Ask a CSR Friend: Working With ERG Leaders

Feb 6, 2024

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Hear from our experts right here in our Ask a CSR Friend monthly column.

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, we know it takes a village to create vibrant workplaces where employees are empowered to contribute to the communities and causes they care about. So, when you need a trusted advisor to lean on, rely on Points of Light to be your CSR Friend. Each month, our experts share their wisdom and wit to address a specific but often universal challenge related to your work as a corporate social impact practitioner.

Have questions about employee community engagement? Submit your question and it may be featured in a future blog post.

Dear CSR Friend,

My company’s employee volunteer program has been around for ages but we recently launched employee resource groups to foster inclusivity, shape the employee experience, develop leaders, and influence business practices. I am super grateful that they now exist (truthfully, they are long overdue), and I want to ensure that my corporate social impact teammates and I begin collaborating effectively with our colleagues who lead the ERG strategy and its implementation since some of our community goals and engagement activities overlap. Do you have any tips for starting off on the right foot?

EVP & ERG Enthusiast in Eugene

Dear EVP & ERG Enthusiast,

I love to hear that your employer has realized the value that comes from formalizing ERGs as part of its DEIB strategy. You’re not the first to pose this question since it can seem like the work of ERGs and employee community engagement is at odds in certain ways – namely how they approach community partnerships, establish goals and guidelines, and why and when they mobilize their members. I’ve jotted down a top ten list of ideas to help you and your DEIB counterparts set both programs up for success.

  1. Create clear communication channels: First, I think the main hurdle to cross is ensuring open and regular communication between the leaders of these two work streams. Determine whether that’s through scheduled recurring meetings, joint working group sessions, or hosting virtual mixers with the goal of getting to know one another both professionally and personally. Heck, make plans to do all of the above AND share ideas and concerns as they surface through a dedicated Slack or Teams channel.
  2. Understand each other’s roles and missions: Both ERG leaders and their corporate social impact colleagues should have a clear understanding of each other’s roles, responsibilities, and missions to avoid duplicating efforts and discover synergies. Get to know how the roles and responsibilities differ and capture it in writing. Even though you are both reaching out to the same internal audience, you’ve each got your own expertise and can use it to better each other’s programming.
  3. Define common goals: Even though your charter may differ, you are working toward some similar goals, and a few might even feel identical. Identify those common goals—the ones that get everyone involved fired up—and then unite to drive positive change. This alignment can help both parties work together toward a common purpose.
  4. Develop a joint strategy or two: Work together to create a comprehensive DEIB and social impact strategy that leverages the strengths and expertise of both parties, which can help set clearer priorities and direction. This step doesn’t have to be all encompassing—just the parts where the outcomes are aligned. For example, if you both have a goal to develop an inclusive talent pipeline, work together to identify potential nonprofit partners that provide individuals from underrepresented groups with pathways and skill development.
  5. Share resources: Pooling appropriate resources when it makes sense, whether financial, personnel or expertise, can lead to more effective initiatives and can help maximize impact. Bring your skills and resources to the table. Share the workload, and you’ll cook up something amazing together.
  6. Align measurement and reporting: Agree on common key performance indicators (KPIs) and data collection methods to track progress, especially if you have similar goals and outcomes (e.g., employee engagement or sentiment). Consistent measurement and reporting can demonstrate the impact of your collaborative efforts rather than highlighting tensions.
  7. Employee engagement: Team up on employee engagement initiatives that promote both DEIB and social impact and are mutually beneficial. This can include volunteer opportunities, diversity and inclusion training and awareness campaigns. For example, a few years ago, AT&T designed a 21-day Racial Equity Learning Challenge that included many different DEIB and social impact-related activities that supported the education and development of employees enterprise-wide.
  8. Advocate for senior leader support: Show that you’re a dynamic duo and go to bat for similar causes that can help you both achieve your goals. When you show up to jointly advocate for buy-in from senior leadership for activities you both want to pursue, it demonstrates alignment.
  9. Celebrate successes collectively: Acknowledge and celebrate achievements and milestones as a team. This simple act can help foster a positive and collaborative work environment. When you reach your shared goals, throw a virtual victory party! Celebrate your wins as you champion change together.
  10. Evaluate and adapt: Regularly assess the effectiveness of your collaboration and be open to adjusting as needed. Continuous improvement is key to achieving long-term success and working well together. You may not get it right the first time or every time but put in the effort so that you can lean on one another when needed.

Collaboration between a company’s ERG leaders and social impact counterparts can be a powerful force in promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as well as advancing corporate social responsibility. By working together to achieve common goals and by leveraging respective strengths from the outset, you will both develop programs that employees will be proud to be a part of.

Until Next Month,

Your CSR Friend

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