The State of Corporate Purpose 2023 Trend 4: ERGs Are Now a Must-Have Strategy in DEI
Affinity and employee resource groups are a must-have component of a corporate DEI and culture strategy
A through line across 2023 is the resounding belief in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) investments as a value to society, individuals and business.
Ninety percent of CSR leaders believe it is up to companies to help every employee become more aware of bias and develop more inclusive behaviors that can create more diverse cultures.
95% of CSR leaders believe companies should support employee growth on matters of social and racial justice and equity.
But ask corporate purpose leaders about DEI and there’s one thing they’ll all agree on: Their companies are not leaders at it yet. Despite years of anti-bias training, setting targets and being vocal about commitments, goals and achievements, companies still struggle to make the progress that employees and DEI leaders expect, even though the business and societal benefits are well understood.
It’s clear companies recognize there is more to be done to move the dial, and they’re embracing their integral role in advancing DEI.
Top 3 DEI initiatives that will be invested in over the next 2 years:
1. Unbiased hiring practices
2. Benchmark setting for DEI progress
3. Employee resource groups
As such, nearly six in 10 companies are planning to respond with increased spending on DEI initiatives — despite the recession.
DEI is evolving
The events of 2020 led to a radical shift in the way corporate DEI gets activated. What was primarily a top-down initiative led by chief diversity officers and other diversity-focused executives was suddenly met with a grassroots, bottom-up movement powered by passionate employees.
91% of employees agree ERGs and affinity groups have a greater impact on inclusivity than unconscious bias training. – The State of Workplace DEI
These tenacious people mobilized into employee resource groups (ERGs), coming together based on shared characteristics or lived experiences, and affinity groups — formed around mutual interests or goals. Employees from historically excluded groups brought their lived experiences to work, heightened awareness of bias, built empathy through learning and storytelling, and drove real cultural change and allyship.
As employees increasingly see their companies as communities and environments for social change, employee-led groups are continuing to grow in prominence. In Benevity’s The State of Workplace DEI report, 71% of employees reported they have worked for a company offering ERGs or similar affinity groups at some point in their career. And among those who have worked at companies with these groups, 62% have participated — indicating strong interest.
ERGs are a mainstay of DEI-focused companies
Now that we’ve passed the early groundswell of employee-led action on DEI, we’re entering a new phase where affinity and employee resource groups are a must-have — and possibly a more effective — component of a corporate DEI and culture strategy.
Eighty-eight percent of CSR leaders agree that DEI is being democratized and employees have increased levels of interest in ERGs and other peer-led initiatives. This was further affirmed when employees ranked ERGs as more beneficial than personal commitments to DEI from the CEO and other leaders by a wide margin — indicating employees believe in the power of ERGs and the passion of their peers more than the typical corporate approaches.
ERGs deliver more than just an inclusive workplace
Why are ERGs gaining so much momentum? Because they don’t just create more inclusive workplaces. They come with a host of other benefits that help to address the many complex issues that both companies and employees are wrestling with — from improving well-being, building allyship and creating belonging to providing opportunities for skills building and leadership development.
Top 4 benefits of ERGs according to CSR leaders:
95% say ERGs are important in helping new employees to feel a sense of belonging.
93% say ERGs are highly effective at building empathy and allyship.
90% say ERGs offer opportunities for professional development, skills building and career growth.
90% say ERGs support the well-being of their employees.
ERGs still have room to grow
Some 96% of employees agree ERGs will continue to be a critical DEI investment in 2023, despite economic pressure. And while DEI has become more democratized, and the impact of employee-led groups and initiatives is palpable, one-third of companies highlighted that ERGs are not as trusted as company-led DEI initiatives yet. DEI must be infused into the fabric of a company’s culture and their people’s experiences for them to realize the full benefit. This requires attention and support from all levels of the organization. Affinity and employee resource groups are an “and” not an “or” when it comes to moving the needle on social justice, equity and inclusion within a company. Both top-down and bottom-up action will be required in 2023 and beyond.
Discover the top five emerging societal and industry trends shaping the future of CSR, DEI and ESG in The State of Corporate Purpose 2023.