Have you ever felt slightly reserved during your first day at a new job? You quietly take in many of the elements of the new environment and mentally observe the vibes of the people that come with it.
At some point, an opportunity presents itself for you and your colleagues to come together. There are a few options for groups to engage with, and with very little thought, you choose the group you assume you have the most in common with.
This process is the power of culture and acknowledgment of community.
According to Medical News Today, people desire to be in community. It is explained as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Despite how overt many people are in avoiding human interaction, Maslow’s theory suggests there’s an innate sense of belonging that people crave.
At this intersection, many corporations create programming around these human needs through employee resource groups (ERGs).
The Power Of Community
According to a Forbes report, ERGs first hit the scene in 1960 during the Civil Rights Movement. As the first affinity groups, they were established with the intent to foster positive community relations and shape strategy around employee engagement based on varied human demographic targets.
Joining these corporate-based organizations is voluntary and often part of more extensive employee engagement and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. And for Black professionals, finding community is as common as finding the proper table for lunch.
“Employee resource groups, specifically for Black people, are essential to sustain high workplace morale. Creating these groups emphasizes a sense of belonging and an appreciation for diversity,” said John Campbell, Talent Acquisition Specialist for Bader Scott Injury Lawyers, in a conversation with AfroTech.
When done properly, ERGs are the professional version of the proverbial cookout. As often described in cultural conversations, the cookout is a safe place for Black people to be authentic. And in some environments, that’s not always the easiest for Black professionals. Safe, curated spaces are ideal for optimal work, mental health, and overall productivity.
According to a LinkedIn report, Black ERGs “can create a sense of belonging. This also allows Black employees to feel like their company values them, leading to employee retention.”
A Sense Of Ownership And Trust
Career coach Corbin J. Pickett of The Candid Professional describes this as having control and influence over how one navigates their work environment.
“In short [the benefits of ERGs] are belonging, advocacy, and agency,” Pickett described to AfroTech.
Since ERGs foster a sense of belonging and agency, the success of each group assists in mitigating the trust deficit between Black employees and corporations.
According to The Black Experience at Work report by McKinsey & Company, Black employees experience a significant trust deficit between them and their companies. Therefore, while creating an ERG is not the road to corporate salvation, it is a start to working through the often tense relationships Black employees and employers experience.
A Culture Of Support
It is evident that employers should have cultural sensitivities that allow space for their employees to thrive and grow in a way that champions the full range of support Black employees seek.
The Harvard Business Review describes this concept as a clear pathway for Black employees to have the necessary critical resources.
“Valuing, supporting, and sustaining a Black ERG is a win-win for the company and those they aim to support,” the report mentioned.