By: Cindy Carleton, Manager, Brand Strategy & Creative Services, Valassis
Published Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017
Like-groups of people have always sought ways to connect both personally and within the corporate culture. Affinity Groups (AG), Employee Resource Groups (ERG), and Business Resource Groups (BRG) are a means for diverse groups of employees to share experiences and have a voice in the corporate world. While originally initiated to address and inspire affirmative-action advocacy, each evolution of these groups has provided growth opportunities, experiences and solutions to corporate concerns outside of that original intent. With minimal structure, a tie to the business plan and the space to build organically, BRGs can become an asset for solving short and long-term internal and external issues.
Early on, as corporations embraced a global economy and workforce, a focus on diversity and inclusion created the need for under-represented groups to connect. These Affinity Groups offered a community where members of similar characteristics and backgrounds could share experiences in a welcoming environment. They continue to provide social networks essential to employee satisfaction, and drive increased loyalty among peers and companies.
The addition of basic structure and goals furthers the opportunity to leverage unique perspectives and relationships. The more structured Employee Resource Group and its connection to the business, has proven invaluable in understanding employees, clients and global consumers.
Business Resource Groups are “about”, not “for” a particular employee or customer demographic, with optimal membership comprised of a broad, diverse representation of a company. Successful BRGs embrace group knowledge and connect it to the business plan. The alignment to business goals, when successfully leveraged, not only drives efforts to recruit, retain and develop employees, but enables the group to become a powerful tool for testing new products, employee programs and innovation concepts.
Skilled and Agile
Strategy, operations, project management, data analytics and marketing skills are all represented in a diverse BRG. More importantly, members have an insatiable desire for professional development and a drive to showcase skills that may be underutilized in their day-to-day activities.
The separation from corporate processes and manageable size of these task groups allows for quick attention and the agility needed to test and change direction easily and efficiently.
“Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast.” — Tom Peters
Risk aversion is said to be the greatest barrier to innovation – tear it down with BRGs. The volunteer structure provides a skilled labor pool that requires little, if any, additional cost or training. The internal development, analysis and focus group opportunities keep the entire process in-house – controlled, but unencumbered by corporate process or politics. The impartial environment allows the necessary space and time to “get messy” and dig into innovation. Whether positive or negative, the results have little if any immediate effect on company or brand and can be addressed, when appropriate.
Unwillingness to take personal risk is also minimized within the culture of a BRG. Professional development is the number one reason employees join a BRG. Members are enthusiastic about learning and the opportunity to grow their careers and make a positive impact. The small, controlled parameters typical of BRG projects represent minimal personal risk to employees looking for opportunities to showcase abilities, demonstrate outside skills or flex leadership muscles.
As companies strive to understand key employee, customer and consumer groups, BRGs will continue to deliver exceptional insight. Stopping there would be to fall short of realizing the full potential a skilled, passionate and agile workforce can provide and to miss the opportunity to leverage the optimal test structure BRGs offer. Add the insights and conduit to the global marketplace Business Resource Groups can bring, and they can become part of the value proposition to clients and community.