This guide offers best practices for getting your network of employee communities off the ground. From initiating the conversation to getting executive support, building the infrastructure, and launching the program, we’ve got recommendations to support you every step of the way.
What are employee communities?
Employee communities, sometimes known as employee resource groups (ERGs), business resource groups (BRGs), or affinity networks, are company-sponsored communities of colleagues who come together to connect over shared experiences and identities. Typically, employee communities are organized around demographic dimensions such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, parent/caregiver status, and veteran status, although many organizations support formal employee communities around shared experiences as well, including mental health, sustainability, and other interests.
Why should your company support employee communities?
Employee communities are a cornerstone of strong diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts that have demonstrated significant value in building belonging. These programs offer opportunities for knowledge-sharing, networking, camaraderie, employee engagement, recruitment and retention. The increase in belonging driven by such initiatives drives a 56% increase in productivity, a 50% increase in employee retention, and a 75% reduction in sick days (Harvard Business Review). For this reason, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies support formally recognized employee communities.
Why should HR and/or DEI teams lead the charge?
Teammates who work in functions outside of HR/DEI and are passionate about building belonging often advocate for employee communities, but don't necessarily have the resources to initiate them. As an HR/DEI leader, you have valuable insight into the inner workings of your organization, how to effectively influence key stakeholders, and how best to implement an enterprise initiative of this caliber. We recommend centralizing the management of the program within your HR/DEI team, then bringing volunteer leaders in to maintain the day-to-day operations of each community.
Determine which groups to support
Mindr recommends, and can facilitate, an organization-wide survey to determine which communities the employees at your organization are particularly interested in participating in and leading. We look at a number of different factors, including the volume of interest, the urgency of the need, and the ways in which people intend to participate and lead, and can make recommendations to you as to which groups you may wish to support initially.
Appoint founding leadership teams
Once you have decided which groups you intend to create, you will need to appoint initial leadership teams. When recruiting for your leadership committees, keep in mind the diversity of the group in terms of demographics, seniority, function, location, and skill-set. Prior experience leading a community at another organization can also be very helpful. If communities are organized around a diversity dimension such as gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, parenthood or veteran status, you may wish to recruit both colleagues who personally identify with that diversity dimension, and those who regard themselves as allies or supporters of the group. You can either recruit a general leadership team, or consider appointing people into specific roles.
Appoint Executive Sponsors
Employee communities, like any enterprise-wide initiative, require strong support from senior leaders to be successful. Executive Sponsors leverage their influence to amplify the group's voice and work. Identify senior leaders at your organization (ideally within the executive suite when possible) who are passionate about and committed to the work of inclusion. You may wish to allocate two Executive Sponsors for each group - one who identifies with the community, and one who is an engaged ally/supporter of the group.
Provide tools and best practices
Since employee communities are very often led by employees with underrepresented voices at your organization, it is critical to provide them with the right support and infrastructure rather than having this leadership role be an additional burden. Mindr Connect is the industry-leading ecosystem for employee communities, providing your community leaders with a purpose-built infrastructure for planning, implementing and evaluating their initiatives, building their presence, accessing expert ideas, events and best practices, and recognizing the contributions of the culture carriers at your organization. It also gives you visibility over what's happening in this space.
Develop community names and logos
Employee communities will become part of the fabric of your organization, as will the language and imagery you use to refer to them. As you're brainstorming names for employee communities, consider what will resonate most with your employee population. Work with your internal communications and design teams if you have them, and/or consider making use of Mindr's list of suggested names and free logo designs for common categories of employee communities.
Budgets for employee communities range significantly, and will take into account the size of the organization, the scope of intended initiatives, synergies with other projects and priorities, and the overall HR budget of your organization. In determining budget for your communities, consider the number of events you want them to run, whether these will be in-person and catered or virtual, whether you will be utilizing professional speakers who charge fees, and so on. It is a good idea to allocate budget for at least one signature event per community per year, plus some additional funding for other community-building expenses such as swag, subscriptions/memberships and social connection activities. If you are running your communities on Mindr Connect, your budget needs may be significantly reduced as you will have free access to our expert-led content and calendar of events for employee communities.
Prepare your leaders to lead
Your employee community leaders will need guidance and training on how to lead impactful communities, as well as an underpinning in the basic principles of inclusive leadership across the board. Mindr offers training workshops and summits to prepare your leaders to succeed in this role, covering best practices in inclusive leadership, intersectional collaboration, building engaged allyship, and strategic roadmapping for employee communities.
Prompt strategic meetings
Your employee community leaders are likely to need your guidance in how to get off the ground. Point them to Mindr's best practice resources setting out suggestions for structuring committee meetings and ideas for planning and executing impactful events and content.
Provide ongoing support
Remind your leaders that they're not alone! If your organization has switched on Mindr's Expert-Led Posting feature, our team of in-house experts will be posting meaningful, bite-size pieces of expert content each month to advance the mission and vision of each of your communities, and your community subscribers will also be able to join Mindr's quarterly series of world-class diversity, equity and inclusion events, so your communities can maintain momentum and engagement even during their busy periods.
Have more questions? We’re here to help!
Team Mindr is your thought partner and implementation partner as you elevate your leadership vision for your employee community. Reach out any time at email@example.com to ask questions, seek guidance or share ideas, and connect with us on LinkedIn. We can't wait to watch your employee community grow and thrive.
Find more resources on building belonging at work here, and check out the first enterprise SaaS ecosystem for building belonging at work, Mindr Connect.