As companies prioritize workplace mental health, employee resource groups (ERGs) offer a proven model and established channels to drive meaningful progress. In fact, 79% of companies say ERGs already strengthen employee well-being and mental health — creating an opportunity to build on what is working with a more specific mental health focus.
First created in the 1970s, today 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs. These groups provide a community and forum for employees with shared identities and interests, such as Black employees, veterans, those with disabilities, and more. Members can connect with colleagues, find peer support, discuss shared challenges and potential solutions, share stories, and celebrate identities and experiences. Naturally, these connections provide powerful mental health benefits.
However, the greatest impact can come with an ERG specifically focused on mental health. This enables the group to concentrate its efforts on fighting the stigma of mental illness, creating mental health resources, and reaching those who are struggling. The mental health ERG can then partner with other employee groups to provide these resources and education to existing, trusted communities.
This approach builds on the advantages that organizations already see from ERGs. A 2021 Salesforce study found that 91% of companies connected ERGs with a boost in company culture, and more than 50% saw benefits for recruiting, retention, and participation in HR focus groups. These groups have long been a mainstay of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, serving a two-fold purpose of advancing that work and creating a network to support those who do.
Now is the time to bring this momentum to the next emerging workplace priority: mental health. By promoting social contact, peer support, and education, a mental health ERG can be the ideal vehicle for workplace mental health. To get started, companies can see Mind Share Partners “How to Create an ERG for Mental Health Toolkit,” alongside a virtual ERG community and peer discussion guide.
The toolkit includes steps to:
1. Make the case for a mental health ERG by communicating its value to senior leaders and other employees.
2. Design the ERG with the right mission, structure, activities, name, audience, and communications strategy.
3. Collaborate with HR and Legal to navigate any applicable regulations and policies, keeping the group inclusive and safe.
4. Engage all staff using a variety of communication channels.
5. Plan meaningful activities with a portfolio based on company culture and the needs of employees.
When companies get it right, they can create innovative programs with reach and impact. As One Mind at Work reported in a previous CHRO Insights report, Johnson & Johnson’s Mental Health Diplomats Program, part of the Alliance for Diverse Abilities ERG, has engaged more than 600+ employees in 21 countries to champion mental health with their peers and networks.
ERGs are already a powerful grassroots approach to create inclusive, connected, healthy workplaces. With a mental health focus, they can achieve even more. As the center for employees to share stories, get support, and find resources, a mental health ERG can serve as a core element of an effective strategy on workplace mental health.