Disbanding Affinity Groups and ERGs: Good or Bad?

Diversity issues have been a hot button topic in the news lately. Deloitte recently announced that the company would now be in favor of “inclusion councils” that include white male executives in the diversity discussions. Deloitte believes that the new approach will help white men within the company connect with their diverse employees.

Inclusion councils can be a great supplement to employee resource groups (ERGs), but should they become a replacement for them? Kevin England, Ph.D, explains that inclusion councils just cannot “have the resources to accomplish everything that ERGs can accomplish.”

Employee Resource Groups

For companies, affinity groups, also referred to as ERGs, have been a way to address inequalities that diverse and minority employees have faced throughout history. They have played an important role in giving diverse and underrepresented groups both a voice and a safe space within their organizations.

ERGs need a voice at the table. If executives, regardless of race or gender, are included, it increases the likelihood that their voices get heard. It also helps to eliminate unconscious bias that some executives might have developed from not having engaged with diverse perspectives on a frequent basis.

Other approaches

But some organizations have decided to end their employee resource groups and try another approach. The concept of inclusion councils, which Deloitte has begun doing at their company, can be part of the approach for increasing diversity and maintaining a vital dialogue.

Another potential problem with relying solely on an inclusion council is the possibility that specific voices could be lost within the whole. Diverse groups might share some of the same concerns, but each group can also have unique concerns that are not identical to what another diverse group faces.

The solution is not to end one approach in favor of the other but to continue in refining and improving both. Why can’t ERGs and inclusion groups be used in tandem to promote diversity and inclusion within an organization?

Think of it as macro and micro approaches. Inclusion councils will provide a macro approach for diversity for the whole organization, while the ERGs provide the micro approach for individual diverse and minority employees. ERGs can collaborate amongst themselves and meet with top executives and organization leaders to include them in the discussions as well.

Benefitting employees

In addition, the organization can provide benefits and host collaborative conversations that span across ERGs and all employees, such as student loan paydowns, managing student debt, buying a home, paying medical expenses and more.

Inclusion councils and affinity groups have the same goal: to give their employees a voice. Diversity and inclusion also means that the organization needs to listen to those voices. Find out what your employees need the most and work from there. When employees thrive, the company thrives.

And a combined approach of inclusion councils and ERGs will be able to address what individual employees need from the organization. Diversity enriches our organizations. It is our job to cultivate those relationships and build upon them.

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