What is a Virtual Workforce Employee Resource Group and Why do I Need one?
Do you work for a distributed company?
More likely than not, you do, but you might not have thought of it in that way before.
Let me ask it this way - Do you work with people that are not co-located with you some or most of the time? If you answered yes, then you work in a distributed company!
Most older, established companies have evolved into distributed companies slowly over time without realizing it, usually through acquisitions, remote sales offices, and high performing employees that have moved for personal reasons, but the company wants to retain. In the more recent history I’ve seen younger companies, especially start-ups, even starting out as a fully remote/distributed company.
No matter where your company is in that spectrum a Virtual Workforce Employee Resource Group can help.
What is an Employee Resource Group (ERG)?
It is a volunteer-led group within a company that joins together based on shared life experiences or demographic factors such as gender, race or ethnicity (i.e. Women, Hispanic heritage, LGBTQ). Most recently they have expanded to “interest-based” groups gathered around a particular activity (ie. Environmental sustainability, workplace wellness). They enable employee engagement, networking, leadership development, and also can be tapped to provide valuable insights to drive business growth. Usually they are part of a company’s diversity and inclusion practice. Click here for more info.
You may have heard of Women’s ERGs, LGBTQ ERGs, Hispanic ERGs, but a Virtual Workforce ERG? That may be a new concept to you.
Benefits of a Virtual Workforce ERG
I co-founded one of the first of its kind within the large, fortune 500 company I work for. These are the top benefits that we have seen.
Improve Business Results
Most companies rely on team collaboration to meet their business goals. That collaboration becomes even more difficult the more distributed the teams become unless they supported in the right way. A Virtual Workforce ERG provides a great community of practice for employees to tap into to learn how to be successful when working virtually.
Influence the C-Suite about the Future of Work
The ERG can become a partner with your company’s HR team and People & Culture leadership team to build out your long term workforce strategy.
It serves as a platform to bring awareness to senior leaders about what it will take for the company to succeed as the skills needed for the Future of Work continue to evolve.
Enhance Your IT Strategy
It’s a great testing ground for IT to determine the best IT tools to deploy. Leverage the ERG members as early adopters to provide insight into what tools are needed and give feedback on tools in development.
The ERG becomes a powerful distribution channel for IT to communicate to employees and train them on the latest technology tools. In today’s world where many companies have cut the training arm of the IT department, the Virtual Workforce ERG can become the front line advocates for new tech tools.
Retention and Recruitment Lever
Companies that offer flexible work arrangements are more likely to retain top talent, which then also reduces the cost of transitions, onboarding, and hiring. Many of the Virtual Workforce ERG leads that I work with have previously worked at the company headquarters and needed to move for personal reasons. The company would have lost these top performers had they not been flexible to trying a new arrangement.
Millennials expect to have more work flexibility than any other generation. A company’s Virtual Workforce ERG and flexible work policies can be harnessed as a way to differentiate the company and attract talent.
Builds Community & Culture
Improve company culture by building a global community of virtual workers that can teach and support each other along the journey of learning how to success in this new world of work.
Companies such as Clorox, ADP, and Dell have seen these benefits from creating an Virtual Workforce ERG. Join them by creating one of your own!
Click here for more info on Virtual Workforce ERGs.
Download this PDF for a case study from Diversity Best Practices on the Virtual Workforce Employee Resource Group I co-founded.