Remember the ‘80s show “Cheers?” One of the reasons we all wanted to go to that Boston pub was that it was the place where “everybody knows your name … and they’re always glad you came.”
It was a place where everyone belonged.
In the workplace, we all want to belong too. Yet, sometimes, and especially if you feel different than those around you, work can be a lonely and isolating place. When you factor in telecommuting and working from home, the isolation can feel all too real.
ERGs create connections and bridge gaps
Many of our clients are building connections and bridging gaps through Employee Resource Groups or ERGs. These employer-supported groups form out of an organic need to create relationships with people of similar backgrounds or interests.
“These forums offered support, understanding, information and resource sharing that would hopefully ensure participants’ collective success. At their most basic, these organizations provided necessary ‘safe spaces’ at a crucial time, when people of difference weren’t comfortable being seen together and supporting each other within office walls. Sanctioned or not, these ‘safe spaces’ and support systems made all the difference in the world — and since then, they have evolved into much, much more,” according to the Bloomberg article, “Why Employee Resource Groups Still Matter.”
Groups formed around shared interests, such those that support military families, or work identities, such as emerging leaders or women in leadership. Others reflected more personal identities, such as LGBTQ, African-American, Asian and Hispanic groups.
Tapping the power of ERGs is good for business
While ERGs have been good for individual employees, they’ve also been good for business. ERGs have helped to support corporate Diversity & Inclusion efforts, improved employee engagement and served as a positive recruitment and retention tool.
With shifting demographics of both employees and customers, more companies are leveraging their workforces to reach diverse customers and communities.
At Rhudy & Co., we’ve seen some clients regularly engage their ERGs to solve unique business problems, maximize opportunities or engage diverse suppliers. That approach is good for employees and their organizations with fresh thinking and perspectives.
When companies become more diverse and inclusive, they often gain a better understanding of their customers — who are also diverse.
ERGs also help welcome new employees. The first 60 to 90 days in a new job are critical for employees, and ERGs can help bridge the gap.
Helping employees belong and build community can be good for society, too. In his ground-breaking book “Bowling Alone,” author Robert D. Putnam shares that when people belong, they build “social capital” — that intangible that comes from connection and community. According to Putnam, social capital refers to the collective value of all “social networks” — who people know.
“Community connectedness is not just about warm fuzzy tales of civic triumph. In measurable and well-documented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference in our lives … Social capital makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer and better able to govern a just and stable democracy,” he wrote.
Each of us needs that “great, good place,” where were feel we belong — where it feels like everybody knows our name.
Donna Dunn appreciates her community — those who make her feel valued, those who challenge her and those who help her grow.