Radius’ Steph Galera explores how Leads can transform their passion into a career.
Employee resource groups (ERGs) and networks are often associated with volunteer work. But even though many ERG Leads juggle their role alongside a full time job, the experience of running a network can help them to develop a vast array of new competencies and skills.
Because leading is voluntary, we consider ERGs as a safe training ground that doesn’t affect core responsibilities in a negative way. That is, of course, on the assumption that managers are supportive and that the employee can maintain a good level of performance in their day to day role. When executed well, opportunities for ERG leaders start to open, because of the skills they’ve acquired and the network they’ve grown. Again, this is on the assumption that ERG leaders are willing learners ready to make mistakes, give and receive feedback, grow, and become better versions of themselves.
The experience of leading an ERG supports the development of a whole range of skills, from people skills such as conflict resolution, persuasion, stakeholder management and collaboration, to technical hard and soft skills such as communication, project management and even programme development. For organizations, this represents a clear return on investment. And for ERG Leads, it paves the way for their passion to become a full-time job.
So what kind of roles might ERG Leads move into? Here are the 3 departments where they typically find their next career step.
It’s not surprising that many ERG Leads move into HR. Organizations with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Teams create a link between HR and ERGs. This in turn creates visibility, which enables the skills of ERG Leads to be recognized and valued at a senior level. Sometimes ERG Leads will even be considered as an extension of the HR or EDI team. And on the premise of an open role and equal opportunity, ERG leaders can formally become EDI practitioners.
Skills Needed: Relationship building, EDI knowledge, communications, conflict management and programme development.
Communications, Marketing, or Branding
Running a successful network entails a significant amount of communication and crafting messaging to encourage participation and engagement. ERG leaders who forge links with their Communication and Branding Teams, can learn vital skills to drive their networks forward. They can also create valuable working relationships that might turn into a new career path.
Skills Needed: Communication, design, creative writing, research and attention to detail
Corporate Social Responsibility
Initiatives run by ERGs range from small-scale events to larger programs and most have elements of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). ERG leaders who partner with and learn from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) take a step in the right direction in terms of eyeing future CSR roles, as CSOs are critical in bridging the gap between advocacy and turning passion into action.
Skills Needed: Stakeholder management, collaboration with internal teams, knowledge of local and/or global civil society organizations and managing external partnerships.
This list is by no means exhaustive. And there are many other roles where ERG Leads can put their skills to good use. What’s clear is that running an employee network can accelerate career progression. And organizations around the world are increasingly recognizing that ERGS provide a safe space for people to learn valuable new skills.