ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) are dead: Welcome to the new EIC era!
“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.”
Why are you looking at the wrong indicator?
How are you a source of positive energy?
When will you be ready to make the right switch?
An ERG is an Employee Resource Group. I am part of one in Airbus called the Airbus Africa Community (AAC).
“Employee resource groups (also known as ERGs, affinity groups, or business network groups) are groups of employees who join together in their workplace based on shared characteristics or life experiences. ERGs are generally based on providing support, enhancing career development, and contributing to personal development in the work environment. “
I have been part of the people that launched AAC back in 2017. I did not know that it was considered an ERG.
I first heard the term “ERG” back in 2019. Until then, I was just trying to make a difference wherever possible.
I still am doing that as part of AAC despite many challenges inside the organization, the pandemic, and other personal storms in my life.
Coming from Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, I was fortunate enough to have people caring for me when I arrived in France in 2000.
They welcomed me during the weekends and holidays in their homes because the boarding school was closed.
In Senegal and Africa in general, we believe that the community’s responsibility is to take care of each member.
Indeed, many people are not reached by the small initiatives, if any, by their government or other foreign NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) spread all over the continent.
I have always been driven by the need to contribute and pay it forward.
For me, family is more than just the nucleus western archetype: the father, the mother, and the (holy?) off-springs.
Yes, I want to be present with my children. I want to provide shelter and food to my family.
Yet the loop can only be complete if I contribute beyond my family and friends. I am at the service of humankind, wherever, whenever I can do so.
And as I am bringing my whole self to work, I am driven by the same energy to contribute beyond the box I am caged in, no matter how shiny it is.
We are legion. We, those people, are part of ERGs at work. We do our utmost to deliver on our job description.
Yet we always fetch some energy from within to be part of an ERG because we feel the need to be part of something bigger than just getting the work done.
We all have been there. We want to contribute to our ERG mission and value. We cannot add it to our objectives because it is not part of the main objectives of our company.
Often our managers or leaders want to support us. But they are driven by KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
They understand our needs, but they are frivolous to provide support in any shape or form because they feel our impact is difficult to measure.
The story is always the same. In big organizations, the budget is the blood of the beast.
As part of an ERG, we employees can have the best ideas. Yet we lack the support or financial resources to be able to create an impact.
We spend so much time and energy trying to get the buy-in from our managers, going through steering committees to validate our project.
We all feel exhausted and unmotivated when we add a pandemic or a war crisis on top of all of that.
And that is the reason why we need to kill the ERGs in big corporations. We need to refocus on creating a new form of ERG that is more in line with the mission of an ERG.
Welcome to the EIC, the new ERG.
ERGs are just the first iteration to harness the power of volunteers within our organizations.
Many companies saw the opportunity to do some greenwashing and some marketing to attract more people.
Yet most ERGs are underfunded. As a result, volunteers face mental health issues and burnout as they want to create an impact without the support of their organizations.
Indeed, many volunteers always make sure that they are top-performing in their daily job. Because they know that if that performance is not secured, they will be challenged about doing “extra” activities.
We need a change of paradigm. And we need it now.
1. FROM EMPLOYEE TO ENERGY
We need to keep employees at the heart of this new ERG. We need to acknowledge them as human beings with their own set of values.
As part of an ERG, we are not saying that we are the right and only blueprint for a perfect employee.
We are just saying that we are more than our job at work. We feel like we can do more for other people within the company, within our communities, and worldwide.
We are not just employees. We are beings with a lot of energy, and we want to use some of that positive energy to shed light on the path of less fortunate people.
Make sure that you are helping us preserve our energy and not draining it from us.
Yes, we need a budget where needed. And we should be begging for it. Secure it and give it to us.
What we need even more is that you become a positive source of energy for us. We need you to feed our light so that we can share it with the world.
2. FROM RESOURCE TO IMPACT
A resource is, by definition, finite. When you are measuring resources, you are focusing on the wrong KPI, if any.
A resource is just an input. In many organizations, leaders glorify themselves with the resources at their disposal.
It is not about how big your input is. The key indicator is all about output.
And one of the most significant outputs is impact. So as an organization, we need to focus on our policies and rules’ impact on our employees as part of ERGs.
We have to ask if we’re creating a safe space for them to be able to create a chain of positive impact within and outside our company.
Sometimes, an impact is just the smile of a kid, an inspiration to the next generation, providing essential resources to underprivileged people, representation.
Those impacts are not always measurable like a budget allocation. They are not tangible KPIs that can be displayed on a shiny digital board to get a pat on our back.
We need to make sure that we let our employees create an impact within and outside the organization, even if that impact is not directly tied to our core business.
3. FROM GROUP TO COMMUNITY
A group is defined by the specific characteristics of its elements or members. In math or science, we can use groups to identify, classify and sort things.
In life, putting people in groups inherently defines them against the rest of the universe. We might have survived because we were groups of people doing things together.
Yet the most inclusive group is not a group. It has another name: a community.
In a group, we naturally try to nominate a leader, a core team, and some form of pyramidal hierarchy.
A community is a circle of people sharing the same energy and vibrating with some core values for creating a specific impact.
There is no hierarchy in such a community of impact. We can be blessed as the host of that community for some period.
Yet we do not own the community as an individual. The community exists beyond its members and even without any members.
A community is defined by a vision, a mission, and a set of values. A community can provide a lot of positive energy to its members.
That is why a community is more powerful than a group.
A group is defined by its boundaries. A community is a source of energy. It will go wherever it feels the need.
I see myself more as part of an Energy Impact Community (EIC) than an Employee Resource Group (ERG).
Managing an ERG is like trying to manage our time. It is a limited resource.
Hosting an EIC is like trying to create more sustainable sources of energy. There are limitless ways of doing it.
Now I see myself not just part of a resource group.
I identify as part of a community of impact.
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#BIOS #BringInyourOwnSoul #LeadHeartship #Leadership
You can read my previous article on Are you at the crossroads of the 3 seas that will elevate your game to the next level? (Friendly link)