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What's a BRG? Business Resource Groups...

What's a BRG? Business Resource Groups Seem Poised to Replace ERGs

In recent years, there has been a trend toward a BRG model which links ERG groups directly to business goals. So what's a BRG? Read more to find out.

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Location marker surrounded by groups of individuals representing business resource groups (BRG).

While many companies have employee resource groups (ERGs) or affinity groups, not as many are leveraging business resource groups (BRGs) in more strategic, business outcome-aligned ways. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but their participation and purpose are quite different. 

ERG vs BRG: An important, and emerging, distinction

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. Organizations could, for instance, utilize a BRG to support and drive pay equity issues. The group’s makeup could support intersectionality and communication/connections between diverse groups. 

Boston College notes that, as far back as 2015, Welbourne, Rolf & Schlacter suggested that the term “business resource group” would be “used more often to emphasize the benefits of ERGs to both employees and organizations.”

The purpose of BRGs

Seramount points out that: “In recent years, there has been a trend toward the BRG model, which emphasizes the importance of allies and advocacy. This model introduces metrics and performance evaluations for leaders and links the groups directly to business goals.” There are three essential factors for achieving that alignment, they say:

  • A sufficient budget to cover the group’s needs, which could also be augmented by fundraising.

  • The support of professional growth for BRG members.

  • Providing access to resources to support BRG needs. This, they say, “can include survey software, design software, internal communications, social media platforms, mailing lists, specific video chat profiles for the group, planning and collaboration tools such as Google Drive or Box, and access to the company’s intranet.”

At IBM, for instance, BRGs are designed to: “tie directly into our diversity strategy and voluntarily bring together talented groups of diverse IBM professionals with the ultimate goal of enhancing the success of IBM’s business objectives by helping members succeed in the workplace.” As part of their charters, IBM’s BRGs “align their programs and initiatives with at least one of four IBM business and talent workstreams: recruitment and hiring, talent development, employee retention, and market development.”

The timing is likely right for this distinction, as many organizations remain concerned about economic uncertainty on the horizon.

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Are ERGs fading away?

When budgets are tight organizations often tighten their belts, shifting focus from areas that may not immediately provide “dark green” bottom-line benefits. Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, unfortunately, often fall into this category. 

The use of ERGs—and even the support of roles like Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs)—is on the wane, some sources indicate. For instance:

  • CNBC reported that: “According to new research from Glassdoor, in September 2017, 27% of companies reviewed on the site indicated corporate investment into DEI programs like Employee Resource Groups. Access to DEI programs surged to 39% in 2020 before peaking to 43% in 2021. This year, however, that number has reduced to 41%.

  • The Washington Post has reported that: “A report from the workforce intelligence company Revelio Labs found that attrition rates for DEI roles have been outpacing those of non-DEI positions in mor than 600 U.S. companies that laid off workers since late 2020—and the attrition rates have increased in the past six months.”

Concerns about recession have caused many organizations to become much more growth and revenue-focused—and in more strategic and mindful ways. Organizations also recognize the power of diverse viewpoints and points of view, something that has been objectively supported by organizations like McKinsey and other analysts. 

ERGs have tended to be more relationship-focused than strategically focused. BRGs are bridging the gap here. They still help to maintain a focus on DEI while, at the same time, demonstrating real, bottom-line business benefits. It’s a way for organizations to tangibly reap the benefits of DEI that McKinsey and others stress are there to be leveraged. 

Starting a BRG, three ideas

Organizations can successfully make the shift from, or augment the existence of, traditional ERGs, but aligning BRGs more specifically to bottom-line business goals. For instance:

  1. Is your organization attempting to expand into a new, global market? Perhaps staff members who reflect that market could come together in a BRG to develop strategies for that expansion.

  2. Are you ramping up efforts to ensure your talent acquisition practices help to build a diverse workforce? A BRG focused on recruitment could bring employees from across various demographic groups together to support this.

  3. Does your company need to do a better job of supporting the social elements of its ESG (environmental, social, governance) initiatives? A cross-section of staff members could come together in a BRG to explore opportunities to do this in measurable ways.

The key is ensuring business alignment between these groups and core company initiatives. Relationship-building will, of course, continue to be part of the benefit provided. But a shift to a more strategic, company goal-supporting emphasis can help sustain these groups and the many benefits they provide.

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On the Outsmart blog, we write about workforce-related topics like what makes a good manager, how to reduce employee turnover, and reskilling employees. We also report on trending topics like ESG and EU CSRD requirements and preparing for a recession, and advise on HR best practices like how to create a strategic compensation strategymetrics every CHRO should track, and connecting people data to business data. But if you really want to know the bread and butter of Visier, read our post about the benefits of people analytics.

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