERGs differ from other Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in that they focus specifically on the experiences and needs of Black employees. While other ERGs may include Black members, they may not necessarily address issues specific to the Black community. BERGs provide a platform for Black employees to discuss and address the unique challenges they face in the workplace, such as microaggressions, racial bias, and lack of representation in leadership positions.
BERGs are essential for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They allow for open and honest conversations about issues related to race and racism with leaders, which can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of diversity. By supporting Black employees, BERGs can improve employee engagement, retention, and overall job satisfaction. Additionally, they demonstrate an organization's commitment to creating an inclusive workplace with healthy networking, which can lead to attracting and retaining diverse talent.
Benefits Of Black Employee Resource Groups
Black Employee Resource Groups are crucial in promoting diversity and inclusion by addressing systemic racism and discrimination, creating a sense of community and belonging, and providing a platform for open and honest conversations about race and racism. In addition to these broader benefits, BERGs offer numerous advantages to both employees and organizations. Here are some of the critical benefits of Black Employee Resource Groups and their impact on employees and the workplace:
Offers A Secure Environment For Black Employees To Interact
One of the key benefits of BERGs is providing a secure and supportive space for Black employees to connect, share experiences, and offer mutual support. BERGs enable Black employees to openly discuss and address their unique workplace challenges, including issues like racial bias, lack of representation in leadership and with leaders, and microaggressions. BERGs can enhance employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention rates by fostering a sense of community and inclusiveness. By offering a supportive environment, Black employees can build connections with others who share similar experiences and obtain advice and guidance from their peers.
Fosters A Sense Of Community And Belonging
BERGs offer many benefits to Black employees, including a sense of community for employees and belonging. By connecting with other Black employees who share similar experiences, challenges, and opportunities, BERGs create a safe and inclusive environment. This sense of community helps Black employees feel valued, respected, and supported. Feeling connected to their colleagues and organization increases employee engagement, motivation, participation and commitment to their work. When employees are happy and fulfilled, they perform better, improving job satisfaction, employee experience and overall productivity with current employees. As a result, BERGs are essential in creating a positive and inclusive work environment of African cultures that benefits both employees and organizations alike.
Aids In Addressing Difficulties Relating To The Hiring, Retention, And Promotion Of Black Employees
Another significant benefit of BERGs is that they help address issues related to recruiting, retaining, and advancing Black employees. By advocating for the needs and concerns of Black employees, BERGs can help organizations attract and retain diverse talent. Additionally, by providing employee assistance programs, mentorship, and career development opportunities, BERGs can help Black employees advance in their careers and overcome barriers to success. This can help address the underrepresentation of Black leaders and improve overall diversity and inclusion within the organization. By addressing these issues, BERGs play an essential role in promoting equity and social justice within the workplace.
Encourages Diversity Of Thought And Innovation
Celebrating black employee resource groups significantly encourages diversity of thought and innovation in the workplace. These groups allow Black employees to share their experiences and perspectives openly, promoting a culture of communication that fosters new ideas, strategies, and solutions.
The diversity of thought brought by these groups can be especially valuable in industries that rely on creativity and innovation, such as technology and marketing. By including a range of perspectives and experiences, BERGs can help organizations develop more inclusive products, services, and policies. This benefit also improves employee morale and job satisfaction, and participation as employees feel recognized and valued for their unique contributions by leaders and foster employee engagement.
Ultimately, BERGs play an essential role in promoting a culture of diversity and innovation that benefits both employees and organizations.
Challenges Faced By Black Employee Resource Groups
BERGs provide many benefits to Black employees. However, they face several challenges that must be addressed to be effective. One of the most significant challenges is gaining recognition and support from senior leadership and other employees. Some may view BERGs as unnecessary or exclusive, making it difficult to make a meaningful impact. Educating others about their mission and goals and demonstrating the value they bring to the organization is essential to overcome this challenge.
Another challenge BERGs face is ensuring that they are inclusive and representative of all Black employees. This can be challenging in organizations with diverse Black populations, where different groups may have different experiences and needs. Black employee resource groups must create an environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all Black employees and African cultures and strives to address issues that affect the broader Black community.
Lack of resources and support is also a significant challenge for BERGs. Without adequate funding and support, they may struggle to organize events, provide training and development opportunities, and advocate for the needs of Black employees effectively. Developing strategic partnerships with other employee resource groups and seeking external funding sources can help address this challenge.
Sustainability and longevity are also challenges that BERGs face. Maintaining momentum and engagement within the group can take time as employees come and go. To ensure the long-term success of BERGs, they must establish clear goals and objectives, foster employee inclusion, develop strong leaders, support underrepresented employees and continually engage with new members to remain relevant and practical. By addressing these challenges, BERGs can continue providing a safe and supportive space for Black employees.
Understanding these challenges is the first step to ensuring a successful Black employee resource group.
What Black Employee Resource Groups Need Right Now
BERGs are essential to promoting workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, in today's heightened awareness of systemic racism and social injustice, the need for BERGs has become more urgent than ever. With the ongoing struggle for racial justice by veterans and others alike, organizations must prioritize and support the needs of their Black employees.
