By Barbara Frankel
I recently visited a company that has gone out of its way to have cute names for its employee resource groups. Really, someone must have spent many hours thinking up these names and feeling very clever. Unfortunately, no one knows what most of these resource groups are about, and participation in these groups is lower than the DiversityInc Top 50 average.
This got me thinking: Could there be a correlation between clarity of name and participation? I ran a test of 10 companies with clear names and 10 with ultra-cute names. The companies with clear names averaged 27 percent of U.S. employees participating in employee resource groups (the DiversityInc Top 50 average is 23 percent). The companies with “cute” names averaged 14 percent.
Here are five tips on what—and what not—to call your employee resource group:
Avoid complicated acronyms. These are confusing and don’t clearly get the messaging across. A few examples: CARES (Creating Awareness Recognition Encouragement Support of Military Veterans and Their Families), SAGE (Supporting Advances in Generational Empowerment), BRIDGE (Build Relationships in Diverse Group Environments). That last one is actually the African-American group. You get the point—no one can figure out what the acronym stands for and it isn’t even clear what the group is without the lengthy explanation.
Have the name of the demographic group in the title. If the group is about women, or Hispanic/Latino employees, or people with disabilities, say that. Increasingly, companies call their groups the Hispanic Employee Resource Group or the Women’s Business Resource Group. It may not be marketing clever but it gets the message across clearly. If you want to have a mission statement for the group that discusses its focus, that’s fine (as long as that focus aligns with business goals), but keep it out of the title. Keep it short, simple and focused.
Try really hard not to be esoteric. One company that has a religious employee resource group for Christians calls it Salt. Another calls its group for people with disabilities Trailblazers. While these are well-meaning names, they don’t tell the average employee what the group is about.
Ensure your LGBT group and your disability group have the word “allies” or “friends” in their title. While all good employee resource groups are open to EVERYONE, these two groups in particular need to stress, in their titles, that they are not only for people in that demographic. There are two reasons for that: 1) not everyone is “out” about orientation or disability, and joining a group that is specifically identified as only for that demographic makes some people uncomfortable, and 2) inviting straight people or people without disabilities to be full partners enhances the credibility and effectiveness of these groups.
Think about what these groups are called in general. Most of the DiversityInc Top 50 now call their groups “employee resource groups” or, increasingly, “business resource groups.” That name indicates they are helping the company with its goals. Calling a group a “network” implies it is more about socializing, and calling it an “affinity group” sends the signal that it is exclusive to members of that demographic.