Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

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Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

What is an ERG?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines ERGs as non-union voluntary employee organizations led and comprised of members of the organization, formed around common interests. Examples of these groups at the NIH, are professional networking groups, chapters of national affinity groups/professional organizations, and grassroots groups formed by employees across all demographics. ERGs traditionally chartered by employees provide many benefits to the NIH, such as helping create engagement and promoting an inclusive work environment.

The NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) supports a collaborative relationship with ERGs on matters that are beneficial to the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals, through the list of parameters and expectations described in our policy.

ERGs can be based on the following characteristics:

Disability Status
Sexual Orientation
Religious Beliefs
Military Service
Professional/Academic Interests

ERGs help to build a sense of community within an organization and can serve as a resource for employees who share similar backgrounds or experiences.

Steps to Certification:

Any group seeking recognition as an ERG at NIH should submit the following information to EDI. Please refer to the NIH Policy Manual for more information on 2207 – Office of EDI Affiliation with NIH Employee Resource Groups (release date: 6/17/2022): https://policymanual.nih.gov/2207.

Be sure to include the following information for all ERG recognition requests:

  • Name of the organization
  • Description of the ERG statement of purpose/mission
  • List of officers as of the date of the request for recognition, which includes: name, Institute, Center, or Office (ICO), work location, work telephone number, email, office held, and term of office (date on which tenure expires).
  • Provide total number of ICO-wide membership; membership requirements; copy of roster and specify whether there is a membership fee.
  • Indicate affiliation with a national organization, if applicable.
  • Provide a dated copy of a charter/by-laws as an attachment
  • Provide website and domain name, if applicable.
  • List of other related ERG resources.
  • Provide contact information listed in Appendix 4.

Submit all EDI recognition requests to NIH OD EDI, Attn: DID via email: edi@nih.gov. Please refer to Appendix 2: Employee Resource Group Requirements to Request EDI Recognition in the NIH Policy Manual for more information on how to apply: https://policymanual.nih.gov/2207. If you have any other questions about the process, you can send an e-mail to edi@nih.gov.

Please note that the ERG policy does not apply to official work groups, temporary or ad hoc employee organizations, credit unions, or informal groups (e.g., hospitality/condolence committees, sunshine funds, etc.), which may be subject to other requirements. Nor does this policy apply to unions, organizations of former NIH employees, any organization whose membership is primarily comprised of NIH supervisory or managerial personnel with whom the establishment of a consultative relationship is required by 5 C.F.R. 251.201 (e.g., Professional Managers Association, Senior Executives Association, and the Federal Managers Association, or any organization with who NIH relationship is established or prescribed by statute, regulation, or other law.

Thinking About Starting an ERG?

As you review the Steps to Certification listed above, consider these items:

  1. Establish the objective of the proposed ERG. Consider whom the ERG will support and serve as well as its purpose for existing.
  2. Gather interest. Seek a committed Executive Sponsor to help fuel growth, foster buy-in, and amplify the collective voice driving change. Identify four to six individuals to be founding members of the ERG.
  3. Begin to develop the basic structure and processes of the ERG, including establish an organizational structure and delineate internal procedures and processes. (The preceding step may require a significant amount of time as you draft the charter). It is recommended that you build in more processes at the beginning since it is much easier to remove inefficient practices than it is to adopt new ones later. Refer to the charter template here to get started: https://policymanual.nih.gov/2207.
  4. Schedule some meet and greets or coffee chats with potential members to begin the necessary outreach for establishing and growing the ERG. The ERG members will help bring the overall purpose and vision to life and your chats may even reveal other topics and needs that you did not consider!
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Professional Development and Training for ERGs

EDI offers professional development training opportunities for leaders and members of Employee Resource Groups on an annual basis. For inquiries about future offerings of ERG-specific trainings, email: edi.people@nih.gov. For additional trainings in the areas of equal employment opportunity compliance, disability, diversity and inclusion, and harassment, visit the EDI offerings page.

The Case for ERGs at NIH

Benefits to NIH:

  • Improving corporate culture of the Agency by allowing members of ERGs and other employees to feel comfortable with differences within HHS;
  • Contributing to the success of the agency through the presentation of diverse ideas;
  • Assisting in the presentation of activities that support common goals of workplace diversity and inclusion;
  • Organized and established platform to present employee concerns, promote change, obtain buy-in;
  • Aiding in agency recruitment efforts to diversify applicant pool; and
  • Creating a climate to enhance employee retention.

Benefits to Employees:

  • Fostering employee connectivity and professional development through support groups, networking, mentoring, and workshops;
  • Effecting employee activism inside and outside of the workplace;
  • Encouraging employee engagement and collaborative working relationships [i.e., people who join and participate in ERGs are more engaged and better connected to organizational strategy];
  • Enhanced employee satisfaction [organizations with ERGs are often rated some of the best places to work]; and
  • Ensuring ERGs have equal voice, access to information, and opportunities to ensure success in the workplace.

Benefits to the Community:

  • Cultural insight: identifying issues and concerns that impact particular groups and in planning and presenting cultural observances;
  • Recruiting activities, including serving as a link to educational institutions and professional organizations;
  • Serving as role models and mentors, especially to new hires;
  • Onboarding activities: informing new hires of the existence of the range of ERGs and connecting ERG members with similar new employees to create relationships; and
  • Career development: mentoring and professional advancement and developing workshops and identifying guest speakers that will benefit the members of their ERG and the community at large.

Additional Resources:

  1. NIH EDI Employee Resource Group Policy
  2. How to encourage diversity and inclusion with employee resource groups
  3. EDI Advancing Racial Equity page