How to Train Your ERG Leaders for Maximum Impact: A Guide for DEI Program Managers

Anisha Nandi
Anisha Nandi
Co-Founder, CEO


Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have emerged as an indispensable vehicle for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in today's evolving corporate landscape. As a DEI Program Manager at a company with a large workforce of over 300 employees, you hold the steering wheel that guides these crucial initiatives. Your role entails, among other responsibilities, the effective training and management of ERG leaders. Success in this aspect can considerably amplify your organization's DEI efforts, making them more ingrained in the company culture. This guide aims to provide you with a robust roadmap for training ERG leaders, so you can foster an empowered and influential team of ERG leaders.

Identifying Potential ERG Leaders

Selecting the right individuals to lead your ERGs isn't merely about scanning existing leaders or standout performers within your organization. Rather, think of ERG leadership as an emerging leadership development program. This perspective opens up a new pool of candidates: those who are hungry for leadership opportunities but haven't yet had the chance to demonstrate their potential. Seek out employees who show an eagerness to learn the ropes of leadership—those who want to think strategically, manage a budget, and interface with company executives. These are often people who are highly motivated but might be overlooked in traditional leadership pipelines. Offering them a chance to spearhead an ERG can serve dual purposes: it nurtures future organizational leaders while providing your ERGs with enthusiastic, committed figures at the helm.

Setting Clear Objectives and Expectations

Training effective ERG leaders starts with establishing a clear framework of objectives and expectations.

First, regularly meet with your leaders to align on the overarching goals of the organization are in relation to ERGs. For instance, are the ERGs expected to enrich company culture, bolster employee engagement, or perhaps serve as a think tank for diversity innovation? Understanding these high level goals helps align the ERG's mission with that of the broader organization.

Second, work closely with the ERG leaders to define the specific objectives of their individual groups. Whether it's fostering a supportive environment for minority groups, influencing company policy, or driving community outreach initiatives, the goals should be clearly articulated and measurable.

Finally, provide a detailed outline of what the role of an ERG leader entails. Clearly define the scope of their responsibilities, decision-making authority, and the resources available to them. If done correctly, this should empower the ERG Leader rather than feel limiting - ERG work can be expansive, and focused leaders with a clear sense of direction are generally more likely to achieve their goals over time.

Foundational Training Topics

Effective ERG leadership requires a multi-faceted skill set. To ensure your ERG leaders are well-equipped for the challenge, consider incorporating the following foundational training topics:

DEI Best Practices

To lead an ERG effectively, a strong foundation in DEI principles is crucial. Training modules in this category should cover key areas such as unconscious bias, allyship, and inclusive language. Understanding these best practices ensures that leaders can foster an environment that is genuinely inclusive and respectful of all viewpoints.

Setting Mission, Vision, and Group Identity

An ERG without a clear mission or vision is like a ship without a compass. Leaders need to understand how to craft these statements and instill a strong group identity. Workshops or brainstorming sessions can be particularly helpful in this area, teaching leaders how to create compelling and aspirational statements that align with organizational goals.

ERG Communication & Chat

Effective communication is the backbone of any successful ERG. Leaders should be trained in various communication techniques, from active listening to public speaking. Emphasize the importance of transparent and inclusive dialogue within the group, as well as how to communicate the ERG's initiatives to the broader organization.

Intersectionality (Collaborating Between Groups)

In today’s diverse workplace, ERGs often represent a variety of identities and interests. Training in intersectionality can help leaders understand how different groups intersect and how they can collaborate for greater impact. This knowledge enables ERGs to work together effectively, breaking down silos and enhancing overall DEI efforts.

Tentpole Events

ERGs frequently host events as a way to drive engagement and accomplish specific objectives. Leaders should be educated on how to plan, execute, and evaluate tentpole events, be they panel discussions, community outreach programs, or celebratory functions. Effective event management is key to establishing the ERG’s presence within the organization.

Influencing Without Authority

ERG leaders often need to effect change without having formal authority. Training modules should teach strategies for influencing organizational behavior and decision-making. Whether it’s lobbying for policy changes or garnering support for initiatives, understanding how to influence without authority is a vital skill.

Measuring Success

Last but not least, ERG leaders should know how to measure the success of their initiatives. Training should cover establishing key performance indicators (KPIs), conducting member surveys, and utilizing analytics tools to evaluate impact. Understanding these metrics allows leaders to demonstrate the value of the ERG to the organization, securing ongoing support and resources.


Training new ERG leaders is a nuanced task that involves a lot more than a one-off workshop or a checklist of dos and don'ts. If you're looking for a structured, community-driven approach to ERG leadership development, consider the Verbate ERG Leadership Community. Members get access to Verbate's foundational training programs, where they can delve into everything from DEI best practices to measuring success.

Additionally, the Community is a place where ERG leaders can collaborate and learn from each other. It’s often said that the best learning comes from doing and from sharing experiences with peers who are on the same journey. Beyond the live learning elements, the Verbate Resource Library offers a wealth of turnkey guides and templates that your ERG leaders can immediately put to use.

The objective is simple: to make your ERGs as impactful as possible. By equipping your leaders through the Verbate ERG Leadership Community, you're taking a significant step towards achieving that goal while contributing to a more inclusive, equitable work environment.

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