With an increasingly global marketplace and looming talent shortages, having an effective Diversity & Inclusion strategy has become more critical than ever before. However, a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management reveals that even though 65% of companies surveyed believe that their company’s customers have become more diverse over the past ten years, the majority of those surveyed have an internal workforce less diverse than the general population. Diversity and inclusion strategies are necessary for long-term company success.  When done well, companies with a higher perception of diversity and inclusion exhibit a 50% increase in employee discretionary effort and team commitment, compared with companies with a low employee perception.

Maximize the Impact of your Employee Resource Groups to bolster your Diversity & Inclusion efforts:

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be effective as part of the larger D&I strategy. ERGs create a forum to discuss diversity challenges, and enable employees to build a network of support – increasing employee retention and engagement. Some companies take this even beyond the social benefits by giving them business objectives to solve, and including senior leaders in the group to sponsor and show visible leadership support.

However, large and decentralized companies are finding it difficult to maintain engagement in ERG activities outside of monthly or quarterly on-site events in hub offices. When you have an employee population that may not be centrally clustered, those employees tend to not feel as included. In this case, expanding ERGs through virtual communities can be done with minimal overhead, broaden the impact of D&I efforts, and build a greater sense of personal connection between employees.

Create a “culture of inclusion” by creating opportunities for employees to connect across Employee Resource Groups:

According to the Corporate Executive Board, “Organizations can drive positive team processes and outcomes by building a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive work environment.”  ERGs can drive this through their individual communities. However, when people come together from similar backgrounds, they are also likely to hold similar views.  Creating a strategy to bring together people from diverse groups improves diversity of thought. A global best practice shared across companies from different regions is the effort to improve understanding of cultural differences amongst the employee population.

Leverage your ERGs to create an environment that provides opportunities for employees to meet others from the same (or other) diversity communities. Employees will better understand the challenges and differences in communities, and together can use that understanding to come up with more innovative ways to develop products that better meet customer needs.

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