Team Building: Creating Employee Resource Groups - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Team Building: Creating Employee Resource Groups

Employee resource groups, commonly called ERGs, are employee-led communities with shared identities and interests. They serve as a place employees can network, work on professional development and raise awareness of relevant issues.

While you might think these are only for large corporate entities, ERGs can exist in businesses of any size, as their goal is to create a sense of belonging and allow employees to be their authentic selves.

Types of ERGs

Often ERGs are formed based on a certain demographic like race, gender, or sexuality, but they can also exist for people in certain roles like working parents or remote employees. Each landscape company is different, so the types of ERG you decide to create will depend on the makeup of your employees and their interest in forming a group, as they are the ones who lead the ERG.

SiteOne Landscape Supply has had ERGs since 2017. Since they refer to their employees as associates, their affinity groups are called ARGs. Their first ARG was UN1DOS, which is a Hispanic associate resource group meant to attract and retain engaged and diverse associates while enhancing SiteOne’s understanding of and relationships with Hispanic communities and customers.

Their other four ARGs are:

  • BR1DGE: Black Resource Inclusion and Diversity Group for Excellence, where their mission and goals are to help support and develop Black associates.
  • INSP1RE: INSP1RE creates an inclusive environment where everyone is heard and celebrated and provides a platform to share about Asian/Pacific cultures.
  • VETS1: VETS1 promotes an environment of diverse and engaged associates while developing SiteOne’s understanding of and relationships with veteran associates, customers and communities.
  • W1GG: Women in the Green Growing promotes an environment of diverse and engaged associates while advocating female growth within SiteOne and the green industry.

Each of these groups has a cadence of meetings that include update meetings, speaker series and other events specific to the different groups. SiteOne also promotes their ARGs through their online community, where members can post articles, pictures and discussion topics.

Laura Shartle, SiteOne Landscape Supply’s vice president of talent and org. development, says they inform all associates of these groups to join based on shared characteristics, life experiences and interests to support one another, learn and grow.

“Membership is open to all associates,” Shartle says. “You don’t have to be a Veteran to join VETS1. Joining an ARG means that you are looking for opportunities to support the different groups and their unique needs.”

Benefits of ERGs

Creating ERGs is beneficial because it can help foster an inclusive environment at your workplace. It can provide a sense of belonging for employees who have shared experiences.

These groups can also help boost employee engagement. As these groups meet regularly, these employees can create bonds with one another and feel more connected to your company. They often give underrepresented groups a voice where they can reveal areas your landscape business can improve upon.

At SiteOne, the BR1DGE group established a partnership to help the company recruit diverse candidates from underrepresented populations and now partners with MANNRRS: Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.

Shartle says UN1DOS has helped them understand the importance of Spanish-speaking associates at their branches. The ARG has hosted Spanish language competitions for all associates and encourages conversations and cultural learning. The INSP1RE group has started hosting in-person gatherings for associates to participate in cultural celebrations representing different Asian and Pacific cultures to foster awareness and support inclusion.

The VETS1 group worked with SiteOne’s executive leadership and human resources to offer more robust paid military leave benefits to associates who are U.S. military service members.

ERGs also can also offer personal and professional development opportunities through guest speakers, webinars, book discussions, conferences and skills training. SiteOne’s W1GG group began a mentoring program to foster the development of their associates.

Best Practices

If you want your ERGs to succeed, you need to ensure there is buy-in from both your team members and the leadership team. Shartle says they encourage all leaders to participate in an ARG of their choice.

“All our ARGs are started and led by associates with executive sponsorship,” she says. “This allows for engagement and empowerment driven by the associates, not a mandate from leadership. Reach out to us or others to learn/collaborate.”

Your ERGs should also have a clear purpose or mission. Once you’ve defined goals for your groups, don’t forget to measure their effectiveness regularly. This could mean looking into how the group is aiding in members’ professional development, seeing if it is improving company culture, or increasing hiring rates of diverse candidates.

Check in with your ERG members regularly to see if they feel the resources you provide meet their needs and if the group can improve anywhere.

The more employees involved in your ERGs, the better, so make a point to promote them regularly both internally and externally. Newer employees may not be aware of your groups and job seekers could be attracted to your business as they research your landscape company. Welcoming allies to attend ERG activities can also improve collaboration and understanding within your team.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.