“Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” – Roberto Clemente
Supporting employees, communities, and businesses.
Employee resource groups (also known as ERGs, affinity groups, or business network groups) are networks of employees who join together in their workplace based on shared characteristics, life experiences, or ally aspirations. These groups are voluntary and employee-led, with a goal of fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. These groups are a key component for a business’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. As president of Wells Fargo’s Latin Connection, I have seen first-hand the positive impact these networks can have on our Latino employees.
According to John LaVeck, program head of the Employee Resource Network program in the Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion Office at Wells Fargo, “Employee Resource Networks are formed around the market and historically under-represented segments in leadership, and provide employees with personal and professional development, mentoring, leadership engagement, networking, and community outreach opportunities.”
From a career standpoint, an ERG provides mentorship opportunities to its members. Senior leaders are invited to share insights on their personal career journeys, allowing members to connect and seek their counsel. Sometimes, these connections mature into mentorships and sponsorships. Group members also have access to unique professional development opportunities, webinars, speaker series, and other educational opportunities. Many organizations host workshops aimed at enhancing and developing the skillsets of its members.
ERGs provide a number of benefits to a business and its employees.
- Internally, they provide networking platforms that encourage a sense of belonging. As businesses strive to create a sense of community among diverse employees, ERGs can oftentimes be a bridge that closes gaps. They also open communications channels for leaders to foster and build involvement and engagement among employees and leadership. Allies are also key to impactful ERGs. Incorporating allies in the work allows for further education and expanded the reach of an ERG. Senior leadership involvement is key to reinforcing a company’s commitment to supporting ERGs and all employees across diversity dimensions.
- Externally, ERGs have a tremendous positive impact on diverse communities. At Wells Fargo, our Latin Connection members log more than five-thousand volunteer hours annually. It is amazing to see these teams making a difference in the communities where we live and work.
- Culture is another key to a strong ERG. It is often the shared stories and experiences that bring people together. We celebrate shared values, traditions, food, music, and backgrounds. In Latin Connection members celebrate shared holidays and the history of contributions of Latinos in our country and community. These celebrations allow members the opportunity to connect and celebrate who they are and what they represent. These celebrations also welcome and invite others to learn and share in the Latino culture.
- ERG members are not one dimensional; many identify with multiple dimensions. It is important for ERGs to explore intersections. For instance, within Latin Connection, the group co-hosted an event with the Veterans Network, which celebrated the contribution of Latinos in armed forces. Group members represent a number of generations, including a growing number of millennials, and many are bi-cultural and have other diversity dimensions. It is important to meet members where they are in those areas of intersection while addressing individual needs so they feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.
- The Latino market often represents a significant opportunity for businesses. ERGs represent the voice of a community or group – lending authenticity, value, and life experiences to shape the narrative for new strategies, testing products, and informing marketing campaigns while ensuring our business is providing what the community wants and needs. This allows ERGs to also have a significant financial impact on a business’s bottom line.
Employee resource groups are key to the engagement and motivation of members and to business success. These groups will continue playing an important part in corporate culture and success. In times like today, when COVID-19 is impacting the ability to be together in person, these groups serve as a critical bridge to maintaining and making new connections within our companies and our communities.