Worker-led employee resource groups (ERGs) exist to make the workplace more inclusive. That’s why well-supported ERGs help strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. It sounds pretty straightforward. Yet many DEI efforts fail. So what can you do to turn the tide and reconnect your DEI in the workplace island?
ERGs can be an asset to any successful DEI initiative. But that can only happen with the help of proper organizational support, resources, and guidance. Despite this fact, few business leaders engage with DEI endeavors. This results in employee fatigue and backlash. So, to be successful, companies must first acknowledge that inequalities exist, then provide adequate support and funding for DEI stakeholders.
A culture of inclusion positively affects productivity, talent attraction, recruiting, and retention. This piece examines how shared values and purpose unite people in your workplace. You will see how DEI drives improvements at both employer and employee levels.
The Current State of DEI in the Workplace
DEI became digital in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. It forced organizations to unlock exciting new opportunities. Gone were the limitations of the long-established geographical, logistical, and operational confines. The dawn of the new normal gave companies a long overdue shot in the arm on the benefits and need for more DEI in the workplace.
A 2021 State of DEI Efforts survey examined the DEI situation across US industries. It found that 57% of employers aim to improve their hiring efforts to meet DEI goals. In fact, 57% of those surveyed expect to achieve the DEI goals they set themselves. However, 43% of businesses admit that finding qualified diverse talent to fill open job roles remains challenging.
The same survey asked workers for their thoughts on the current state of DEI in the workplace. Only 29% said their organizations were making progress. Yet companies across various sectors state organizational accountability around DEI initiatives is a top priority. 
Stalled Progress for DEI in the Workplace
No one can doubt the sharp increase in organization DEI and ERG commitments since 2020. However, 59% of US companies still do not have mature DEI initiatives in place.
The Current State of ERGs
Around 90% of ERGs in the US workplace are voluntary groups led by company employees. Since the summer of 2020, more ERGs have materialized than in the previous 50 years. Yet, despite the increase, too many well-intentioned groups do not meet their obligations and objectives. Part of the reason is ERGs have no recourse or resources to implement positive change or don’t know how to scale to the next level of maturity for their programming.
ERG leaders often work in isolation, planning strategies and programming without structured support from human resources and other departments to integrate their efforts into normal workplace operations.
Well-run ERGs positively impact all areas of an organization. For instance, they create inclusive cultures and safe spaces that allow workers to be their true selves. This inclusion strengthens DEI training initiatives, retains employees, and attracts great talent from traditionally underrepresented groups. A well-structured and supported ERG helps shape company policies, innovation, and overall brand perception, thus boosting productivity.
Reasons Many ERGs Fail
ERG failure or underperformance is usually due to poor organization and the lack of official role or compensation for the efforts of volunteer ERG leads. Resolving the latter is hard to justify if you cannot present a clearly defined purpose and plan. Also, trying to accomplish too much too soon without a blueprint for getting there is unappealing to potential leadership stakeholders. So it’s difficult to find supporters or sponsors for your ERG when there is a severe lack of structure.
Other Reasons ERG/DEI Initiatives Fail
- Lack of funding in high-need areas, i.e., people and processes
- Lack of appropriate representation
- Failure to include diverse groups
- Impatience; results often take time to materialize
- Employee fatigue and worker backlash
- Denial that inequality, the need, even exists
These issues are all resolvable with a fresh approach and expert guidance.
Critical Issues Surrounding DEI in the Workplace
In 2020, organizations scurried to create new DEI initiatives. Unfortunately, many rushed endeavors ended as little more than Band-Aid solutions. Yes, they help foster the creation of volunteer ERGs to create safe spaces, but they became islands, totally cut off from in-house human resource functions and legitmization within organizations.
These new initiatives had no way to enact change within companies. Even with official DEI leaders and paid positions, there remained a disconnect between DEI officers and other functions like human resources. So, there was no way for DEI programs to contribute and drive improvement.
We can take from this that businesses understand the significance of DEI in the workplace. They grasp social responsibility, company culture, and marketplace competitiveness. But, despite this awareness, organizations remain remiss in delivering on their DEI commitments.
Gen Z and Future DEI in the Workplace Expectations
By 2025, Generation Z is expected to comprise 27% of the US workforce. This generation is expected to be the most diverse working population and has a very different set of priorities regarding workplace expectations than previous generations.
They insist on more flexible working arrangements, progressive values, diversity, and inclusion from employers. Moreover, 86% of Gen Z employees expect active roles in ERGs or in-house DEI strategic working groups to be available for assistance.   Most organizations are behind the curve to meet the increased demand within two scant years of more than 25% of employees looking to engage DEI and ERG resources.
