While the terms "employee resource groups" and "business resource groups" are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction to be made.
Employee resource groups (ERGs), also called affinity groups, ERGs, according to SHRM, are "employee groups that come together either voluntarily, based on a common interest or background, or at the request of a company." The first ERG in the US was the Xerox National Black Employees Caucus, created in 1970.
Business resource groups (BRGs), which are less common, are formed with a specific business purpose in mind-such as tackling issues of pay inequity within an organization. While they may still provide support and community for their members, BRGs are focused on driving business objectives and contributing to organizational strategic goals. BRGs often bring together employees who have a shared interest or affiliation related to a specific business dimension, such as equitable pay practices for women.
The key differences between ERGs and BRGs are:
Focus. ERGs primarily focus on fostering a sense of belonging, employee support, and addressing issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). BRGs, on the other hand, have a more business-centric focus, aligning their efforts to specific business objectives and outcomes.
Membership. ERGs typically represent specific demographic or identity groups, aiming to create a space for employees with shared characteristics. BRGs, on the other hand, can have broader membership that may include employees from different backgrounds who have a common business interest or goal.
Goals. ERGs often concentrate on cultural awareness, education, mentoring, and advocacy for underrepresented groups within the organization. BRGs are more likely to focus on market research, innovation, talent development, and improving business performance in relation to their specific area of focus.
Alignment. ERGs are closely aligned with DEI initiatives, with the goal of creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace. BRGs, while also supporting DEI efforts, contribute directly to the organization's success.
It's important to note that the terminology and definitions related to ERGs and BRGs can vary across organizations, and some organizations may use the terms interchangeably. The specific roles and functions of these groups may also evolve based on the organization's unique needs and goals, and the demographics of their workforce and market.
Because BRGs are still less common, here we will focus on ERGs. The best practices and steps involved in implementing and leveraging the value of ERGs can readily be applied to BRGs in those organizations that are beginning to shift in this direction.