Employee Resource Groups: The Social Tower of Enterprise Communities

Employee Resource Groups 01

It's like we've been building professional Towers of Babel for decades. Except it's not an omniscient deity confounding our networking skills, communication skills and our ability to thrive in "world of work" Nirvana. It's us.

Although it's not to say that self-segmenting into groups of like-minded professionals inside the enterprise and out isn't valuable for the members. We've been doing that for some time now and through that networking we've helped mentor each other, teach each other new skills, develop new ideas that improve processes and technologies, launch new businesses and generate new business for existing companies.

A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted the fact that employee-resource groups let individuals of similar backgrounds swap common experiences and success strategies.

"Created in the 1970s to recruit and retain African-Americans, employee-resource groups now serve women, gay individuals, the disabled, veterans, newcomers and even Bangladeshi immigrants. Cisco Systems Inc.'s 11 groups represent 18% of more than 72,000 employees world-wide, for example".

This was important because it gave underrepresented (and underutilized) groups the opportunity to help one another and increase the diversity of thought leadership in business worldwide.

But how successful overall has the siloed approach been, especially if executive management doesn't participate in these groups with any frequency, or if they're barely aware of the other professional support networks? Skilling-up and mentoring one another is great, but unless it's visible to those who can truly promote via the ladder or the lattice, then successful "Nirvana" can feel awfully fragmented, inaccessible and distant.

And how involved are the individual members in each of these groups? Do they only tap into the network with they need something? A new career perhaps? A reference? A mentor? A revolutionary business idea? A social cause to cure a long-time ill?

That's fine, because at any given time member utilization can vary but usually runs in single digits. Plus there's the fact that belonging to some of these employee-resource groups can be seen as potentially detrimental to one's career -- at least according to other powers that be that claim they are.

Professional communities, both online and off, usually include groups of people who have developed relationships around a strong common interest ...engineering, marketing, finance, social causes. But again, when they're private groups, they end up limiting the opportunities for the members because they wouldn't otherwise be exposed to other groups unless they belonged to them. That means belonging to multiple groups online and off, like many of us are today, and that leaves us with what we call scarcity of attention -- the more separate sites and resources and groups that demand our attention, the more our attention and participation diminishes, quite rapidly in fact.

Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups, company intranet sites, employee-resource sites, or professional association sites aren't really a viable alternatives because the audiences can't interact with each in the other sites around topics of interest independently of the page, group or site owners.

An engagement platform like BraveNewTalent accounts for this by being an open professional community, allowing for a high level of interaction between members of many different communities. For example, imagine that you’re an alumnus of McKinsey & Company and Booz Allen Hamilton, and now you work for IBM Professional Services – you can join and participate in all three communities in one place with our open platform.

Our research tells us is that the amount of time a member would spend in an open community platform is not only equal to the time they'd spend in each of the private communities above, it's actually greater because it delivers a much better member experience overall. This gives you the advantage when it comes to engaging and developing your next-generation workforce. Coming up the next revolutionary business idea. The social cause that cures the ill.

Our platform wasn't developed solely to be a replacement for all the other disparate "group" locales out there today. It was also built to leverage and enhance the community member experience by creating a converged platform for all groups to meet, share, learn and collaborate together: to be the social tower of truth that connects all talented communities.