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Affinity Groups and Employee Resource Groups: Supporting Diversity or Widening the Divide?

Affinity Groups, or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), are typically created and managed by employees who join together based on common interests, backgrounds or demographic factors such as gender, race or ethnicity. Some organizations encourage these groups to help improve employee satisfaction, foster an atmosphere of inclusion, and assist with the professional development of employees. Many employers also use these groups to improve the leadership development process, drive results, forge relationships, and ensure alignment with business goals and diversity strategies.

However, in this age of polarization, some employers are reconsidering the potential risks of ERGs or experiencing ERG backlash. ERGs can also become a source of exclusion for employees who do not feel they fit into any of the categories or, worse, the groups can be a litigation risk if they become a place for sharing – but not acting on – workplace complaints, or if groups are formed in opposition to each other.

Camille Hamilton Pating, Chair of Meyers Nave’s Labor & Employment Practice and Workplace Investigations Practice, will present a session about ERGs on March 9 at the HR West 2020 Conference in Oakland. Her session will highlight best practices and practical Do’s and Don’ts for organizations that choose to establish ERGs or affinity groups. Her session will cover:

  • Developing and Implementing Rules for ERGs
  • Keeping Groups Open and Non-Exclusionary
  • Transparency vs. Confidentiality
  • Promoting Open Discussion vs. Policies Prohibiting Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying
  • Special Considerations for Religious and Political Affinity Groups
  • “Can we have a straight white males affinity group?”
  • Avoiding the Top Mistakes Employers Make with ERGs
  • What is a Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council and how is it an alternative to ERGs?

Conference Registration

Date: March 9
Time: 3:15-4:30 PM
Location: Oakland Convention Center, Oakland, CA
Register: Please click here for the agenda and here to register on the HR West website. Please use code PRESENTER20 for a $100 discount available to Meyers Nave clients and contacts.