February 15, 2022

How your ERG can create a safe space for Black employees

It’s officially Black History Month and in 2022, a mere post on diversity, equity, and inclusion isn’t going to cut it anymore. Black History Month is meant to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans while acknowledging the present racial inequities that still exist, including in the workplace. Current and future employees are now demanding that companies focus on DEI efforts more than ever. The question is, how do companies plan to eradicate the burden their Black employees experience in the workplace all year long – not just the month of February?

About 1 in 4 Black employees report they don’t feel a sense of belonging due to race, compared to 73% of their white counterparts who feel welcomed and respected, according to Coqual’s 2020 findings. 

Investing in your Black Employee Resource Group is one way to invest in your Black employees all year round.

In today’s company culture where Black employees experience daily microaggressions, Black ERGs have proven to be a crucial part of their professional success. Coming to fruition in the 1970s, Black ERGs have provided safe spaces, allowing Black employees to be their authentic selves and share honest feedback about their struggles in the workplace. Black ERG leaders, in return, provide senior management with direct insight into systemic inequalities that exist within the company and advocate for solutions. 

If you are an ERG leader, an HR professional, or executive leader who is interested in building an ERG or restructuring your current ERG, here are a few ways ERGs provide a safe space for Black employees.

1. ERGs provide community and a sense of belonging.

Imagine starting a new role and you’re the only Black employee on your floor or department. That optimistic feeling can quickly turn into an overwhelming apprehension and the joys of starting this new opportunity may end quickly. This is where a Black ERG leader can step in and be involved in the onboarding process to create a welcoming environment and share the benefits of joining the organization’s Black ERG. 

Being in a space with other people who share similar interests, look like you, and come from a similar community, can create a sense of belonging. This also allows for Black employees to feel like their company values them, leading to employee retention. Remember, not all ERGs have to be strictly business. ERGs can also serve as a space and time block for socialization through outings, casual information sessions, or informal communication channels.

2. ERGs create a culture of feedback. 

Black US workers experience a trust deficit in their work environment and feel that sharing their experiences could have negative consequences on their role and future advancement, according to The Black Experience at Work report by McKinsey & Company. ERGs create an open forum for discussion about changes members want to see in the organization without feeling intimidated by a leader in the room. ERG leaders are then able to create strategic plans to communicate these issues with company leaders and advocate for attainable changes.   

3. ERGs provide mental health and wellness support.

ERGs can serve as a space to alleviate the mental stress Black employees experience in the workplace by bringing in therapists, counselors, or career coaches. During the social unrest of 2020 with the unjust death of George Floyd, many Black employees still had to go to work the next day and engage in team meetings, all while feeling checked out and anguished about what was happening in their community. Conversations from company leaders were either not taking place or put on the back burner out of fear of saying the wrong thing.

Company leaders can be proactive in providing formal support to ERGs by making sure that mental health and wellness programming is part of the ERG’s budget. This would allow for therapists, counselors, life coaches, or any other trained wellness professional to be covered by the company.

4. ERGs provide professional development opportunities.

ERGs provide Black employees with access to professional opportunities that they may have felt were out of their reach. ERG leaders are also able to put Black employees' names in rooms with higher management in order to diversify senior talent and promote advancement. ERGs can bring in guest speakers, have Lunch and Learns, attend conferences, and cover the cost of training programs and courses to promote skill building and long-lasting professional development opportunities.

ERGs can have an incredible impact on the success of Black employees in the workplace. They create a safe space by creating a forum for open discussion, providing mental health support,  and creating a sense of belonging and community.

Investing in your Black ERG is one of many ways to invest in your Black employees throughout Black History Month and all year long. ERGs enhance the employee experience and when Black ERG members feel valued and supported, companies are likely to retain diverse talent. 

If you’re looking to build an ERG that champions DEI and empowers talent at your organization, download our free ERG resource guide Building the Foundation of a Best-In-Class ERG, and stay tuned for the launch of Perfeqta’s ERG Toolkit!

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