Employee Research Groups (ERG)s, once focused on personality traits or characteristics, such as age, gender, religious affiliations, etc. largely due to the Internet, are expanding into interest-based groups gathered around particular activities, such as environmental advocacy and workplace wellness.
The five most popular group types are:
- People with Disabilities
- Military Veterans
- Multicultural Women and Men
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Employees
Reasons that employees join groups
- Sometimes there is no choice such as union participation, or a specific job assignment
- The opportunity for interaction with others
- Activities provided by a group
- Interest involving goals
- As a stepping stone into other groups or interests, such as joining a country club to gain added business opportunities
Employees say the most important reason for forming groups is to fill a need that is missing in their jobs—a need for love, friendship and affiliation, or it can be purely economic in nature. However, employers need to remember that groups outside of an organization can be bad news for the organization as a whole. To offset this possibility, companies should be exploring ways for creating internal organizational groups that satisfy the needs of their employees, yet allows organizations to have a certain amount of control over the group’s activities; but, there are other reasons for it.
An internal organizational group can collect, process and produce information, and solve problems and make decisions. Small group communication is the process of individuals exchanging ideas in an attempt to influence one another, and that is crucial to the success of a company. The combined involvement of such a group produces results that are greater than the sum of the individual progress of each group member.
If you work alone as I do, I volunteer my spare time to act in a staff capacity in our sheriff’s reserve. I don’t have much say in how the department operates, I don’t carry a firearm, and I am not certified to make an arrest, but I am certain my involvement at meetings and events has some effect on the way the ‘real’ cops go about performing their duties.
If you don’t have a say in the outside activities of your employees, you are missing out on a chance to influence them at work. The best groups are those that allow employees to run the show. When you join as a member, assisting the group, instead of the other way around, it creates a bond that is difficult to make otherwise. It could be anything from a company bowling league to a project to beautify the community.
Helping your employees in their group activities can go a long way to softening the wall between management and staff without giving up control in areas that really matter.