December 18, 2016 BestCompaniesAZ

Employee Resource Groups: Incubators In Leadership Development

By Lee Vikre | @LeeVikre

Employee resource groups are an increasingly valuable source of cultural competence and innovative thinking in award-winning companies.

Also referred to as “affinity groups”, ERGs are made up of people who join together in their workplace based on shared characteristics or life experiences. Some of the most common ERGs are based on ethnicity, disability, veteran status, LGBT, women, generational, religious affiliation, parents, and fitness. Once primarily a support and networking function, ERGs have expanded to become a powerful influence inside organizations. Many members have become thought leaders in talent acquisition, leadership development, community engagement, and advancing the employer brand. Organizations and members alike benefit.

Monique Rios Mach is the Chief of Staff, Strategic Support Recognition Co-Lead, and Strategic Support Client Relationship Team Co-Lead for HOLA, Vanguard’s Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership & Advancement. Mach points to leadership development as a primary benefit of active membership in an ERG. Since both ERGs and companies as a whole need a pipeline of future leaders, those who are willing to take on leadership opportunities get a chance to stand out. “ERG leadership provides great opportunities and exposure for those involved. It allows you to build your network and create advocates for you based on the work you do for the ERG,” said Mach. “Particularly for our leadership team, we try to track career movements to celebrate and share success stories of current leaders or committee members who are advancing in their education and/or career.”

Mach has personally experienced those benefits. “I’ve had a number of great experiences as part of HOLA ranging from informal networking to planning major events”, including leading a content planning team of 20, creating a leadership development program, and interacting with senior leaders on behalf of HOLA. Visibility with senior leadership is a career boost, but Monique also looks at the ERG as an opportunity to share unselfishly. “…I have been very fortunate to have people and organizations invest in me. They have provided me development and presented me with opportunities that I would not have otherwise had. I see ERGs as a great way to pay this forward to others in the organization and community.”

Part of a savvy career search is finding the best company for you. For those drawn to leadership, a company that sponsors ERGs like Vanguard, Charles Schwab, USAA or GoDaddy can provide cool opportunities like those Mach has experienced.

About the Author
Lee Vikre – Hiring Jedi
A workplace culture maven, writer, and speaker, Lee Vikre has helped numerous companies develop “best company” cultures, gaining recognition at the local and national level. Lee has been called the Jedi Master of hiring because of her exceptional recruiting abilities and friendships with people who love Star Wars. Her favorite activities involve matching people with their dream jobs at award-winning best companies. Lee coaches CEOs but still hasn’t been able to train her three dogs not to bark during conference calls.