How to Fix DEI Failings in the Workplace
Treat DEI in the workplace like any initiative. Your DEI efforts need strategy, planning, follow-through, and review to succeed. Like any organizational move, it all begins with a commitment to functional change from all stakeholders, top to bottom. Without organization leadership buy-in, trying to champion and move forward initiatives will prove impossible. Moreover, you must marry your DEI and ERG efforts to HR functions to legitimize them.
HR support is vital for DEI/ERG in the following ways:
- Defining goals and strategic priorities
- Managing career pathing processes and mentorship
- Influencing cultural outcomes
- Developing leadership pipeline diversity
The role of your human resources department is critical for driving workplace diversity and inclusion. Active participation from HR helps strengthen organizational cultures. It creates inclusive environments where every employee who wants to thrive can.
Remember, you cannot resolve the issues holding your DEI and ERG initiatives back until you know where the problems lie.
How Prepared Are You for 2025?
Employee resource groups are central to business success in post-pandemic America. That’s why 90% of Fortune 500 companies now have ERGs. Despite that, a Bentley University study found employee participation in ERGs rests at only 8.5%. This reluctance to fully embrace workplace inclusivity means many companies will lose out.  
How prepared are you and your organization to tackle the current and future DEI and ERG challenges? Do you have an active ERG, and if so, how mature is it? Has your company managed to bring its people together around a shared identity? And how supportive are your spaces for diverse groups to collaborate and foster a real sense of belonging?
Meet the Experts in ERG Programming
EWF International offers organizations first-class programming for post-pandemic employee resource groups. Our experts provide actionable, engaging, strategic ERG plans based on real-world experiences. Furthermore, our approach fosters supportive work environments that put organizations like yours on the right DEI path. You can choose from in-person, hybrid, or fully remote programs.
EWF’s expert speakers and facilitators tailor ERG programming that makes sense to your company culture and seeks to integrate ERG processes with business operations. As a result, every program is relevant, immediately actionable, and impactful for all stakeholders.
Below is a brief overview of our expert employee resource group programming.
ERG Workshops & Development Days
These ERG workshops are highly targeted; they need to be. We designed them to meet the unique challenges of today’s flexible work environments and fast-changing roles. EWF adapts its programs as the workplace landscape changes.
This dynamic approach ensures our ERG workshops don’t become outmoded or irrelevant as you drive your business operations and workforce forward. And, most importantly, attendees leave feeling inspired, enlightened, and ready to act.
EWF understands the significance of delivering content that aligns with your people and company-specific goals. It’s why our experienced experts work closely with you to decide on topic selection or to design compelling bespoke content. In every case, we guarantee workshops that engage, educate, and motivate your employees.
ERG Lunch & Learn Sessions
Lunch and learn events only work if they engage and excite attendees. Those that don’t have low attendance rates or a resentful audience that wishes they were elsewhere. That doesn’t happen with EWF International’s speakers. Our professional ERG experts know how to create lunchtime events people look forward to. Think storytelling, enjoyable, interactive exercises, and actionable insights people can apply immediately.
EWF’s employee resource group toolkit comes in two flavors. One is our popular prepared course. This session covers various relevant business and career navigation topics that positively affect your ERG initiatives. Alternatively, we can work closely with you to develop customized content for any event type.
ERG Quarterly & Annual Programs
EWF experts know how to tailor quarterly or yearly ERG programs to your specific organization needs. We also include specific ERG topics and formats on request. That could be lunch and learn workshops, panel discussions, or development days that tie into your organizational goals.
You can place your trust in EWF to focus on whatever ERG and DEI training is needed to drive the most impact in your organization.
Learn More About EWF’s Programming for Employee Resource Groups
Build a Bridge to Your DEI in the Workplace Island
Remember, ERGs fail due to a lack of clear goals, roles, accountability, and structure. The solution, therefore, is to organize and shape ERGs that appeal to all affected parties. Only then can they provide maximum engagement, exciting variety, and a notable impact.
Whatever your situation, there is room to upskill DEI leaders and employee-led ERGs. Workplace inclusivity initiatives will always be flexible and scalable. However, they need structure, commitment, and integration from all stakeholders to succeed.
Many companies are unsure where to start or how to strengthen a failing plan. It’s why serious organizations now turn to external expert guidance, such as that from the professionals at EWF International, to empower their ERGs and supercharge their workplaces.