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Employee Voice

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

We invest in what we care about:

To quote Abby Wambach in this commencement speech, “Stop believing organisations when they TELL you who they are. Demand to see proof, not with words but with numbers - ask them to show you their history of speaking out in favour of ‘othered’ groups, the minority group leaders they employ at the highest levels - and how much they pay them. Instead of being distracted by institutions waving flags of Black Lives Matter, Pride, Women’s history month and Earth Day, ask them to wave their budgets, leadership rosters, profit reports and environmental impacts. A flag does not tell you who a family, a company, a school, or a country is - its investment does”. ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) which are empowered offers a way of amplifying the employee voice.

What is an ERG?

An employee resource group (ERG) is an employee-led group that fosters inclusivity and builds community by bringing people with shared interests together within companies.

ERGs also give a voice to your employees, from grassroots up to leadership.

Employee led ERGs that are characterized by openness and inclusivity, become powerful conduits for facilitating multi-directional communication across the organisation, on sentiment and value-add insights.

Why have ERGs?

At TrustWorki, we have first-hand experience of the positive impact of ERGs, having been co-leaders of a Women & Allies ERG. We saw how an ERG can serve as a safe space for its members and a way of connecting with others when challenging events occur, as well as a forum for innovation and impact.

ERGs are about education, partnership, and influence. They offer a way for underrepresented groups to have a real voice and to positively shape and influence your company culture. Instead of saying ‘bring your whole self to work’, we need to create inclusive environments where people can show up as their true selves. If trust and Psychological Safety is lacking, bringing your best self to work, most likely brings risk to under-represented groups. When employees feel the need to mask part of themselves, it is difficult for them to do their best work.

At TrustWorki, we have first-hand experience of the culture enhancing impact of ERGs, having been co-leaders of a Women & Allies ERG in a fast-growing technology environment. The rapid pace and transformational change we experienced in that Org was more readily absorbed and harnessed by teams through the ERG space. ERGs allowed employees a safe space for its members to grow, learn and support one another.

Empowering your ERGs:

If you want your ERGs to be truly effective, you need to invest in them as you would any key part of your business.

Aligning your ERGs to your strategy around DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging) is essential. Without buy-in and sponsorship from senior leadership at the highest levels, ERGs may have great initiatives, but will not have a true impact. Giving your ERGs the power to have influence and agency is key.

Focus on the core business:

Recent press around tech companies pulling back their investment in ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) got us thinking about how we view productivity.

In Ireland around the time of the Leaving Cert (End of secondary school exam), students who have achieved ‘A’s in all subjects are often profiled in the media. One observation is that these students were not the students who dropped all their after-school activities and stayed in and studied all the time. They are often still playing sport, doing their dance class, playing music, and having some fun. These high achieving students are not 100% focused on study.

Priorities:

In today’s fast paced world, it is difficult to focus on what is most important. When we try to do too many things, something has to give, and it is often necessary to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’ to some items.

When a team or a company is working towards an important deliverable, prioritising and focus is important. However, teams are often dealing with a never-ending list of ‘priorities’. To quote Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, “The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.” Often when one deadline is met, there is a push to get on to the next important thing, without pausing for celebration, reflection and to catch a breath. Taking breaks between activities can make you more productive in the long run. People are not machines. Staying in performance zone without having any recovery time leads to people going into survival zone and if they remain there too long, burnout zone. If you’re interested in learning more about this, check out The Energy Project.

Focus:

When companies say they want to focus solely on bringing in income, at the cost of ERGs, as well as the loss of a channel for employee voice to be heard, this is counterproductive. If you look at the big picture, it is people who deliver a company’s goals. It is unlikely that companies will be successful by solely focusing on delivery, as this approach neglects the needs of the people who do the work.

Fostering Inclusion:

It is important that employees’ expectations of ERGs and the company’s DEI strategy are aligned. McKinsey research shows that employees who rated their ERGs as effective or very effective, were more likely to say they feel included. ERGs can help businesses to foster inclusion by increasing employees’ sense of belonging and enabling them to be part of a community. Google’s Project Aristotle found that the biggest determinant of successful teams was Psychological Safety – the ability to speak up, ask questions, raise concerns or share ideas without the fear of negative consequences. A key part of this is that everyone’s voice is heard. Why hire clever people but not listen to them? Teams cannot innovate without Psychological Safety, as people will be afraid to take risks or share ideas. Psychological Safety and Trust go hand in hand. 

The power of three:

Research shows that a critical mass of three or more women can cause a fundamental change in the boardroom due to minority and majority influence on group decision-making. When there are less than 3 women on a board, there was a finding of their gender being noticed more than their contributions, and their views being seen primarily as a ‘woman’s point of view’.

ERGs can reduce the impact of being the ‘only’ of an underrepresented group. By being a member of an ERG, members can be more confident in how they show up and can work to their strengths. A work environment where everyone can thrive benefits employees, customers, and the business.

If you’re not sure where to start with creating ERGs in your workplace, or you’re looking to transform your existing ERGs to be more value creation spaces which amplify the employee voice, speak to us at TrustWorki today at Hello@trustworki.com





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