Equity & Resources
One of the current needs of BERGs is equity and resources. While BERGs provide many benefits to Black employees, they often face barriers that hinder their effectiveness. One of the most significant barriers is the lack of resources and support from senior leaders and the organization. This can include access to funding, event space, and support for initiatives promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. To address this need, organizations must commit to providing adequate resources and support for BERGs to operate effectively.
Another aspect of equity that BERGs need is equal access to leadership opportunities and career advancement. Black employees may face unique challenges in their career development, such as bias in performance evaluations, lack of access to mentorship opportunities, and limited representation in leadership roles at the company. BERGs can play a crucial role in addressing these challenges by providing training, mentorship initiatives, and networking opportunities that help Black employees advance in their careers. Organizations must also commit to addressing these issues at the systemic level by implementing policies and practices that promote equity and inclusion.
Transparency & Trust
BERGs today must be transparent and earn the trust of leadership and other employees. To effectively advocate for the needs and concerns of Black employees, BERGs must have access to relevant information and be included in decision-making processes. This requires a high level of transparency from the organization's leadership, which can build trust and credibility with the group. Additionally, BERGs must be given a platform to openly share their perspectives and concerns with leadership and other employees.
The lack of transparency and trust can create a significant barrier for BERGs. Without access to critical information or opportunities to participate in decision-making processes, BERGs may feel marginalized and undervalued in the company. In some cases, leadership may view BERGs with suspicion, which can make it difficult for the group to achieve its goals.
To address this need, organizations must be willing to foster an environment of open communication, transparency, and trust with BERGs. Leaders must be receptive to feedback and willing to engage with the group to address their concerns.
BERGs must also work to establish themselves as credible and trustworthy advocates for Black employees' needs, which requires building strong relationships with leadership and other employees. Organizations can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace where all employees can thrive by prioritizing transparency and trust.
Mental Health Support
Mental health support is currently a critical need for BERGs. Many Black employees face unique stressors and challenges in the workplace due to discrimination, microaggressions, and other forms of systemic racism. These stressors can have a significant impact on mental health and employee well-being. Unfortunately, mental health issues among Black employees are often overlooked or stigmatized, making it challenging to seek support. BERGs can help address this issue by providing a safe and supportive space for employees to discuss their mental health concerns and seek resources and support.
This can include providing mental health resources such as counselling services, workshops, and support groups. Additionally, BERGs can work to reduce the stigma around mental health in the company by promoting open and honest communication about mental health and advocating for policies and practices that support employees' mental health needs. Overall, by prioritizing mental health support, BERGs can help create a more supportive and inclusive work environment that benefits both employees and organizations.
Formal Validation From Leadership
One of the current needs of BERGs is formal validation from organizational leadership. While some organizations recognize the value of BERGs, others may view them as unnecessary or exclusive.
For BERGs to be effective in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, they require formal recognition and support from senior leadership for their underrepresented employees. This includes providing funding and resources for BERG activities and initiatives along with leadership opportunities, as well as ensuring that the organization's policies and practices align with the goals of the group.
Formal validation can also help to ensure that Black employees' voices are heard and considered when making decisions in the company that affect them. It is essential for organizational leadership to understand that BERGs play a crucial role in promoting a positive and inclusive work environment that benefits both employees and the organization.
By providing formal validation and support and celebrating black employee resource groups, leadership can demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and help create a workplace culture that values and respects all employees, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Companies That Successfully Managed To Leverage BERGs
There are many organizations that have successfully implemented Black Employee Resource Groups (BERGs) and have seen the positive impact that they can have on both employees and the organization as a whole.
Two organizations that have been successful in implementing Black Employee Resource Groups (BERGs) are Airbnb and Google. Airbnb formed its own Black@ERG in response to accusations of racial discrimination. Black@ERG aimed to support Black employees and address diversity and inclusion issues within the company. With the support of Airbnb's leadership team, Black@ERG implemented new policies and procedures, including creating a team to fight discrimination and providing unconscious bias training for all employees.
The group also hosted an event for employees and partnered with local organizations to support Black-owned businesses. Today, Airbnb is recognized as a leader in diversity and inclusion.
Similarly, Google formed its own Black Googler Network (BGN) in response to criticism for its lack of diversity. BGN aimed to support Black employees and promote collective diversity and a culture of inclusivity within the company. Working with Google's leadership, BGN implemented programs to attract and retain diverse talents, such as unconscious bias training and recruiting events at historically Black colleges and universities.
BGN also organized events and partnered with local organizations to provide coding classes to Black students. As of 2021, 5.5% of Google's workforce is Black, a significant increase from just 2% in 2015.
Drive Meaningful Conversations with BERG
These success stories show the importance of BERGs in creating a more inclusive and welcoming workplace. By providing a space for Black employees to connect, engage, and advocate for their needs, organizations can create a culture of trust and transparency. With the support of leadership, BERGs can drive meaningful change, promote diversity and inclusion, and create a more equitable workplace for all employees.
Connect with us for any clarifications you may have regarding BERGs.
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