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HiPo/Leadership Development

What Makes a Good ERG Leader?

  • Omer Usanmaz
  • December 12 2022

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntarily formed based on employee demand, employee-run organizations to promote a diverse, inclusive workplace that is in line with the companies they support. The success of employee resource groups is impacted by the choice and actions of successful leadership during group formation. The ERG's mission is to promote inclusion, diversity and equity. These ideas, upon proper implementation and execution, ensure a company's long-term success.

ERGs give businesses a chance to improve a workplace's feeling of community and align workers with the mission and objectives of the company. ERGs have developed from networking organizations promoting diversity awareness, equity and inclusion since their inception in the 1960s to organizations that actively contribute to corporate strategy and operations.

The Need for ERGs

It is well-established and understood that employees could only be truly innovative when they feel comfortable bringing their complete selves to work. ERGs create strong bonds of trust that promote business success. The groups promote community, spark discussion, offer fresh angles on problems, and spur innovation.

Many executives at businesses with ERGs believe that they are essential for delving further into important discussions and arriving at optimal and efficient conclusions. Leaders frequently use ERGs in order to fill in experience gaps and ensure that everyone, regardless of role or demographic, can flourish in their career roles.

ERG Leader Selection

Employee Resource Groups can be observed to be top-down or bottom-up in functioning and motivation. ERG leadership roles demand leaders act as the liaison or point of connection between the top authority, executive sponsor, and group members in a conventional ERG leadership structure. The number of factions, divisions, and leaders of ERGs may vary depending on the organization's size.

An ERG based on the interests of employees must frequently be proactively established by management or human resources when using a top-down approach. In these approaches, coming forth with an open application and nomination procedure is one tactic for choosing ERG leaders.

Team-level employee feedback significantly influences goals, tactics, and projects when using the alternative bottom-up approach. The senior leadership is then informed of these concepts.

Employees have the option of nominating themselves or their co-workers for leadership roles. The Senior Leadership Team can also aid nominations. In addition to requesting basic information, the application needs to allow staff members to express their ideas for the ERG.

A skilled leader is needed to employ ERG initiatives to obtain company objectives. Therefore, the question arises, "What makes a good ERG leader?"

Qualities for Effective Leadership

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are typically run by activists who are passionate about their cause. The individual leaders of the ERGs perform the job in addition to their functional career role within the organization, depending on what the group represents (ethnic minorities, disability, process support, business resource, etc.). The focus of organizations should be on empowering and developing ERG leaders.

ERGs are a hybrid of formal and informal teams, and leading an ERG requires working across functional boundaries without having significant internal clout. Visioning, strategizing, leading oneself, leading others, and leading change are all aspects of leadership that an ERG leader must possess. The leader needs to possess a few skills to succeed.

Here is a brief look at the necessary qualities looked for in a leader:

Communication Skills:

Using the appropriate communication channel and delivery strategy is crucial for influencing people at all company levels. Efficient communication always benefits a company. For an Employee Resource Group to be able to function optimally, a leader must have the skills to communicate and mediate between multiple levels of authority. A lack of communication skills may derail the very objective of the group.

Decision-Making Skills:

Leaders must apply rationality to balance the benefits and drawbacks of their prospective course of action. Leaders must have self-awareness and an understanding of their emotions in order to make unbiased and reasoned decisions.

Team-Building Skills:

Councils and the membership team are essential resources for ERG leaders. The members' and allies' perspectives are shaped by intersectional distinctions and diversity consciousness. A leader of an Employee Resource Group must be conscious of this and actively try to create a culture of inclusion and employee engagement for all members and allies from many intersections. A skilled leader promotes motivation, action, and apt recognition of employees.

Conflict Management skills:

The goal of conflict management is to increase positive results while minimizing unfavorable ones. Leaders need to be able to use conflict management techniques to steer and guide others toward a solution. Frequent healthy disagreements enable highly productive teams to flourish, but it all depends on how the disputes are handled. In a conflict, a good leader must understand the conflict and the affected parties and devise a solution that works for all.

Strategic Thinking Skills:

An efficient leader must clearly outline the ERG strategy and how it fits with the business. For team members and leaders to be able to make changes that have an impact, great ideas must be presented. A leader must also have the emotional maturity that allows recognition of great ideas and innovative initiatives put forth by their subordinates.

Inclusive Approach:

Since Employee Resource Groups aim to promote inclusion and diversity, ERG leaders are tasked with enhancing work culture across all employee groups and backgrounds. Irrespective of employee ethnicities, belief systems, and sexual orientations, an ERG leader must focus on promoting a balanced, inclusive work culture that empowers employees and enhances their work-life balance. When employees belonging to minority communities attain the feeling of inclusion in the workplace, their quality of life and productivity are boosted.

Knowledge of Business Strategy:

Innovative ideas about how the ERG may bring value are stimulated by becoming a part of the business and getting familiarized with its strategy and vision.

Responsibilities of an ERG Leader

An ERG leader shoulders multiple responsibilities in order to enhance the professional life of employees in an organization. From ensuring the inclusion of all employees regardless of their backgrounds to promising to work towards betterment, promotions, and fair financial compensation of all employees, an ERG leader must be proactively involved in all internal conflicts and conversations.

Here are a few key responsibilities of an ERG Leader:

  1. An ERG leader is responsible for connecting with company leaders and ERG members in order to establish and communicate company goals and objectives. Once the objectives are established, the leader is tasked with planning and strategizing initiatives and programs that will attain them and align them with ERG-related goals.
  2. An ERG leader's responsibility is to connect with HR managers and other personnel in leadership positions at their company or organization and initiate conversations that will impact their cause. A primary example would be gathering data about employee retention based on the ERG members. The survey results may invoke a conversation that will eventually lead to company and employee growth.
  3. ERG leaders can plan fun activities and educational events for their group members. The planning and organizing skills exhibited by proficient event planners are highly sought after by companies, as they boost work culture and enhance employee energy.
  4. A leader must always help his subordinates with professional development. Leadership capabilities also cover a leader's effort that focuses on building effective teams that constitute mutual support among members.
  5. An ERG leader must always be open to criticism and feedback. In addition to providing valuable opinions, suggestions, and performance reviews to his subordinates, a good leader must always welcome reviews and criticism aimed at improving their performance and leadership skills.

In short, it is absolutely vital that an ERG leader shows a progressive mentality, team-building and team-management skills and is passionate about promoting and establishing an inclusive workplace that accepts diversity. The ERG leader must ensure fair treatment of all employees and promote equality of opportunity and outcome within the organization.

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