In recent years, employee resource groups (ERGs) have emerged as a powerful tool for facilitating diversity, equity, and inclusion within organizations. And DE&I is more than a passing fad or “nice to have;” it’s the right thing to do and the business case is clear.
Comprised of employees who share similar identities, interests, or backgrounds, these groups offer a platform for people to connect, share their experiences, and advocate for positive change. Workers bond and create networks around topics such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, parenting, sustainability, or mental health advocacy. The communities foster a sense of belonging while also creating tangible benefits for the business — if managed effectively.
Companies like Google, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Bank of America are known to actively support ERG initiatives, and organizations that continue to ignore the virtues and capabilities these groups promote risk losing a competitive edge — in recruiting, retention, innovation, and more.
But because ERGs are typically employee-led — often with minimal guidance or support from company leadership — many organizations are missing out on an opportunity to tap into the full potential these groups offer and fall short of maximizing their success.
As companies become aware of the value employee resource groups bring to the organization, executives are investing in ERGs and supporting their growth. By advocating for policies and practices that promote DE&I, ERGs help create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, and therefore more invested in bringing their contributions to the table.
Developing ERG leaders helps to maximize the potential of these groups and ensure their success.
Tapping into the Power of Employee Resource Group Leaders Through Executive Coaching
Executive coaching serves as a powerful tool to help ERG leaders develop their leadership skills and make a desired impact within the organization.
Stepping into the helm of an employee resource group means shouldering tremendous potential — for gaining insight, growth, and positive change. With much at stake, it’s not a role to take on lightly or enter into haphazardly. But ERG facilitators face unique challenges, often finding themselves managing processes with limited positional power. It can quickly become clear that an ERG leader’s undeveloped skills pose a liability.
For example, leading and leveraging an ERG effectively requires examining challenges with openness and inviting change — in thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. So refining their sense of intellectual curiosity, independent judgment, and influencing skills is essential.
As with anything, ERGs can either succeed or fail depending on the effort made to identify and develop what’s lacking.
Organizations can either choose to do the bare minimum for outward appearances and get lackluster results or embrace the opportunity ERGs offer to drive meaningful growth. Top companies are increasingly recognizing the power held within these groups and are seeking ways to unlock it.
How to Facilitate Success for ERG Leaders
To best support ERG leaders, investing in executive coaching experiences tailored specifically to address their needs makes good business sense. Rather than leave results to chance and allow unskilled employees to pilot the course, success calls for setting clear goals and expected outcomes for each leader. Pairing leaders with coaches who have experience working with ERGs and are knowledgeable about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues makes a difference.
Successful executive coaching is more than a series of conversations; it requires a comprehensive program designed for growth.
Here are five ways to unlock the power of employee resource groups with executive coaching:
1. Identify Strengths & Weaknesses with an Executive Assessment
Effective executive coaching for starts with ERG leaders completing an executive assessment. The assessment helps identify their strengths, weaknesses, and potential blind spots as group facilitators. These results allow coaches to help employee leaders gain valuable insights into their personal leadership style – which enables them to better support their respective ERGs while also promoting professional growth that benefits both the employee and the organization.
At bluSPARC™, we use a proprietary psychometric leadership competency assessment to measure leadership strengths. Alignment with the organization’s cultural values is of key importance.
2. Develop Leadership Skills through a Personalized Leadership Development Plan (LDP)
Once a thorough assessment has been completed, an LDP should be developed to address specific needs while enhancing existing skills and abilities as facilitators — all reflecting organizational culture values. The coach should work closely with each leader throughout this journey by providing guidance on implementing new strategies learned during sessions.
An effective LDP for ERG facilitators would include:
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training: Ensuring that ERG leaders are knowledgeable about DE&I issues is vital for facilitating fruitful conversations within their groups. Consider offering leadership workshops or seminars on topics like unconscious bias or inclusive communication practices.
- Influencing Skills: As many ERG leaders may not have positional power within the organization, developing strong influencing skills becomes critical to driving change. Coaching can help leaders learn to navigate organizational politics and build alliances with key stakeholders.
- Strategic Planning: ERG leaders need to be able to develop and execute strategic plans that align with the organization’s overall goals. Executive coaching can support leaders in setting clear objectives, prioritizing initiatives, and measuring progress toward desired outcomes.
- Conflict Resolution: Conflicts may arise within ERGs due to differing opinions or experiences. Coaches can equip leaders with tools for addressing conflicts constructively while encouraging an inclusive environment where all voices are heard.
3. Promote Accountability & Action
A plan accomplishes nothing if it’s not set into motion and kept on track, and this is what differentiates coaching from consulting. An executive coach has a vested interest in ensuring the LDP is fulfilled. The coach’s main agenda is helping leaders find the best path to reach goals, steering them clear of distractions, and redirecting focus as needed toward achievement. Coaches win when leaders win.
