About this guide
ERGs exist to provide support to their members, to create a sense of belonging that may not exist elsewhere in the organisation, to share their experiences with the organisation if they choose and deem it appropriate, and to provide feedback, recommendations and support on how to dismantle systemic and structural barriers that have hindered their development, progression and retention in the organisation.
This guide aims to help employers set up an ERG specifically for black and ethnic minority groups, to:
- provide psychological safety to the group’s members in the wake of very uncomfortable experiences
- ensure their voices are heard – and listened to
- provide support as an entity that adds value to the organisation
- contribute to the implementation of the broader D&I strategy.
The business case for setting up an ERG
Eight steps to set up an ERG for black and ethnic minority employees
1. Leaders, HR and internal D&I professionals from the majority group should articulate and write down the value, role and importance of black and ethnic minority networks not just as a support group, but also to the business.
- reviewing the organisation’s D&I strategy
- seeing where and how the black and ethnic minority ERG can (and does) support the delivery of your strategy.
- highlight the gaps that exist without this employee voice
- recognise the opportunity to engage and, more directly, support under-represented groups within the organisation.
2. Identify executive sponsors to formally support the ERG, to help demonstrate its importance and business value.
- is willing to learn along the way
- is committed to actively and visibly supporting the network (both internally and externally)
- recognises the ERG’s value to the organisation. This may mean speaking at some events and attending some meetings, for example.
3. Consider the budget and allocate financial resources to the ERG.
- How would you treat the ERG if it was a customer or client?
- What would you do to put in place the support to enable the ERG to deliver the value, loyalty and return you may seek from respected, external clients and stakeholders?
4. Allocate time for ERG leaders and members to participate in company-supported activities as part of their role – within normal working hours.
- can participate fully in network activities as part of their wider organisational role
- can do so in normal working hours
- are not pressured or expected to carry these out in their own time.
5. If you set up one ‘multicultural’ network, make sure you recognise any different cultural sub-groups within.
6. Look into allying with other groups.
7. Create a clear, psychologically safe channel for black colleagues to be able to share their lived experiences.
8. Consider providing ERG members with guidance on governance and implementation.
- a mission statement
- governance and sponsorship
- what the network does
- how the network will communicate
- how the network will operate
- who can join the network
- budget · what success looks like (see the CIPD’s 2017 research for case studies of organisations that removed barriers to career progression faced by many BAME employees).
- at a strategic and business level in providing feedback on different aspects of the organisation’s systemic and structural barriers that have resulted in the exclusion of black and ethnic minority colleagues from senior roles
- in using their different perspective to review and interrogate existing HR, business and other processes through the employee life cycle, including attraction, recruitment and selection.
- Conduct further research. The CIPD’s D&I topic page and anti-racism hub provide a wealth of evidence, resources and guidance to support you in fostering an anti-racism strategy.
- Articulate how a black and ethnic minority ERG adds value, and how it supports the D&I strategy and agenda.
- Engage with the potential network members to build on this and develop their specific requests, needs and contribution to the organisation.
In partnering with a supportive, senior ally in the role of an executive sponsor, listening to anecdotes and experiences and formally taking action to address and resolve each issue, there’s a tremendous opportunity to transform the organisation into one where all colours and cultures can feel safe, that they can belong, and are positively contributing to truly making and maintaining your organisation as a great place to be, and work, for all people.
See how the CIPD champions racial diversity and inclusion through their own employee resource group, EmbRACE.
Petunia Thomas, MBA CPCC
Petunia is an independent consultant who works with businesses, teams and leaders to implement strategies for change. She designs and delivers training, modules and workshops covering inclusive leadership for culture and behavioural change, race fluency for leaders, reverse and reciprocal mentoring, as well as career sponsorship and black and ethnic minority talent programmes.