Study Finds Rebirth of Employee Resource Groups

January 26, 2011 ( - Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) – also known as employee networks and affinity groups – are enjoying a renaissance at some organizations and having a positive effect on business success, finds a new study by Mercer’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion practice.

The study found that many companies are experiencing a resurgence of enthusiasm for ERGs, both those organized around traditional affinities such as race and gender and newer groups that are intentionally inclusive, such as multicultural and multigenerational groups, or that are based on common interests, such as the environment, according to a news release.   

The most prevalent ERG focus areas reported by study participants are women (93%), race/ethnicity (90%), and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (84%). Other ERG focus areas include disability (52%), generation (48%), multicultural (43%), working parents (35%), military service (34%), single religion (16%), adoptive parents (13%), elder-care responsibilities (11%), and interfaith (9%).  

Michal Fineman, a consultant in Mercer’s Global Equality, Diversity and Inclusion practice and the study’s chief author, said in the announcement that trends accounting for the rebirth of the ERG movement in large firms include the emergence of the ‘millennial generation’, whose members are comfortable using social media to work collaboratively; the globalization of ERGs, which are drawing interest from a new potential membership base in Europe, Latin America and Asia; and ERGs’ increasingly business-oriented focus in their missions and activities, which earns them more respect and involvement from business leaders and gives members greater visibility in the organization.  

Estimated membership rates in the companies that participated in the study range from less than 1% to more than 20% of employees worldwide. Among the 64 organizations surveyed, 8.5% of the workforce in U.S.-based companies and 4.3% in organizations headquartered outside the U.S. belong to one or more ERGs, on average.  

The new commitment to ERGs is evidenced by the level of support they receive in large companies, Mercer said. The average annual budget for ERGs reported by survey participants was $7,203 for every 100 ERG members, and many companies spend well into six figures every year (not counting the cost of technology, facilities, staff support, and other non-financial resources provided to the groups).   

Companies also devote significant staff time to making their ERGs successful. On average, the surveyed companies have 1.4 full-time equivalent employees dedicated to the management, coaching and coordination of their ERGs, not to mention the time spent during the workday by ERG members, executive sponsors and others who coach and train ERG officers, meet with the groups and participate in events.  

The full report ERGs Come of Age: The Evolution of Employee Resource Groups can be viewed at