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Why black ERGs are essential for businesses

Companies are looking to improve their inclusivity efforts, and employee resource groups are one way of doing so, particularly for Black employees.

ERGs and other programs enhance the employee experience by increasing engagement, providing a safe space and building a sense of community for people who share a specific cultural lens. 

However, Black ERGs offer so much more than that, as I’ve found at Clorox. They’ve been proven to impact business goals, strategy and performance in positive ways.

For members, ERGs can elevate the voices of employees who may otherwise be overlooked. They can also provide employees the opportunity to get involved in different areas of the business, be it supporting innovation ideas from product development to marketing, or working on a specific company issue. And these experiences help ERG members build new skills. 

Through my work with Clorox’s Black ERG, I’ve been able to network with leaders, partner with talent acquisition and gain exposure to executives across various locations.

For employers, ERGs can improve business results. It’s that simple. Leaders can gain a better understanding of employee needs and wants through an ERG. That, in turn, can help employees feel heard and valued and lead to higher engagement and productivity. In addition, having an ERG within your company that reflects the demographics of your customer base allows employers to gain valuable insights.

For example, the Black ERG at Clorox:

  • Plays a huge role in recruiting and retaining diverse talent
  • Helps the company build brand awareness
  • Positions us as an idea-generating forum, often serving as a multicultural sounding board for targeted marketing campaigns
  • Provides leadership development through mentoring programs that help our members grow within the company

How to form an ERG

Here are four key steps to creating a successful ERG:

1. Connect with employees and listen to their needs. 

Each person has a unique and important view of what’s happening inside your company. By encouraging them to share their ideas and concerns through open dialogue, you may be able to identify people who are interested and willing to form an ERG to address the concerns of a specific group or demographic. 

A great way to increase employee engagement through your ERG is to empower your employees to prioritize goals that are aligned with the needs and concerns of their membership.

2. Emphasize inclusion, not diversity

ERGs that limit their membership and participation exclusively to individuals who represent a specific aspect of diversity (like race or gender) end up only preaching to the choir. 

While ERGs should focus on creating a centered space for the communities they support, they should also provide room for allies to get involved. Doing so will make the experience richer for all. You may help allies uncover some of their own unconscious biases while helping them learn new ways they can support the group. Ultimately, the more people actively involved in the ERG’s efforts, the greater its potential impact on employees and the business.

3. Secure executive sponsorship from the C-suite

These sponsors can leverage their influence as senior leaders to push your ERG’s priorities and get other senior leaders to support initiatives that support your goals. A C-suite stamp of approval communicates your organization’s commitment to your ERG’s mission for inclusion and diversity.

4. Develop a consistent series of events and activities

Engagement is key, especially during changes to the way we work in the face of COVID-19. ERG leaders should create multiple opportunities for ERG members to meet and participate, from posting a contest or poll on the ERG message board to inviting members to fellowship with each other over a themed virtual happy hour. 

One way the Black ERG at Clorox has engaged our members is through online company video chats that have offered members and allies the ability to hear from guest speakers on a range of topics, including how to talk to your children about race, how to initiate change and support our communities, and how to identify and eliminate unconscious bias. These events have helped us build a stronger, more meaningful relationship between employees and company leaders. 

Other ways to support Black employees

Beyond forming an ERG, here are two other ways to support Black employees:

One easy way employers can demonstrate their support is encouraging participation in external networking opportunities that cater to Black employees, such as the National Black MBA Conference, AfroTech or the Corporate Counsel for Women of Color Conference.

You can also fund membership in professional organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers or the National Association of Black Accountants. Through this involvement, members grow their external networks while receiving valuable leadership and development coaching, which ultimately benefit employers, too.

ERGs and other programs are tangible evidence of your company’s commitment to recognizing and meeting the specific needs and interests of your employees. Actions to support them increase brand reputation, which contributes to recruiting, retention and sales.

 

Cameka Jackman is a talent operations specialist at The Clorox Company and co-chief of staff for BELIEVE: Black Employees Leading in Inclusion, Excellence, Vision and Education, the company’s Black Employee ERG.

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