Employee resource groups (ERGs) are a powerful tool for change. They bring people together—even in remote and hybrid settings—and improve both retention and recruitment rates. They provide key leadership development opportunities and offer a platform to those whose voices might not otherwise be heard. But they also give members an opportunity to effect meaningful, long-term change in company policies and work environments.
And while there has been progress on these fronts, there’s still a call for improvement in giving marginalized groups a sense of belonging and empowerment in the workplace. “More than ever, the fight for equality within LGBTQ+ communities is crucial,” notes Gilead Sciences’ Diana Feliz Oliva. “We need to create more open forums for employees to share ideas. Companies that jumpstart ERGs can boost employee experience, satisfaction, and innovation.”
Many companies already have LGBTQ+ ERGs, but countless others have yet to embrace them. To help support—and inspire—more employees to create these programs, we collected five tips from experts on creating LGBTQ+ ERGs that will truly make a difference:
1. Be Strategic
“Ensure your ERG serves as a strategic vehicle that drives value for you, your LGBTQ+ team members, and the organization,” says Jesse Gutierrez, UBC manager for diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Upwork. “It’s easy for folx to view ERGs as event committees, and while events can help to increase engagement, community, and belonging, they’re just one part of the ERG ecosystem. Ask yourself how your efforts are strategic. At Upwork, our Belonging Communities focus on career development, community building, and culture, and we ensure these are kept in mind when planning events, efforts, initiatives, programs, etc.”
2. Engage Allies
“When launching an LGBTQ+ ERG, including allies will be critical in supporting your LGBTQ+ team members, especially those who may not be ready to come out in the workplace,” Gutierrez says. “By communicating that the ERG is open to allies, you expand the reach of the group, and you create a safe space for folx questioning their gender or sexuality.”
3. Develop a Needs Assessment
“Develop a needs assessment early on to explore and discover what types of support, professional development, networking, and education employees would like to experience in an LGBTQ+ ERG,” Feliz Oliva advises.
4. Emphasize Intersectionality from the ERG’s Inception
“Unless we are intentional about supporting those who are most historically and socially marginalized, it is easy to lose sight of where we need to center our efforts,” Gutierrez stresses. “For example, consider centering queer people of color when planning out your Pride Month activities and ensuring you are inclusive of the trans community and Black and brown communities all year round, as these subsets within the LGBTQ+ community are less privileged due to the systems and policies in and outside of the workplace.”
5. Commit to Education and Support
“With the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation attacking our communities, it’s imperative that your company and its ERGs support LGBTQ+ employees by having events that provide educational conversations, trainings, and public awareness about social justice and health equity issues that truly make a difference in changing the hearts and minds of employees,” Feliz Oliva says.