By Monica McCoy, Guest Blogger and Delta Concepts’ Consultant
When I graduated from Emory University and started my corporate career with The Coca-Cola Company, I was so excited. This amazing company would open up so many opportunities for me. I quickly learned that one of the best ways to grow as a leader, expand my skills and widen my network was to participate in the company’s Business Resource Groups.
When going through my new employee onboarding and training, I was fascinated to discover the variety of Business Resource Groups that were available to employees. They ranged from the Women’s LINC (lead, inspire, connect) Business Resource Group, geared towards developing women personally and professionally, to the African-American Business Resource Group, and a host of others. Among other benefits, the groups promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Each group sets objectives and connects employees to individuals outside our day-to-day job functions.
What’s a Business Resource Group?
The official definition from Catalyst for an Employee Resource Group is “a voluntary, employee-led group that serves as a resource for members and organizations by fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, practices, and objectives.” From a historical perspective, the first BRG was formed by the CEO of Xerox, Joseph Wilson, after the 1964 race riots. Today, more than 90 percent of organizations offer groups like this for their employees.
I knew immediately that I wanted to join a Business Resource Group. I knew it would help to develop me as a leader through its programs, help me to network across business functions, and assist in aligning my professional goals with the organization’s overall business goals.
How BRGs Can Benefit You
Here’s an example of how a BRG can enhance your career: An employee looking to transition from finance to marketing can take on the leadership role of co-chair of the marketing committee for their respective Business Resource Group and learn the skills necessary to make a career change. From a programming perspective, it’s an opportunity to advance or participate in areas of passion. For example, if you are a member of the Asian BRG and you would like to introduce Asian cuisine and culture to the organization, there could be an opportunity to participate. BRGs also offer the opportunity for individuals to learn more about other parts of the organization due to the diverse membership base.
BRGs Bolster Diversity and Inclusion
Another benefit to being an active leader and member of a Business Resource Group is to help identify high potential diverse talent. As a former board member of The Coca-Cola Company Women’s LINC Business Resource Group, I believe that half of my promotions within the company can be traced back to my active involvement in the women’s LINC organization. When companies can tap into the talent of their respective BRGs, it allows for leadership to truly discover and appreciate the talent pool of the organization.
Stay Focused on Priorities
It’s important to consider some best practices for participating in BRGs. Don’t overcommit yourself when taking on a contributing role in your BRG. Joining is something that you do on top of your regular full-time job. It is about making a commitment and honoring your commitment. Another consideration is to join a BRG that might be out of your comfort zone – for example, as an ally. It provides you the benefit of expanding your perspective, network, exposure, interests and knowledge.
Four Ways to Promote Diversity and Inclusion through BRGs
- For your next major business project, consider partnering with your BRG to gain focus group results.
- Make an effort to participate in the BRG networking events, conferences, and lunch and learn series to develop personally and professionally. These events are an opportunity to learn from dynamic internal leaders or from external guest speakers.
- Be an ambassador for BRGs in the workplace. Every BRG provides an opportunity for us to learn more about our respective colleagues and promote individuals working together to help the business meet short and long term strategic business objectives
- Finally, share feedback to your Office of Diversity about your experience with Business Resource Groups. As the consumer base for Fortune 500 companies becomes more diverse, it’s going to be critical to not only attract the talent that reflects the evolving consumer demographic, but more importantly to retain the talent.
It appears you are using the term ERG and BRG synonymously. Are they the same or are there subtle differences?
Great question and yes, a subtle distinction. Business Resource Groups are typically chartered with a clear business imperative to provide the organization with strategies to recruit, retain and do business with the demographic audience they represent. Employee Resource Groups, historically, we set more for supportive conversations and networking. Is that a little helpful?
are BRGs and ERGs typically funded by the company?
In my 25 years of consulting experience, most committed companies do provide budgets for these groups often after the BRG submits their annual strategy plan for how they intend to support the hiring, retention and market share increases for the demographic group they represent. Thanks for your question.