Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are usually led by individuals who have a passion for advocacy. Depending on what the group represents (ethnic minorities, disabilities, process support, business resource, etc.), the individual leaders of the ERGs do the job in addition to their functional role within the organization. Organizations need to focus on equipping and building the leaders of their ERGs.
ERGs are a mix of formal/informal teams and Leading an ERG is a leadership role that involves leading cross-functionally and without the influential power within the company. Leadership competencies for an ERG leader span Strategy & Visioning, leading self, leading others, and leading change. There are certain competencies to set the leader up for success. Here are a few:
Strategic & Innovative Thinking: Clearly able to define the ERG strategy and how it aligns with the business. Bringing ideas to the table for leaders and team members is critical to getting impactful changes made.
Communication Skills: Leveraging the right communication medium and delivery approach is essential to influence up, down, and across the organization.
Conflict Management: Highly effective teams thrive through recurring healthy conflicts but it depends on how the conflicts are managed.
Business Knowledge: Getting plugged into the organization and awareness of the strategy and vision of the company drives innovative ideas of how the ERG can add value.
Team Building: ERG leaders rely on councils and the membership team to get things done. Diversity awareness and Intersectional differences shape the way the members and allies come to the table. The ERG leader needs to be aware and actively work on being an inclusive space for all members and allies coming from different intersections.
Decision making: Assessing options and learning to make firm decisions and move forward is very crucial to getting things done in an ERG.
ERG leaders have strong self-leadership and discipline- you need to have that to step out of the box of your day job and take on something extra. Passion and strong self-leadership can get the ERG started. However, for the ERG to be sustained and highly effective, as an ERG leader you need to learn to “LEAD OTHERS” and “LEAD CHANGE”.
As an ERG leader, you don’t need to have all the leadership skills needed to start. Recruit team members and co-leads that have complementary skills. Push for constant learning and development in leading a team, building a team, and leading without influence. You are a leader and like all successful leaders, develop a growth mindset.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams.
As a Management team, HR leadership team, or DEI team, invest specifically in leadership development for your ERG leaders. Sponsor leadership development conference attendance or set up internal leadership development workshops for the ERG leaders. Intentional investment efforts in training programs for your ERG leaders are a major investment in your organization, succession planning, and would lead to the positive advancement of your retention and recruitment goals.