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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. April 12, 2022

Is an Employee Resource Group Right for You? 4 Times to Check In with Yourself & Your Company

Who to talk to, what to ask, and how to drive results

Employee resource group meeting
Photo courtesy of CoWomen

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are organized and function in many different ways. They've been around in one way or another starting with Xerox's National Black Employees Caucus in the 1970s. At conception, ERGs have provided a safe space for employees to organize, connect, and engage with others of similar identities and experiences. Today, ERGs have expanded to include growth and learning opportunities for its members and be a culture driver for some of the best companies

So, how can an ERG impact your career? Well, that depends—on the ERG, your organization, how you want to show up to it, and it is up to you to decide what makes the most sense for you. Here are questions to ask in an interview and three other key stages to decide when and how to engage with an ERG, and what you want from the group. 

What’s an employee resource group (ERG)?

It is important to understand the various ways ERGs can show up and operate in the workplace so you can start to get an idea of what you want and need from an ERG and how you would like to engage. You’ll learn more as you dive into specific organizations and ERG’s, but foundational know-how can help you direct the questions you’ll ask to get the information you need. 

There is a wealth of information to dig into about the current state of ERGs—you’re reading one right now—and it’s incredibly helpful to ask questions and engage in conversations with your community and colleagues, past and present, who have direct experience with ERGs. As with any anecdotal data collection for the sake of expanded knowledge, everyone has unique, personal experiences so talk to multiple people for a well-rounded understanding.

With the goal to get foundation knowledge about ERGs, these questions can be asked at any time and should be continued to be asked throughout your career. Asking these general questions about ERG operations, logistics, and the general experience can be especially helpful at key moments in your career including interviewing for and joining a new organization; thinking about a career transition; and working toward a promotion or internal organizational movement.

  • In your experience and opinion, what do ERGs do?

  • What do you wish you knew about ERGs before joining?

  • What worked really well about the ERG you were involved with?

  • If you could change anything about your experience, or the way the ERG operates, what would that be? 

Read more: Are You 'The Only' at Work? Here's How to Broaden Your Network

Is an employee resource group a good fit? 4 times to check in with yourself and your company

With your foundational knowledge about how ERGs can operate and potential experiences, it’s now time to get specific with asking the questions that will help you answer how participating in an ERG will impact you and your career. 

1. During the interview: what to ask about employee resource groups 

During the interview process, learning more about an organization's ERGs can help you gain a deeper understanding of an organization's culture and people priorities, and drive richer conversations about the tangible ways culture exists within the organization. 

ERG structures vary across organizations. Some organizations have clearly defined and recognized ERGs that include engaged executive sponsors and, at times, additional compensation for work done on behalf of the ERG. Other organizations' ERGs are more informal or driven through grassroots initiatives. Understanding how a company, leadership, and employees acknowledge, engage, and invest in ERGs can be a helpful indicator for how organizations engage with and stay connected to their employees.

While interviewing, consider asking the recruiter or hiring manager about ERGs within the organization  and ask to be connected with one to two ERG leaders or tenured members within the organization. (Also note, some companies may not have them at all, particularly smaller ones.) Consider asking:

  • What role do ERGs play within the organization?

  • How does the ERG operate within the organization? 

  • How does leadership engage with the ERG? 

  • In your experience and opinion, what are the ERG’s primary goals?

  • What works really well about the ERG you were involved with?

Read more: 10 Questions to Ask a Prospective Employer About Their Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion

2. Before joining: what to ask about an employee resource group

Once you're at an organization and are considering joining an ERG, consider the outcomes you would like to achieve by being an ERG member. Below are some common outcomes ERGs can provide:

  • Connection, belonging, and community

  • Growth opportunities

  • Leadership experience

  • Expanded network

  • Passon-aligned projects

  • Thought leadership

Taking stock of what your goals are for participating in an ERG can help you be intentional with how you engage with ERGs and what questions to ask ERG members to evaluate if it's a good fit.

Then, we recommend connecting with a few members of the ERG— ideally active ones—who can share their perspective on key initiatives, logistics, and structure of the ERG. Example questions to ask may be:

  • What surprised you once you joined this ERG?

  • If you could change anything about your experience, or the way the ERG operates, what would that be?

  • How much time do you dedicate to ERG initiatives?

  • Do you receive recognition and support for your work from your manager, from leaders, and/or during performance evaluations?

  • Can you grow within the ERG?

  • What is the role of the ERG sponsor?

After these conversations, be sure to evaluate their responses against your personal goals for joining an ERG to ensure alignment and that joining will add to your experience at the organization and in your career.

3. Six to 12 months in: what to ask yourself about your employee resource group experience

After six to 12 months, check in with yourself to make sure your role within the ERG is still serving you (consider setting a calendar reminder so you don't forget!). Evaluate what you want and need out of work and your current role and then ask yourself the role your ERG management plays in that. Ask yourself:

  • Am I getting out of this ERG what I'm putting into it?

  • Do I feel fulfilled or drained?

  • Do I like how I'm currently involved? If not, how would I like that to change?

  • How can I leverage my experiences in aspects of my work and career?

  • Do I see opportunities for improvement?

This is a nice moment to stay intentional about how you're spending your time and workday in general, and how your ERG is helping you achieve future career and/or personal goals you may have.

4. After checking in: how to push your career forward 

After your check in, you should have identified if your involvement with the ERG is serving you within your organization. If the answer is yes—great!  Now is the perfect time to ask how your ERG engagement is creating, and expanding, impact outside of your current role and organization. Ask yourself: 

  • What are the lessons that you’ve learned about yourself?

  • How does your involvement make you feel?

  • What ways can you use that to take bolder steps in your career going forward?

Taking the lessons learned, skills gained, community, and hopefully a greater sense of inclusion, turn your attention outward to your personal and career goals. Being intentional about how you engage and show up at work, including ERGs, has the power to enable nimble, bold, and thoughtful career moves that balance purpose with paycheck. 

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Photo of Dana P. Hundley

Dana P. Hundley

Contributor

Dana P. Hundley works in People Programs and writes about career transitions, talent programs, recruiting, and job searching. Her previous experience includes full-cycle recruiting and managing partnerships & communications; talent programs & career development consulting; and developing and growing internships programs. In addition to writing for InHerSight, Dana has written for The Muse and has been included in various publications including Real Simple and Forbes.com

Erin Rowe

Contributor

Erin Rowe (she, her) is the founder and CEO of Allspring, a platform that curates personalized career coach guidance and just-in-time learning. Erin started her career in management consulting and has led Employee Development at Pinterest.  She's committed to making career advice more accessible, imagining a world where everyone has access to an "older sibling" they trust. 

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