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New i4cp Report Reveals ERGs as Effective Leadership Development Tool

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are too often (and erroneously) perceived as nice to have workplace networks that help connect employees with similar interests, backgrounds, and experiences. New research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Elevate, however, finds that high-performance organizations view ERGs as strategic leadership development incubators, as well as a critical platform for fostering diversity and inclusivity.  

In a study of 363 employers, i4cp found that high-performance organizations—which i4cp defines as those that consistently outperform their competitors in the marketplace—are 2.5x more likely to describe their employee resource groups as experiential career advancement and leadership development vehicles. We also found that leading an ERG (which previous i4cp research has shown to accelerate leadership development) sets talent up for growth and advancement in their organizations. The data shows that leaders of ERGs in high-performance organizations are:  

  • 3x more likely to cite the ability to strategically impact business results as a key benefit of serving as leader of an employee resource.
  • 2x more likely to cite exposure to senior leaders and increased opportunity to build external reputation.
  • 1.5x more likely to cite inclusion on interesting or challenging projects

The high-performance firms taking part in this study also have lofty expectations for the executive sponsors who sign on to help steer these groups and take steps to ensure their alignment with business goals. For instance, 63% of high-performance organizations expect executive sponsors to serve as coaches/mentors to ERG leaders

These same companies are also 5x more likely to make observing and sourcing ERG members for leadership potential part of the executive sponsor role. In fact, high-performance organizations are twice as likely to view the executive sponsor role as a leadership development opportunity in and of itself.  

Froedtert Health plans to use the insights gained from this research to create a strategic road map for the Milwaukee-based health network’s employee resource groups, says Andres Gonzalez, the organization’s vice president and chief diversity officer.  

“This leadership development study affirmed that employee resource groups provide great value to their members, their respective organizations/employers and external practices, such as brand ambassadors that aid in attracting the next generation of leaders into the organizations,” says Gonzalez.  

“As I reflected on the findings, I became energized, as it affirmed a number of key insights I have experienced,” he adds, “but have never quantified and/or qualified via a research study.” 

i4cp members: download the research report.