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Employee Resource Groups

The first Employee Resource Groups—ERGs—were developed in response to racial climate conditions at Xerox nearly 60 years ago. Today, it is estimated that 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs of some type to promote employee well-being and retention. There are also numerous academic institutions with ERGs along with research supporting the value of ERGs for employees in higher education (Gómez, 2020).

Introducing Whitman ERGs

Whitman ERGs are voluntary organizations—in the tradition of the numerous student groups—that emerge on campus and engage in activities intended to contribute to the well-being, success and retention of their peers. ERGs, we believe, can make a meaningful contribution to the Whitman community and employee experience. The Division of Inclusive Excellence, with the approval of the Whitman College Cabinet, is unveiling this pilot ERG program.

ERGs will be formally recognized entities and receive institutional sponsorship to support their activities (up to $2,500.00/year). ERG activities can occur during the workday or outside of the regular work schedule and both exempt and nonexempt employees can participate in up to two ERGs (with supervisor approval*) without penalty or loss of compensation—up to 2 hours/week.

An ERG can be focused on a particular identity (e.g. disability, LGBTQIA2S+, race or ethnic identity, International or Global, religious/spiritual, veterans, etc.) or shared interest (knitting, gaming, outdoor adventure, etc.), but similar to our student clubs, any approved ERG must be open to all employees of Whitman College. A minimum of 5 members are needed to establish an ERG at Whitman. ERGs are expected to support groups of employees across, rather than within, specific campus roles, Divisions or functional areas. An application for an ERG that is exclusively for staff or exclusively for faculty, for instance, will not be approved for sponsorship.

Establishing an ERG

At this time, we are prepared to sponsor and support the establishment of six unique ERGs and employees can submit an application to establish an ERG. Learn more information about ERGs.

In reviewing ERG applications, sponsorship prioritization will be based on the following criteria:

  • Does the ERG address an institutional need reflected in the college’s climate data?
  • Does the ERG provide support for a minoritized community in Walla Walla?
  • Does the ERG advance a DEIAA strategic priority?
  • Does the ERG make an additive contribution to existing community resources?

An ERG does not need to meet all of these criteria to be approved, but in the event that we receive applications for more ERGs than we can effectively sponsor, the listed priorities will be used to determine which ERG applications will be approved for sponsorship. Prior to implementing the prioritization framework, an effort will be made to secure additional funding to support staff interest in ERGs. Our hope is to approve every ERGs application that comes through, but we will apply the prioritization framework only if necessary and additional ERGs will be approved if and when the needed resources become available.

Approved ERGs must maintain a member roster, adhere to institutional policies related to spending (all expenditures must be pre-approved by the Division of Inclusive Excellence), establish a set of bylaws or a charter that defines the ERG’s purpose, and complete an annual report (additional details regarding yearly reporting below). Where appropriate, established ERGs will be expected to serve as a resource for prospective employees and should be available for administrative consultation regarding relevant institutional retention efforts.

ERGs will require renewal each year and to be considered for renewal, ERGs must submit a summary report to diversity@whitman.edu describing: the programming/events organized by the ERG in the past year, an updated member roster; any changes to the ERG’s functioning for the coming year and summarizing the ERG’s contribution to the Whitman employee experience.

Notable Restrictions

ERGs are not eligible for DEIA Cultivation grant funding, but may be approved for additional funds from the college to support their activities when available.

These guidelines presuppose one hour of ERG engagement each week as a cap. A second hour of ERG engagement may be provided to enable participation with a second ERG. Supervisor approval is required for ERG participation during work hours and approval, once granted, is understood to be in place until rescinded. Participation in ERG activities (e.g. meetings, receptions) scheduled during regular work hours (8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m.) will be compensable.

Participation in ERG activities scheduled outside of regular work hours (including the lunch hour) will not be compensable. Participation in ERG activities organized outside of regular work hours and off-campus is at the discretion of the employee and will also not be compensable. ERG funds can be used to support approved off-campus activities.

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