Build a community to bring DEI to life and create enthusiasm for it throughout your organization. From creating ambassador teams, networks, or ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) to learning circles and buddy projects, there are many ways.
The common goal is to create platforms and opportunities for employees to discuss and debate DEI-related topics, exchange experiences and gain new insights. If you create a safe space to do so, community members will spontaneously come up with ideas to increase inclusion.
”The strength of a DEI community is its agility and capacity to evolve with the concerns of its members.” (Pascale Ameye, Inclusion Now Community Manager)
Action 1: create ERGs
Action 1: Create ERGs.
“Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives.” (Catalyst, 2022)
Most ERGs meet regularly to discuss topics, inspire each other, and organize events and training. As a result, they are an effective tool to drive organizational change.
For group members, ERGs provide an opportunity to connect, share, discuss, network, and learn by discussing topics they find important and relevant to discuss at work. ERGs are also a safe space to find allyship and support from like-minded colleagues with shared experiences.
For other employees, ERGs create an opportunity to engage in allyship. When ERGs organize meaningful events open to all, they allow others to learn about their unique experiences and what kind of support allies can provide.
For the organization and leadership, ERGs are a great source of information.They are an exciting platform to listen to employees: their experiences, common barriers, challenges, needs, and what the organization can do to support them. ERGs also work on professional development, ideal for forming future leaders, getting employees engaged, and expanding marketplace reach.
- Allocate time and budget.
ERG membership is voluntary. The most significant resources ERGs have, are the efforts of their members.
If you expect ERGs to impact your organization’s culture, allocate budget and dedicated, paid working time to them. Doing so opens possibilities to invite external speakers, organize high-impact inspiring events, provide training, etc., all beneficial to your organization.
- Engage an executive sponsor.
One known challenge for ERGs is the lack of alignment between a group and company leadership. A way to bridge the gap between the two is to appoint an executive sponsor. That should be a senior leader who is actively engaged in an ERG. They can drive the group’s efficacy and connect its mission to your organization’s goals.
Appointing an executive sponsor can help give weight to the ERG, validate employee experiences, and show that you are supportive as an organization. It also creates a direct feedback loop to top leadership.
Organizations that have multiple ERGs can notice competition between groups.
When ERGs are based on a minority group identity, this can result in a campaign for recognition of experiences and visibility in the organization. Playing out who has the least privileges can quickly become a way to acquire attention and resources.
Appoint someone to coordinate all ERGs to ensure equal treatment and to avoid conflict.
Action 2: set up a DEI network
Action 2. Set up a DEI network
A DEI network is a community of DEI advocates. Unlike an ERG, it does not connect group members based on a shared identity but on a desire to contribute to an organization that fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion.
A DEI network acts as an umbrella. It does not exist for the benefit of one employee group. Of course, minorities or underprivileged groups are likely to benefit most from the work of the network, but activities should have added value for all employees. As a result, groups without ERG representation, e.g., caregivers, also receive a platform from time to time.
The activities of a DEI network can resemble those of ERGs: inform, support, create a space to exchange experiences, etc. The core activity, however, is different: aiming for structural impact and facilitating sustainable change towards a culture of equity and inclusion.
That means influencing policies and practices at the highest level of the organization.
Action 3: starting the conversation
Action 3. Starting the conversation
Starting the conversation is essential to building community and engaging employees to become allies.
Quick Start Guide.
Starting a conversation on DEI that causes resistance or that is dominated by one strong voice will not get you the outcome you want. Therefore, the leader as a facilitator and the team as participants have different roles.
Share the following 6 points of agreement with the participants before you start a discussion.
Become a DEI expert.
This is a collection of articles that allows you to take a deep dive.