How Employee Resource Groups impact Unionized workforces

varsha sarkar

August 8, 2023

4:24 pm

ERGs are voluntary, employee-led organisations that engage in a variety of commercial activities, including:

  • Supporting inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
  • Assisting in hiring, keeping, and developing new employees.
  • Delivering knowledge for brand engagement, product development, and marketing.

They provide more than only social gatherings or areas to “blow off steam.” They are identified by common demography or by the shared interests of their members. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion, military service, parenthood, and distant employment are a few examples of frequent factors. ERGs can also be structured around a specific job within a company, like sales or engineering, or a common issue, like health or the environment.

Employee-driven groups centred on a common and frequently protected characteristic, life experience, or passion are known as employee resource groups (ERGs), also known as affinity groups. These organizations are widely available; around 90% of Fortune 500 corporations, as well as an increasing number of mid-size and small businesses, offer ERGs. ERGs are praised for their favourable financial, professional, and personal benefits.

Employee resource groups—also known as affinity or corporate resource groups—provide a forum for staff members to interact, discuss, and take action on topics that are significant to them.

They are a well-liked strategy for advancing inclusion and diversity in bigger businesses and can bring about observable financial gains. ERGs are used by well-known companies including Ford, Walmart, Microsoft, and even the CIA.

Nevertheless, they can also put both employees and employers at danger. We examine the benefits and drawbacks of ERGs in this article to assist you in determining whether they would be useful or appropriate for you and your organisation.

The ERG’s objectives were to impact company policies, procedures, and culture as well as to empower and encourage Black people in technology.

Employers and employees benefit from ERGs.

ERGs give employers a competitive edge by helping them find, hire, and keep a diverse workforce while also developing leaders. ERGs can help staff members acquire knowledge and skills that are essential to their employer’s operations and can improve the company’s goods and services. More generally, ERGs are a proactive way to encourage diversity and an inclusive work environment while enhancing a company’s reputation both internally and outside.

Employees that take part in ERGs also claim to feel heard, appreciated, supported and included. ERGs can provide a secure setting for open discussion and education in this way. Employees’ general morale can be raised while also advancing their professional and personal development thanks to this sincere sense of community and belonging. 

Moreover, ERGs, initially known as the Google American Indian Network, ended up landing Megan Smith, then the VP of new business development, as its executive sponsor. Yazzie told Protocol he felt fortunate to have Smith as the ERG’s executive sponsor because “she taught me the ins and outs of the realities of working on these kinds of initiatives.”

GAIN had a variety of goals at the time, Yazzie said. The group was focused on language preservation, donations to organizations, ways to help Native communities outside of Google and more.

Throughout his nearly seven years at Google, Yazzie came to realize that while ERG work was supposed to be part of the 20% time that Google gives its employees to explore work outside of their day-to-day roles, it more so functioned as extra work.

Legal Pitfalls

The following three kinds of potential legal problems exist alongside the numerous advantages of ERGs:

Conventional labour law issues: Whether or not the company is unionised, ERGs might create special difficulties resulting from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Pay and hour issues: The Fair Labor Standards Act and local laws may require hourly workers to be paid for time spent participating in ERGs. However, if an employee participates in an ERG outside of regular working hours, voluntarily, the activity is unrelated to the employee’s job, and there is no productive work being done, the employer may be exempt from this requirement.

Claims of discrimination, harassment, and retribution: Companies need to be aware of the different laws protecting workers from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

varsha sarkar

August 8, 2023

4:24 pm

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