By Garrett Mireles, Nov. 14, 2016
As many of us leave the university setting, whether just for the summer on an internship or making the leap into to the professional world, we’re all looking for a sense of belonging in the industries we’ve studied for so long, and companies are making it easier than ever. While attending the 2016 Out4Undergrad Marketing Conference, I learned of the importance of the existence and importance of Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs: “voluntary, employee-led groups made up of individuals who join together based on common interests, backgrounds or demographic factors such as gender, race or ethnicity” (Society for Human Resource Management).
Within different companies, these groups serve different purposes - ranging from social community to organizational advocacy - but they are becoming evermore common and evermore necessary. A 2016 University of Texas graduate and LGBTQ Recruiter for the Boston Consulting Group, Kyle Campbell offered some insight on the role of ERGs in his work:
“At BCG the affinity networks serve two main important purposes. The first is recruitment. The LGBT network (and other diversity networks) hold their own events and do interview prep for LGBT candidates with the goal of helping more LGBT candidates get hired to increase the employee diversity at BCG. The second is through community. The network provides new LGBT employees with a buddy who's there to make sure you're progressing well and to answer any questions you have (especially around being ‘out’ in the workplace). We also host social events, conferences, and LGBT focused volunteer events in the local community, all with the hope of building stronger ties between LGBT employees at BCG so you always have a group of people to go to.”
Beyond groups for LGBTQIA+ employees, many companies like BCG already have groups in place for black, Latino, Native American, and Asian employees, veterans, women, and employees with different abilities. While these infrastructures are coming up in many fields, the DiversityInc Top 50 of inclusive companies notably lacks one category: ad agencies. As explained at the Out4Undergrad conference, ERGs are especially important for an industry that thrives on communication to consumers with a wide ranges of identities and perspectives. To organize employees in these areas, and to encourage diffferent resource groups to work at the intersections of their communities, make an agency more productive on every level. Mr. Campbell continues:
“Affinity networks help maintain a diverse environment in a company and maintain a community when the culture can sometimes revolve around the many white, straight, cis-gendered men who make up the historic majority in all business fields.”
Put simply but AdAge’s Gina Grillo, “Diversity of thought is powerful.”
For more, read The Human Rights Campaign’s simple guide on creating ERGs within your organization.