Employee resource groups (ERGs) are notoriously under-resourced – often treated as more of an employee perk than a strategic business driver worth investing in. It’s up to DEI leaders to secure more funding for ERGs, a challenge requiring deliberative planning and clear outcomes.
How much should you engage ERG leaders to make specific budget requests for their individual groups? Must every ERG initiative align neatly with organizational goals? How will you demonstrate ROI? Should you compensate ERG leaders for their time? (Yes.)
We asked members of the Senior Executive DEI Think Tank – a criteria-based organization for DEI decision-makers at large companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies – to share their best practices for securing and making the most of financial resources for their employee resource groups. Here’s what they had to say.
We work to ensure our ERGs have a strategic plan in place for the year, and we align the budgets around those objectives as well as our broader DEI strategic goals. Rather than split the budget evenly among the groups, funding depends on the group’s planned activities, and we scale up or down accordingly based on where we feel their efforts will be most impactful.
The budget for ERG-led activities should be focused on awareness, programming, and communications, with the outcome being engagement.
Leaders can optimize the ERG budget by ensuring that they are clear on how the budget will be used to meet certain business goals or objectives. Then, ERG leaders can make use cases for how they will be operationalizing the money, because there is a common logic on not just what funds will be used, but to what extent when to meet various criteria. This sets the stage for the budget to be spent effectively in meeting the goals of the business.
ERG goals and budgets should be aligned with business objectives while also meeting the focus of each ERG (i.e., fostering workplace inclusion and sense of belonging for employees).
[At Jensen Hughes], through the implementation of a 5P framework (purpose, people, processes, planning, and priorities), all ERG initiatives and activities align with and drive impact toward retention and talent development, company culture and employee engagement, learning and development, innovation, CSR/ESG objectives, supplier diversity, and brand.
I provide ERGs with a roadmap for the year. They share estimated costs for each month. We are able to level-set, discuss the impact, and assess monthly.
We empower each ERG financially so they can run their educational programming and events, bring in guest speakers, and more. An effective way we’ve seen the ERG budget being utilized is by encouraging cross-ERG and intersectional events. This way, we can maximize partnerships and attendance as we bring in more perspectives and facilitate a more robust dialogue, and we also encourage allyship across the organization by sharing intersecting stories from underrepresented communities.