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Part 1: The benefits of virtual ERGs

How virtual employee resource groups can spark greater inclusion and diversity

May 15, 2020 | By:Jemia Williams

young african-american woman working remotely on a laptop at the kitchen table.

Building diverse companies that represent the communities where we work and live requires unique perspectives rooted in different backgrounds. But what if your company spans many communities—across the country, and around the world?

Creating and encouraging employee resource groups (ERGs) help to foster an inclusive workplace while recognizing the evolving needs of your employee populations. Making your ERGs virtual can ensure you’re giving voice to diverse experiences—no matter where people are located.

At a time when many people are forced to be apart, virtual ERGs can help bring us together.

Virtual ERGs can reach specific intersections within broad demographics

In-person, local ERGs are incredibly valuable but often have a wider demographic by design. They’re important for raising awareness and bringing together overarching, broad groups that include lots of different people.

But what’s unique about virtual ERGs is that they can be created more easily, and therefore more frequently, allowing you to reach several intersections within a broader demographic and break down ERGs into smaller focus areas. For example, within a women’s ERG, you may have subgroups of people who identify with different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, even those who have learned English as a second language—the list goes on. When you break ERGs down into specific groups for employees to identify, it gives them more room to grow within that dedicated community because the conversations are specific and prescriptive to them. Using a virtual platform allows employees to feel like the company is even bigger and more inclusive than what’s local.

Going virtual can increase inclusion and diversity

As more organizations adopt flexible working schedules and practice remote working, they may be surprised to learn that inclusion and diversity doesn’t pause—in fact, it may thrive. Offering virtual ERGs where employees can join regardless of location can foster greater connections and feelings of inclusion because geography can’t get in the way.

Events for virtual ERGs are no different than in-person events—they’re just online. Often, employees can be more creative and think outside the box, using digital tools and platforms to guide activities. Branding workshops, networking, personal development, speaker opportunities and live chat discussions are all excellent ways to virtually connect around topics of interests. You’ll realize that having “face time” is not as important as it may have seemed before—connection can be made through banter in meaningful online discussions, celebrating work wins, fostering supportive and relatable relationships, developing confidence and building leadership pipelines.

Virtual ERGs create a space in the workday where people can develop bonds and find camaraderie without sacrificing their responsibilities. They also provide a network for employees to connect with leaders and roles outside of their purview, opening opportunities for them to develop, grow and even develop different skill sets. By creating more internal visibility across the company, your virtual ERGs will inspire performance, creativity and innovation.

Connecting virtually will build a stronger company culture

Overall, virtual ERGs can enhance your employees’ experience with your company and encourage new ideas and conversations while providing support. For those who are learning to work from home alone, or feel alone in a full house, a virtual network can deepen their sense of unity and allow them to share what they’re going through. And as we all navigate new ways of working, as well as map our return to “the new normal,” virtual ERGs can be part of your continuity plan. Virtual networks are built to carry you into the future as an inclusive approach that supports employees, whether remote or not.

In the long run, evolving the different channels for your employees to connect and develop reinforces the message that your organization is committed to empowering them while also providing an additional avenue for them to network. Ultimately, this helps nurture a more diverse, inclusive culture.

Jemia Williams has been a part of the TEKsystems team since 2013. She has held various roles, but her current role on the inclusion and diversity team is by far her favorite. Jemia focuses on building the TEKsystems brand across our local and national partners and continues to lead the strategy around attraction and retention of diverse talent.