Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are seeing a resurgence in the workplace as organizations address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). These groups bring together people who have a vested interest in the health and well-being of a specific population. When connected to DEI goals, these groups typically represent disadvantaged populations and may center around culture, race, sexual orientation, gender or disabilities.
Employees see the impact of inequity
Employees join these groups because they recognize a need. Either based on personal knowledge or because there is a direct connection to their families or community. They see a gap or concern that connects to them personally. Strength and insight come from their diverse experiences and backgrounds — and their empathy and positive intent for the population. As a group, they offer a rich perspective that can help uncover new ways to eliminate barriers to better health.
Government agencies, non-profits and commercial organizations are exploring Employee Resource Groups to address diversity, equity and inclusion. And there can be a range of ERGs inside any company or agency. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has eight ERGs available to all employees.1 What defines ERGs, is that they develop around the common backgrounds, interests or goals of the employee base.
Staying on mission and expanding the influence
Importantly, projects that ERGs address should align with an organization’s mission. This alignment allows the efforts and insight generated by ERGs to have an impact on policy and related activities of the organization — and that’s powerful.
At UnitedHealthcare, we have several ERGs and each is tasked with ensuring that the activities they embark upon tie back to the mission of the organization.
For example, it is well known that social, structural and systematic inequities have contributed to higher rates of food insecurity and diabetes for Black, Latino, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals.2 Because of this, during Black History Month we had two groups collaborate — Unidos (Hispanic and Latin descent) and African America Experience — on how diabetes was affecting their communities.
These groups provided panel discussions to educate others on the topic of diabetes prevention and maintenance for the specific population of each ERG. They tapped into UnitedHealthcare resources, which strengthened their initiative related to diabetes.
Because we had such strong cross-team collaboration and employee engagement, we are using this diverse and empathetic lens to consider how we address diabetes prevention and maintenance more broadly.
Building on the learning
In this experience, we saw our Employee Resource Groups expand education and resources to our employee base, help reach the extended family and communities of our employees and inform the work we do for our members.
Most importantly, this work is grounded in the community. It brings forward the collective wisdom of the employee base to better reflect the needs of an underserved population. It shows us new ways to reach out, reveals needs that might otherwise go unseen and shares resources in ways that deliver more impact. It is an important and valuable connection between our employees, our organizational aims and the community at large.