Survey: Do You Have an Election Process or Succession Plan for Your ERG Leaders?

Anisha Nandi
Anisha Nandi
Co-Founder, CEO

As an Employee Resource Group (ERG) Program Manager, it can be challenging to know how and when to elect new ERG Leaders. Founding members often hold significant institutional knowledge and pride in their progress, making the transition to new leadership a nuanced task.

To better understand how companies are approaching this process, we polled our community of DEI and ERG Program Managers from various industries to understand their practices regarding ERG leadership elections. This guide aims to assist any ERG Program Manager in establishing the right process for their organization.

What is a Succession Process?

A succession process is a structured approach to transitioning leadership roles within an organization. In the context of ERGs, it involves planning and executing the election or appointment of new leaders to ensure continuity and sustained momentum of the group's initiatives.

Why Would a Company Enact One?

Implementing a succession process for ERG leadership has several benefits:

  • Continuity: Ensures the group’s objectives and activities continue seamlessly.
  • Leadership Development: Provides opportunities for members to step into leadership roles, fostering personal and professional growth.
  • Operational Efficiency: Reduces the risk of disruptions in ERG activities due to leadership vacancies.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Encourages diverse voices and perspectives within the leadership team.

We Asked PMs, Here’s What They Told Us

We surveyed DEI and ERG Program Managers by asking them "When do you elect new ERG Leaders?" Here are the results:

Pie chart detailing the results of the survey
  • Q1: 17%
  • Q2: 7%
  • Q3: 15%
  • Q4: 31%
  • No process: 30%

Key Takeaways

  • Two-thirds of companies have a formal election process, while one-third do not have a set process.
  • Many of the companies without a process have younger ERG programs and rely on ad hoc election procedures to backfill leadership roles when needed.
  • Programs without a formal process often have a defined intention to develop one as they mature.
  • Q3 and Q4 are popular times for elections, with many acknowledging that this period allows for a “back half of the year” process that may spill into Q4.
  • Some companies hold elections twice a year (e.g., Q1 and Q3) to stagger terms and ensure leadership continuity.
  • Companies electing leaders in Q4 often emphasize the importance of year-round leadership development and candidate pipeline building.

Verbate’s Best Practices for Implementing a Succession Process

1. Staggering Leadership Terms

What: Stagger the terms of ERG leaders to ensure not all leaders transition at the same time, providing stability and ongoing mentorship.

Why: Staggering terms helps maintain continuity and reduces the learning curve for new leaders. This approach prevents a complete turnover of leadership, allowing for experienced leaders to mentor incoming ones, thus preserving institutional knowledge and ensuring a smoother transition. It also avoids periods where the ERG might lack direction due to an entirely new leadership team.

2. Role of Alums

What: Involve outgoing leaders in the onboarding and mentoring of new leaders.

Why: Outgoing leaders hold valuable institutional knowledge and can provide crucial support to new leaders. This involvement helps ensure that the ERG maintains its momentum and that new leaders do not feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Additionally, it fosters a culture of collaboration and continuity, making the transition period more manageable for everyone involved.

3. Creating a Pool of Qualified Candidates

What: Build a pipeline of potential leaders through committee involvement, internal marketing, and leadership development programs.

Why: A ready pool of qualified candidates ensures that leadership roles are filled by individuals who are prepared and enthusiastic. This proactive approach prevents last-minute scrambles to find leaders and ensures a steady flow of fresh talent and perspectives. It also allows for diverse voices to be heard, enriching the ERG’s activities and aligning more closely with the needs and interests of its members.

4. Election Cadences Create a Leadership Development Program Vibe

What: Regular election cycles can be framed as part of a broader leadership development initiative.

Why: Framing election cycles as part of a leadership development program encourages members to view leadership roles as growth opportunities. This approach not only attracts motivated candidates but also integrates leadership development into the core of the ERG’s mission. Many companies are ramping up their ERG Leads by enrolling them into an ERG Leadership Program like Verbate's, which ramps them up quickly by giving them best practices and resources. This approach, which is similar to how best-in-class companies treat emerging leader or new manager training, transforms the ERG into a platform for personal and professional growth, benefiting both the individuals involved and the organization as a whole.

5. Give Yourself Enough Time

What: Start the election process early enough to allow for a smooth transition, including time for nominations, elections, and onboarding.

Why: Starting the process early ensures that there is ample time for each step, preventing rushed decisions and allowing for a thorough evaluation of candidates. A well-paced process minimizes stress for all involved and ensures that new leaders are well-prepared to take on their roles. This foresight contributes to a seamless transition, maintaining the ERG’s momentum and effectiveness.

The Importance of Succession Planning

Succession planning for ERGs is crucial for several reasons:

  • Preventing Stagnation: Leaders who stay too long in their roles may become entrenched in their ways, potentially turning the ERG into a personal fiefdom and losing touch with the members’ evolving needs. Regular succession ensures fresh perspectives and prevents any one leader from dominating the group.
  • Leadership Development: Leading an ERG is an excellent opportunity for employees to develop leadership skills. Regular succession broadens the availability of these opportunities, helping more employees grow and advance in their careers.
  • Avoiding Burnout: Leadership roles can be demanding, and burnout is a significant challenge in the ERG space. Providing a clear path for leaders to step down and return to their regular duties without stigma is essential for maintaining their well-being and productivity.
  • Infusing New Energy: New leaders bring fresh ideas and energy to the ERG. Regularly changing leadership can reinvigorate the group, keeping its activities dynamic and aligned with the current interests and needs of its members.

Example Timeline for ERG Leader Elections

  • September/October: Open applications with a “Passion Piece” submission on why they'd like to be an ERG Leader.
  • October/November: Review and score applications; notify selected leaders.
  • December/January: Transition, onboarding and training period.


Establishing a well-structured succession plan for your ERG leaders is crucial for the sustainability and success of your ERG programs. By adopting best practices such as staggering terms, involving outgoing leaders, creating a candidate pool, and starting the process early, you can ensure a smooth transition and continued growth of your ERGs.

Join Our Community!

To discuss topics like this and learn how to run an amazing program, join us at our free Monthly ERG/DEIB Program Manager Meet Up. Share insights, network with peers, and enhance your ERG leadership strategies. Sign up here.

Verbate is a company that supports hundreds of ERG Leaders and Program Managers. They gather insights and data from these leaders across the space, and share it to increase knowledge about what makes ERGs resilient over time.

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