Evolving From ERGs to BRGs: Aligning Your DEI Strategy With Your Overall Business Strategy

Why Should Organizations Consider Evolving ERGs to BRGs?

Employee resource groups (ERGs) have become widely used tools in the organizational quest to create diverse, inclusive environments that reflect a changing workforce and marketplace. Originally designed to create a welcoming environment for underrepresented groups, such as women, minority groups, veterans, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, they are often assumed to be an unquestioned positive force in organizations today.

However, a number of factors have created the need to take a deeper look at the current role of ERGs and assess the value they provide.

Overall progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has been notably slow, despite clear evidence of bottom-line results, as reported by McKinsey & Co. This seems counterintuitive because ERGs are increasingly widespread:

  • The role of ERGs is not always updated from their original conception as an affinity group
  • Some individuals find that their identity cannot be defined within the ERG approach and are calling for intersectionality as a better way to understand inclusion
  • Some question if ERGs do more to separate than integrate employees because they categorize employees by differences without showing how these differences help the organization’s performance

While ERGs have historically played a vital role in fostering a sense of belonging and community among marginalized employee groups, they have primarily focused on support and advocacy. By transforming ERGs into BRGs, we shift the paradigm from a purely social function to one that actively contributes to the business strategy. BRGs become strategic partners that align their efforts with broader organizational goals, driving meaningful change throughout the company.

How BRGs Are Different (Better) Than ERGs

ERGs are closely aligned with DEI initiatives, with the goal of creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace. BRGs, while also supporting DEI efforts, contribute directly to the organization’s success. Organizations could, for instance, utilize a BRG to support and drive pay equity issues. The group’s makeup could support intersectionality and communication/connections between diverse groups.

The Mission BRGs: Aligning Your DEI Strategy With Your Overall Business Strategy

Valid and reliable research indicates that in recent years, there has been a trend toward the BRG model, which emphasizes the importance of allies and advocacy. This model introduces metrics and performance evaluations for leaders and links the groups directly to business goals. There are three essential factors for achieving that alignment:

  1. A sufficient budget to cover the group’s needs, which could also be augmented by fundraising
  2. The support of professional growth for BRG members
  3. Providing access to resources to support BRG needs that can include: survey software, design software, internal communications, social media platforms, mailing lists, specific video chat profiles for the group, planning and collaboration tools such as Google Drive or Box, and access to the company’s intranet.”

At IBM, for instance, BRGs are designed to: “tie directly into our diversity strategy and voluntarily bring together talented groups of diverse IBM professionals with the ultimate goal of enhancing the success of IBM’s business objectives by helping members succeed in the workplace.” As part of their charters, IBM’s BRGs “align their programs and initiatives with at least one of four IBM business and talent workstreams: recruitment and hiring, talent development, employee retention, and market development.”

The differences between ERGs and BRGs typically matter more to company leaders. Resource groups are often negatively perceived by some company leaders as social clubs that don’t add value. The belief that resource groups don’t have a positive outcome on a company’s bottom line is undoubtedly why some HR leaders decide to put a business spin on them.

Consequently, BRGs may be charged with tasks like helping the company reach new markets, develop products or services, or address business challenges. BRGs may comprise employees from various backgrounds who share a common business interest, not necessarily a personal or demographic characteristic like ERGs.

How Starting a BRG Can Better Align Your DEI Strategy With Your Overall Business Strategy

  • Members of your company’s BRGs often are active in their community: they, therefore, can help identify diverse talent with high potential, either outside or – and in particular – within your company now.
  • HR and Business leaders and employees can participate in other businesses’ BRG networking events, lunch and learning programs, and conferences.
  • Internally, a BRG gives diverse employees a chance to learn from each other. It helps individuals from different departments – and different backgrounds – work together to enable your company to meet strategic business goals and overcome challenges.
  • Recruiters at many Fortune 500 companies use the fact that the business has BRGs to recruit more diverse employees.

What is a Business Resource Group at Capital One?

Creating communities rooted in a culture of belonging is the ultimate goal of Capital One’s Business Resource Groups (BRGs). Because each BRG is as unique as the population it serves, they offer a range of activities to help associates succeed, including networking events, volunteer opportunities and learning programs. And they aren’t just open to a specific group—all Capital One associates are encouraged to join as an ally.

“The BRGs help you meet people with the same passion and interests you do and with the same drive to grow,” said Ashley, a content manager for the Retail Bank. “They make sure you have support to work through tough issues and grow your perspective.”

Final Thoughts

The Best BRGs are at least partially funded by the company. A robust BRG brings in speakers, offers training opportunities, allows its members to attend BRG conferences, etc. And, while it may ask members to pay dues, many corporations – seeing the great value of a well-run BRG – often provide a “department” budget specifically for BRG’s costs.

Another benefit of BRGs is that they often help your diverse talent grow their business savvy, leadership skills, and executive presence. It’s much harder to leave an employer who has helped you grow – often by promoting you – in your career, so folks who have benefited directly from your BRGs tend to stick around. For help starting BRGs or evolving your current ERGs to BRGs, contact Inclusive Leaders Group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *