By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
If you work at a major corporation, you may have been invited to an Employee Resource Group (ERG) or perhaps it is called an Employee Council or Affinity Group. Companies that want to create inclusive workplace cultures are encouraging employees to join internal workplace associations that support the needs of unique groups of employees — Gen Y, Women, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Single Parents, or Veterans.
Should you join your employer’s Latino employee group? Absolutely.
An effective ERG brings opportunities for your professional development and builds upon your leadership skills if you choose to get involved in key roles. ERGs often sponsor events for you to learn more about the business, secure a mentor or to be a mentor to a younger employee.
Your ERG may also be involved in community events to position your company’s services or products in a positive way to customers. Depending on the activities they select, you may find your participation leads to more opportunities for your career.
Despite the support and learning opportunities you may find in an ERG, it is wise to know that there can be some controversy in choosing to participate. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric recently created a bit of controversy at the Wall Street Journal’s Women in the Economy Conference when he referred to ERGs as “victims’ units”.
Apparently, he can’t seem to appreciate that employees who share a common set of experiences may want to come together to support each other while doing some good for the organization and their community. Or, he may need to get out more and actually see what ERG’s have accomplished.
In my work, I have seen truly remarkable Latino Employee Resource Groups that have developed strategies for improving existing products or designed new products tailored to the $1T purchasing power of Latinos. Some products on the market today would not be available were it not for the fact that Latino employees have looked at how to make a product more appealing to Latino cuisine and family traditions.
They have also organized relief services in the wake of regional disasters or raised money to support college-bound Latino youth. They have formed programs to increase the number of Latinos entering science and math majors or placed a spotlight on positive images of Latino role models. And, some have worked hard to improve the retention of new Latino employees.
If you have an ERG in your organization, learn more about how you can get involved to participate in activities that increase your professional skills or learn more about your company’s products and services. If your organization doesn’t have an ERG, find out if they are open to this by talking to the company’s human resource staff about forming one. Some employers know about the good work that ERGs have achieved but have yet to create these in their own organizations.
Typically an ERG will need to have key ground rules in place or a “charter” and one executive sponsor or champion who participates in the activities. All ERGs are open to every employee and there is typically a strong business case for each one to form — a reason the business is improved by that group’s activities. Your decision to lead an ERG is a great opportunity to gain more visibility in your workplace which is so vital for your success.
Tell me about your experiences with your ERG at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or join me live at the next LatinaVIDA™
Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™.