Employee Resource Groups Foster Collaboration, Teamwork
At the start of 2020, Graham kicked off its Employee Resource Group (ERG) initiative, and since then, the groups have continued to grow. ERGs are employee-led groups formed around common interests, common bonds or similar backgrounds. These voluntary, employee-led groups aim to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with Graham’s goals and objectives. Currently, Graham has two ERGs: Women in Business and Young Professionals.
Lauren Bovard, Corporate Human Resources Generalist, says that there were many reasons Graham was interested in starting an ERG program.
“ERGs are known for engaging employees through various programs, activities, events and community service initiatives,” says Bovard. “Employees join ERGs not only to fuel their engagement, but to grow, develop and network with other employees.”
There are many benefits to ERGs, says Bovard. Those include networking with others outside of an employee’s department, having access to personal development resources and having a direct line of communication to the leadership team, since each ERG has an executive sponsor who is a VP or above that provides strategic guidance and serves as a liaison.
ERGs aren’t a Graham-specific idea, says Bovard. They are common with large companies, with more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies reporting that they have an ERG. ERGs not only help to foster a more inclusive workplace, but also to attract top talent. Roughly 59% of millennials gravitate towards companies that have corporate social responsibility programs, says Bovard. Since Graham’s sustainability program includes social responsibility initiatives, the addition of ERGs has helped to strengthen that position.
With the ERGs in place for just under a year, they have already began to make an impact on the company. The Women in Business ERG has held several events throughout the year, including hosting a financial literacy webinar, sponsoring six women to participate in a leadership workshop series and sponsor a Breast Cancer Awareness campaign in October. Recently, the group also sponsored 25 ERG members to attend the Pennsylvania Women’s Virtual Conference, where they were able to listen to speakers such as Tara Westover and Viola Davis.
The Young Professionals ERG co-sponsored with the Women in Business ERG a webinar featuring Cat Crosslin from Instar Performance. The presentation was called “Leading in Uncertain Times” and addressed the uncertainty that comes with leading and how to develop a management style as an emerging leader. These types of activities can eventually evolve into ones that have an even more dramatic impact on the company.
“In the future, we could use these ERGs to review internal policies and initiatives,” says Bovard. “For example, Ford uses their ERGs to give feedback on their different car designs.”
Bovard notes that ERGs at Graham focus on three specific areas: workplace, workforce and marketplace. Workplace examples include things like diversity and inclusion training, and workplace culture, while workforce area covers things like recruitment and internship programs. The marketplace area covers items like strengthening community service initiatives, championing the brand and sponsoring internal/external events. As the ERGs continue to expand, these areas will grow, too.
Additionally, anyone can join these ERGs, Bovard stresses. Employees do not need to be a young professional to join the Young Professional group, or be a woman to be in the Women in Business group.
“Anyone can join these groups,” says Bovard. “You can be someone at a mid to senior level and join the young professionals because you want to be an ally and serve as a mentor.”