Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are internal organizational structures within individual businesses designed to address the unique needs and issues of today’s diverse workforce. These groups are also known as Affinity Groups or Business Resource Groups (BRGs). They offer employees the opportunity to network, address common issues and concerns, and receive support from those who share similar backgrounds, experiences or interests.
Incorporating ERGs to Promote Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
ERGs are usually open to all who wish to participate. They are often created for a variety of groups with common interests. Examples of ERGs include military veterans, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT individuals, women and individuals with disabilities. In the case of people with disabilities, there are four common types of ERGs:
- Employees who are born with or who have acquired disabilities
- Maturing employees with age-related disabilities
- Veterans with service-connected disabilities
- Employees who have children with disabilities or are caregivers to adults with disabilities.
Employees in each of the situations typically have very different experiences. Employers may opt to create a separate ERG for each group, noting that
Benefits of ERGs
- ERGs can promote self-disclosure by people with disabilities. Many employers—including federal contractors meeting responsibilities under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act—are seeking ways to create a workplace culture in which people feel safe to self-identify as people with disabilities.
- Assist in the recruitment and retention of employees with disabilities.
- ERGs clearly demonstrate an employer’s commitment to a diverse workforce and can position them as an “employer of choice” for employees with disabilities. As such, job candidates with disabilities may feel more comfortable accepting a job offer from such employers since they know their needs will be understood. ERGs can be a valuable resource to new hires with disabilities, because members can serve as mentors, offering advice on everything from how to navigate the building to career development.
- Boost productivity. ERGs represent a commitment to inclusion, and research indicates that the sheer perception of inclusion in the workplace impacts employee job satisfaction, commitment and productivity. Those employees who participate in an ERG tend to be engaged, loyal employees who feel connected and committed to organizational strategy.
- Promote and educate staff on disability-related issues. ERGs are excellent sources of advice on issues related to workplace supports, such as accommodations, accessible technology, physical accessibility and how the overall work environment suits employees with disabilities. ERGs can also help their companies develop disability etiquette and awareness training for staff.
- Improve products and reach new customers. Disability-related ERGs can assist employers in reaching the disability market and provide valuable feedback on the development of products and services tailored to people with disabilities
- Support important projects and initiatives. People with disabilities are well equipped in identifying key factors to consider as they manage company operations