Regular Check-ins: Regular check-ins between the coach and ERG leader provide opportunities for reflection on progress made, addressing challenges faced, and discussing strategies for further development. These meetings also serve as reminders for the leader to stay focused on implementing new skills derived from coaching sessions.
Continuous Improvement: Creating a culture of continuous improvement and growth is key. This can be achieved not only through one-on-one sessions but also by encouraging ERG leaders to attend leadership workshops, conferences, and networking events related to DE&I issues and best practices in ERG leadership.
But while the actions of individual leaders affect the whole organization, the best executive coaches never rely on the ripple effect. Making the right impact requires keeping organizational objectives and the big picture in mind from the start and throughout a structured coaching program.
4. Evaluate Success through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
To measure the success of executive coaching experiences, you’ll need to develop key performance indicators that track both individual leader progress as well as their respective ERGs’ impact on the broader organization.
Neither executive coaching nor DE&I initiatives should be viewed as a “feel good” exercise; metrics matter in business. Examples of what to measure for ERG success may include:
- Membership Growth: An increase in the number of members participating in ERGs is a clear indicator of the group’s appeal and effectiveness in engaging employees.
- Employee Engagement Levels: Measuring employee engagement within ERGs can help assess the impact these groups have on overall workplace satisfaction, retention, and productivity.
- Impact on Broader Organization: By tracking initiatives driven by ERGs that contribute to organizational goals such as diversity and inclusion or community outreach, leaders can demonstrate their group’s value-add to senior management.
- Budget management efficiency: Evaluating how well resources are allocated within each group under effective leadership guidance.
These KPIs serve as a foundation for taking a deeper dive into what drives the organization forward and what obstacles are in the way of progress.
To measure growth effectively, you’ll want to document accomplishments in detailed progress reports. These documents should outline key milestones achieved by both the ERG leader individually and by their group collectively since initiating coaching sessions. This information will help assess areas where additional support or resources may be needed while showcasing successes resulting from improved leadership capabilities.
5. Focus on ROI and Business Outcomes
Executives drive success by remaining data-driven and focused on results. By using assessments to measure return on investment (ROI) and business outcomes, organizations can ensure that a commitment to developing ERG leaders yields tangible benefits.
Here’s how ERGs can help organizations reach new heights:
- Demonstrating ROI Through Impactful Initiatives: A critical aspect of measuring success is demonstrating a clear ROI from executive coaching efforts. This can be achieved by showcasing impactful initiatives led by coached ERG leaders which have positively influenced both employees’ professional development and overall company performance. Examples might include mentoring programs aimed at increasing diverse representation in leadership roles or marketing campaigns tailored towards diverse customer segments informed by insights provided by various ERGs.
- Assessing Business Outcomes: To evaluate the overall impact of executive coaching for ERG leaders, organizations should be able to assess critical business outcomes. These may include:
- Talent attraction and retention: Analyzing whether improved ERG leadership has contributed to retaining diverse talent within the organization or attracting new employees from underrepresented groups.
- Innovation and problem-solving: Determining if enhanced collaboration within and between different ERGs leads to innovative solutions that address pressing organizational challenges.
- Market positioning: Evaluating how insights provided by diverse employee perspectives have informed successful product development or marketing strategies targeting specific customer segments.
By tracking progress using relevant metrics, showcasing impactful initiatives led by coached executives, and assessing overall business outcomes related to diversity and inclusion efforts – organizations can get the most out of their employee resource groups while driving positive change throughout their company culture.
Is Executive Coaching Right for Your ERG Leadership?
In today’s increasingly challenging business landscape, investing in executive coaching for ERG leaders not only empowers them but also creates meaningful change within organizations. By focusing on personal development alongside strategic planning, executives facilitating ERGs can leverage their unique position to drive results across all aspects of operations.
Executive coaching equips ERG heads with the capabilities and means to succeed, enabling them to bring about beneficial outcomes for the enterprise.
Through programs tailored to meet the specific needs of each leader or group member, companies can develop ERG leaders and point to measurable results that demonstrate how these investments are paying off.
It can be said that creating an environment where everyone feels valued regardless of their background or identity is priceless, but the ROI is there and research supports the business case.
Selecting the right coach ensures a successful executive coaching experience for ERG leaders. Choosing coaches with expertise working specifically with these groups is important as they understand their unique dynamics. A coach who possesses expertise in DE&I issues, as well as strong facilitation skills, is a must.
A good executive coach provides value by helping your leadership team to assess their needs, identify their goals, and develop a plan to achieve them. They will also provide support and accountability throughout the coaching engagement.
To learn more about how executive coaching can help facilitate your company’s Employee Resource Groups and empower your enterprise to thrive, reach out to the bluSPARC™ team to start a conversation.
Dr. Kim Villeneuve is the co-founder of bluSPARC™, a learning and development company with coaching at its core. Drawing on extensive experience in executive search and coaching for succession, Kim specializes in working with entrepreneurs, business executives, and those enhancing their capacity for complex leadership. Kim holds a doctorate in Human and Organizational Learning from The George Washington University. Kim can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.