Meryle Mahrer Kaplan
Meryle Mahrer Kaplan

Increasing Inclusion and the Bottom Line

Why CPA firms should utilize employee resource groups.

September 22, 2011
by Meryle Mahrer Kaplan, PhD

In today’s volatile business world, it is essential for accounting firms to engage employees, develop leaders, expand cross-cultural and global understanding, connect to local communities and enhance the bottom line. One of the best ways to do this is through employee resource groups (ERGs). Catalyst has more than 20 years of experience working with ERGs across a variety of industries and regions.

ERGs are groups of employees in an organization formed to act as a resource for both group members and the organization. ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that can have a few members or a few thousand. They are typically based upon a demographic (e.g., women), life stage (e.g., Generation Y) or function (e.g., sales), but they may also be based on other identities. They are dedicated to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment within the context of the organization’s mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. Catalyst uses the term “ERG” to highlight the resource role that such groups play.

Because ERGs are an important business initiative, Catalyst created a comprehensive set of six concise and actionable tools that shows ERG leaders, human resources (HR) professionals and diversity and inclusion practitioners how to implement and develop an ERG or align an existing ERG with the business strategically to ensure long-term success.

Users learn how to develop the business case, implement a governing structure, elicit support from organizational leaders and revitalize groups that have stalled. In addition, templates such as sample questionnaires and examples of governing charter equip ERG leaders with models they can easily adapt and customize. The six tools are as follows:

ERGs provide their members with professional and personal growth opportunities through access to mentors, trainings, seminars, networking events and other activities. ERGs create an environment for making informal connections and building relationships. They often help members acquire skills that help them better perform their jobs and more manage their careers effectively.

ERGs can also connect similar employees spread across the organization. It is common for Catalyst to hear senior-level women describe the initial women’s ERG gathering as the first time they have ever been with so many of their peers. Indeed, Catalyst research shows that employees with strong relationships with peers and supervisors have increased engagement and commitment to their organizations.

For many organizations, ERGs are a cornerstone to advancing a cultural change that impacts all employees, not just the constituent group. ERGs can benefit employees through the
advancement of organizational goals for inclusion and increases awareness and understanding of cultural issues and opportunities; development of a culture of “allies” that encourages people of all backgrounds — not just the constituent group — to attend events, seminars and workshops; provide marketplace insights to business leaders to help give the organization a competitive advantage; be active in the community thereby building the organization’s reputation; and provide more development opportunities for employees to contribute to the organization’s success.

If your organization is a Catalyst member, you can download the six tools that make up The Catalyst Guide to Employee Resource Groups for free. Find out if your organization is a Catalyst member.

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Meryle Mahrer Kaplan, PhD, leads Advisory Services, which provides strategic consultation and analytical support to Catalyst member companies interested in promoting diversity and inclusion and advancing women.

About Catalyst
Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business, with offices in the United States, Canada and Europe, and more than 400 pre-eminent corporations as members. Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women's advancement with the Catalyst Award.