Diversity is becoming a central conversation in the workplace, so employee resource groups are increasingly important. These groups create a safe space for employees from different genders, races, ages, and cultures to come together and raise awareness about their experiences. They also give people an opportunity to share any issues they are facing, both in the workplace and in their communities.
Employee support groups make workplaces more inclusive and show that companies value diversity and want to support employees as best they can. Setting up a successful group does not need to be hard, and following the right steps can help increase employee engagement and make teams feel safer and happier at work.
Start an Employee Resource Group in 8 Easy Steps
Starting an employee resource group requires strong organizational skills, but it’s easy enough when you follow the right strategies. Here are the steps we’ll be breaking down in this tutorial:
- Find Potential Members
- Talk to Your Workplace Executives
- Set Up The Foundations
- Recruit More Members
- Plan Your First Meeting
- Run Your First Meeting
- Improve Your Meetings
- Revisit Your Goals
Once we’re finished, you should have a good idea of how to start and run a successful employee resource group. Let’s dive into the guide and get started with the first step.
Step 1: Find Potential Members
The first thing you’ll want to do is find out whether there’s any interest in creating a resource group at your workplace.
You’ll need enough members to create a diverse group, and you’ll need to find members who see the value and are willing to invest their free time into the group.
The easiest way to gauge employee interest is to send around a quick email or survey suggesting the idea and asking your team for feedback. You should send the survey or email to as many people and departments as possible to boost your chances of getting a diverse group of people to join.
This will also help you identify if anyone has ever been in or organized a resource group before. Once you get some answers, you’ll be able to determine whether it makes sense to move forward.
Step 2: Talk to Your Workplace Executives
Once you’ve determined whether there is interest in your group, it’s time to bring the idea to your managers or executive leaders.
You’ll need to get their permission to set up an employee resource group, so you’ll need to communicate why the company needs one and what you hope to achieve by starting one. The more prepared you are for this meeting, the better.
Try and plan a rough budget before going in, and have a timeline for when you expect to start running meetings. You want to communicate the benefits of having a group and explain how it can actually increase profits by lowering employee turnover and boosting morale and engagement.
You should also try to get an executive sponsor for your group. This will be an executive that will help you secure buy-in with leadership and give you mentorship and support when it comes to creating and implementing the group.
As long as you effectively communicate the importance and value of the group, you shouldn’t have an issue with getting it approved. Once you do, you can move on to the next step.
Step 3: Set Up The Foundations
The next step involves getting clear on why the group exists and what you hope to achieve.
This includes things like setting goals and targets and creating mission statements. This helps the group stay on track, share common goals, and stay accountable. Here are some things that you should discuss with the founding members of the group before you have your first meeting:
Create a Mission Statement
Work together to decide why you want to create the group and what you want to stand for. This will help you communicate the purpose of your group to new members and stay focused on your targets as time goes on.
Targets don’t have to be numerical. Your targets could be to get new members or to improve diversity amongst new hires. They could even be to discuss a certain number of topics per meeting or just to improve overall cultural awareness in the company.
Having targets will help give the group structure and steer meetings in a direction that feels helpful and relevant. Having achievable targets will also give your group a sense of achievement alongside the sense of purpose the mission statement creates.
Step 4: Recruit More Members
Once you’ve got the basics for your group organized, you’re ready to invite more members.
You should send out an email or notification to your whole company notifying them about the group and inviting people to join. You can also host a small event or Q&A at work during lunch, inviting people to ask questions about the group and join if they’re interested.
The goals for recruiting new people should be both to give people a chance to join and to create a more diverse group. You don’t want to create a group that only has people of the same age, race, gender, or cultural background. This will defeat the purpose of having an employee resource group, so try and invite as many different people as possible.
You can also add a newsletter to the bulletin board at work to source new members or even hold a “try before you buy” meeting that lets people decide whether the group feels right to them or not before they commit to joining.
There isn’t anything wrong with a small group, but because employee resource groups highlight diversity and encourage inclusivity, you want to extend the invitation to as many people as possible from the start.
Once you’ve notified everyone about the group, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Step 5: Plan Your First Meeting
Before running your first meeting, you must plan the logistics.
This includes deciding on a time and venue for your meeting, how much the meeting will cost, and whether you need to bring resources like food, drinks, or stationery.
You can also set an outline for topics you want to discuss if you are worried about going off track, or you can just let the discussion flow freeform. These are all conversations that should be discussed amongst the founding members, so everyone can share their ideas and the meetings are accommodating to everyone’s schedules and lifestyles.
This is also a good time to decide who will take notes in the meetings to record discussions and track goals. Even if you don’t write down everything, you should have some way to document important decisions or targets set in meetings, so the group can stay accountable and track their progress over time.
Once you’ve chosen a time and place, you can officially invite all members and book out any space you need to run your meetings. Then, move on to the next step.
Step 6: Run Your First Meeting
Once all the preparation is finished, you’re ready to launch your group and have your first meeting.
The goal of your first meeting should be to share your mission statement and introduce the group to each other. You also want to share your goals and hopes for the groups and set targets for the meeting moving forward.
This meeting is also an opportunity for you to assess what is working and what can be improved upon. If you have a meeting layout that makes it difficult for everyone to be seen or heard, you might need to change that.
If you are talking over each other, you might need a system for speaking. If you run out of topics quickly, you might decide that you need a list of topic suggestions as prompts.
Use this meeting as a beta test to see what you can improve upon and what you hope to achieve. Make notes and share them with the group, asking for feedback. Then implement those changes in the next meetings, and keep working on making the meetings more inclusive and productive.
Step 7: Improve Your Meetings
Once you’ve gotten into the swing of having regular successful meetings, you’re ready to start improving your group and trying new ways to diversify and grow.
This can include things like inviting speakers into the group or hosting events. You can even organize networking to give different members of the group access to new connections with potential mentors that understand their experiences and can give them relevant advice and support.
Collaborating with other groups is a great way to also network and create relationships and mentorships between different companies and group members. Collaborating with other groups is especially important if your group doesn’t have enough diversity, to avoid group members feeling isolated or unsupported.
Consider also setting up a social media group to help members stay connected and to also grow and collaborate with other branches of your company or other businesses. This can help bring more diversity into the workplace and help the group expand its reach by connecting with new voices across the country.
Try to find fun and meaningful ways you can take the group beyond just meeting, whether that’s introducing each other to important aspects of your individual cultures or doing activities together that enrich cultural learning and boost diversity.
Step 8: Revisit Your Goals
Every six months or so, you want to check in on your targets and see if you are making progress.
This can sometimes be difficult to measure, but it’s important for the group to feel like they are making a difference and that the group is serving a purpose. Go back over the goals and targets you set in your first meeting and have a discussion with the members as to whether or not you feel you’re meeting them.
If not, why? How can you improve over the next six months? And if you have met your goals, who deserves recognition for their hard work?
Don’t forget to celebrate any wins or recognize any group members who’ve worked hard to meet those targets. And, if you have achieved your targets, set new ones for the next six-month period to make sure that the group remains purposeful.
Final Thoughts About Starting an Employee Resource Group
An employee resource group isn’t just a way to make employees feel supported and to boost diversity in the workplace. It’s also an opportunity to learn from different team members and create a better company by celebrating strengths that would otherwise be overlooked.
Building a strong culture of acceptance leads to better retention, better productivity, and better performance from teams. By starting an employee resource group, you give employees a space to share ideas and break down biases, leading to a better culture and more longevity for the company in the long run.