ERGs can be traced back to the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. A notable milestone was the establishment of the Black Employee Caucus by Xerox in 1965, under the leadership of CEO Joseph Wilson. This pioneering effort inspired other corporations to form similar groups to support diverse segments of their workforce. Over time, ERGs have evolved to include groups for LGBTQ employees, people with disabilities, women, and other marginalized or underrepresented groups in the workplace.
The evolution of ERGs took a significant turn with the emergence of the #MeToo Movement in 2017, highlighting issues of sexual harassment and gender inequality and energizing women-centric ERGs. The year 2020 was another pivotal moment for ERGs, with the COVID-19 pandemic's shift to remote work and the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement following George Floyd's death. These events underscored the importance of ERGs in maintaining community and belonging, as well as addressing racial equality and support for underrepresented groups in the corporate world.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are vital communities formed within organizations by employees who belong to underrepresented or marginalized groups. Known under various names like Employee Networks, Affinity Groups, or Inclusion Groups, these groups intersect employee engagement, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI), and Learning & Development. They are instrumental in fostering a sense of belonging within an organization. For clarity and consistency, we will refer to all these groups as ERGs in the context of the ERG Movement Model.
Despite growing recognition, ERGs often operated independently within corporations, lacking a unified strategy or structure. The integration and strategic planning for ERGs varied, with many organizations striving to maintain their employee-led nature but failing to implement essential infrastructure for true autonomy. As the initial momentum of social movements waned, companies began to reevaluate the impact and effectiveness of their ERG initiatives. This scrutiny led to challenges for ERG leaders in demonstrating their groups' business outcomes, resulting in burnout and reduced community engagement.
The corporate sector has been actively seeking effective methodologies to guide ERG operations, including the development of success metrics, strategic planning, and industry benchmarking. However, the absence of a universally accepted framework for ERG success has resulted in a wide range of practices and theories, leaving many organizations uncertain about the direction and effectiveness of their ERG programs.
The ERG Movement Model, introduced in late 2022 by Maceo Owens, Founder of The ERG Movement, offers a new perspective. Challenging traditional approaches, this model adopts a dynamic, responsive strategy. It outlines the lifecycle of ERG programs in three phases: Infancy, Adolescence, and Maturity, each marked by distinct challenges, goals, and milestones. This structured yet flexible framework aims to provide ERG leaders and organizations with the necessary tools and insights for building and sustaining impactful and successful ERG programs. It promotes a unified understanding and language within the diverse landscape of Employee Resource Groups.
Owens developed the ERG Movement Model based on her extensive experience in business development and entrepreneurship. Observing consistent success in the ERG programs she managed, she sought to share these insights and practices with a broader audience. Her model aims to improve the effectiveness and impact of ERGs across various organizational contexts, embodying the commitment of The ERG Movement to enhance ERGs' role and influence.
The ERG Movement Model adopts a unique approach to the development of ERGs, deviating from the traditional progression of Affinity Group to ERG to Business Resource Group (BRG). Instead, it parallels the stages of development experienced by a successful business, emphasizing strategic growth, operational efficiency, and organizational integration. This model requires a shift in perspective from conventional ERG concepts, inviting leaders and members to let go of pre-existing notions about ERGs. This approach fosters a more dynamic, results-driven ERG culture that aligns closely with business principles and practices, leading to more sustainable and impactful ERG initiatives.