The Case for Employee Resource Groups: A Review and Social Identity Theory-Based Research Agenda

Theresa M. Welbourne (CEO), Skylar Rolf (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), and Steven Schlachter (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
November 2016

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that employee resource groups (ERGs) are a valuable addition to organizations and should be an important focus of research, particularly given the diversity and inclusion challenges faced by many businesses and communities today.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors review the ERG literature, develop a theoretical framework using social identity theory and suggest research directions.

Findings – ERGs represent a fairly unexplored area of research. Using social identity theory (SIT), a series of propositions are presented for research into ERG effects on individual, group and organizational outcomes.

Research limitations/implications – ERGs have impact beyond the topics explored using SIT. As ERGs become more prominent, there is ample room to conduct empirical research to learn more about the underlying process by which ERGs are affecting identity and employee integration (or lack of) into groups and organizations.

Originality/value – Despite their prevalence in the business world, there has been a scarce amount of theorizing and research focused on ERGs. To help facilitate the development of this work, the authors introduce a theoretical framework using social identity theory, as well as propositions that can serve to spur additional research on a critical topic for today’s businesses.

Keywords – Employee resource groups (ERGs), diversity, inclusion, human resource management, affinity groups

Paper type – Conceptual paper

G16-10 (677)