This March, we're celebrating Women's History Month by highlighting the great work women have accomplished in the workplace. See more great content about the impact of hardworking women here.
In a world where inclusion, representation, visibility, and diversity matter, finding balance in the workplace is often a long and winding road. Even after a company builds a workforce that represents the world around it, employee support remains as important as ever. Creating an employee resource group (ERG) is an effective way to bring like-minded employees together for the opportunity to lift their voices and inspire meaningful change.
These groups can center around any number of populations, but one of the most common is a women's resource group. While the group might center around one subset of the company, there's no question that a holistic and inspiring ERG is a positive force for every single employee.
In 2019, a group of women at NBF started Thrive, an employee resource group created to uplift women's voices in business and leadership. Its mission is simple—to create an inclusive environment where women and NBF Thrive. To thrive means to prosper, flourish, and grow, and that's what this group has done within the company.
"Creating an inclusive environment allows people to be seen and heard, and that really empowers them to do their best."
Thrive’s reach within NBF has gone far beyond women in the workplace. In a short time, the group has hosted numerous events that are inclusive to the entire company. Most recently, they led multiple guided meditation sessions to practice calm in the workplace, a mood board creation event to inspire creativity, an #IAmRemarkable workshop to welcome critical thinking about self-motivation and promotion, and numerous other thought-provoking events. In the future, Thrive will host a monthly roundtable discussion and serve as the facilitator of our Working Moms Day event.
We've seen the positive impact of our ERG on our entire organization. While it's taken a lot of work, the benefits are invaluable. But this journey had to start somewhere.—no matter where you are or what you do, you can become an agent for change and start your own ERG with relative ease.
"It's important to have groups like this because it creates a culture where voices are heard."
Any ERG can start with a simple question—does this interest you? At NBF, it began with a big idea. After thinking about who might be interested, an employee went around the office and asked that simple question. Even with such a bold and bright idea, getting started is simple.
Next? Schedule a meeting. After you've found the collective need to form the ERG, bring interested parties together to discuss what this new organization can look like. Consider the structure you'd like to follow—will you have a leadership team that guides the broader group, or will this become more of a free-form, come-as-you-wish team?
For Thrive, the group adopted a traditional board structure. The executive board has defined roles that align with its members’ skills, strengths, and values. This group is a cross-section of the company as a whole, comprised of employees across many departments, positions, and leadership roles. It was important to create a level playing field where everybody felt represented and accepted.
"There is an opportunity for us to come together and share conversations, discussions, and workshops that help highlight the importance of female leadership within the business world."
Make sure that management is in the loop throughout this process. You'd be surprised by the support that human resources and senior leadership may be able to provide. ERGs are a sign of an emotionally healthy, progressively-minded organization. While these are often grassroots organizations, their missions are always bolstered by support from all sides. Arrange an audience between representatives of the ERG and management to show them how this group will be an invaluable resource for the company as a whole.
"This was an employee-driven initiative, not something that came from the top down. This was something that was supported by our leaders and supported by HR, but it was completely driven by the employees."
Development is a natural part of any ERG, and this phase continues as the organization flourishes. At the onset, think about what tenets are most important to your organization and greater business. Create a purpose-driven mission statement that you can model your group around, envisioning the greater impact that you can have. Thrive centers itself around 3 core pillars: education (unconscious bias, financial literacy), development (mentorship, advocacy), and community outreach (partnerships, sponsorships). A board member heads each of these initiatives, building and scheduling events that support these core values.
Just as development never stops, communication will remain continuous. Announce the group to the company and invite others to participate in whatever capacity is necessary. Whether you're announcing the next big event, keeping the workforce informed about your progress, or touching base with like-minded individuals, openness and awareness can only further the reach and success of your ERG.
No matter what, keep Thriving. What started with a simple question has turned into a meaningful movement at NBF, and we couldn't be more thankful for the empowerment that Thrive has provided for every one of our employees. No matter what shape your employee resource group takes, the strength to start a holistic and healthy employee wellness movement is invaluable, and everybody will enjoy the impact.