The pandemic has transformed the way we work. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people working from home has increased dramatically. And, despite the fluctuating threat of the pandemic today, remote work only seems to be growing more popular.
But it’s come at a cost.
Many workers are feeling isolated and disconnected. According to a recent study, one in three employees (36 percent) said a top frustration of remote work was feeling disconnected from colleagues. Boomers feel the most disconnected (51 percent, a 4-point increase from last year), which is more than double the 23 percent of Gen Z that reported feeling the same way.2
Creating a culture of inclusivity and belonging in a hybrid and remote environment is more critical than ever.
Enter Associate Resource Groups (ARGs).
Most often referred to as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) — they are called Associate Resource Groups at Securian Financial (Securian). These are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. They’re usually led and participated in by employees who share a characteristic, whether it's gender, ethnicity, lifestyle or interest. The groups are open and allies are encouraged to join.
Anna Dols, Securian Financial Account Executive for Affinity Solutions, has embraced ARGs at Securian. “I try to attend a couple of events of each ARG every year, but I am most connected to Securian Young Professionals Network (SYPN). I have been on the leadership team for SYPN going on three years now and will co-lead in 2023.”
The power of ARGs.
Associate resource groups are powerful resources for facilitating discussions and providing networks for professionals based on shared identities, experiences and allyship. These groups have roots in the desire to advocate for employees and give them a space at work to be their best authentic selves.3
Carlos Gee, Sr. Financial Planning and Analysis Analyst with Securian, said, “Joining an ARG is a fast way to gain support and network with others who are like-minded and in similar situations. It’s helped me to stay connected and build relationships with others that I wouldn’t be able to interact with.” Carlos is active with the Securian Multicultural Network (SMN).
The first group was created in the 1960s at Xerox as a response to racial tensions. Joseph Wilson, the former CEO of Xerox, along with Xerox’s Black employees, launched the National Black Employees Caucus. They wanted to create a space for Black employees to discuss their experiences and advocate for change within their company.3
ARGs are often part of diversity and inclusion efforts, created around shared characteristics or personal traits like ARGs for women employees, members of historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ employees, veteran employees and more. In the past decades, ARGs have expanded to include interest-based groups like working parents and caregivers, the environmentally conscious and mental health advocates.4
Five benefits of ARGs.
Many Securian associates find multiple benefits in getting involved with ARGs. Jessica Li, Securian Product Sr. Analyst, found a home with the Securian Multicultural Network. She said the most notable benefits for her were, “working alongside incredible coworkers to drive impact in our community and across our enterprise allows me to find more meaning in my work. I also find that ARG committee roles enable development of different professional skills that I wouldn't have exposure to in my daily role with my team.”
- Inclusivity. ARGS can help all employees feel a sense of equity and belonging in the workplace.
- Awareness. An inclusive culture is fostered by cultural awareness. ARGs encourage decision-makers and employees to learn more about other cultures, helping companies understand cultural norms that may affect inclusion.
- Support. Employees who are members of ARGs have more resources than non-members. These resources help employees feel supported, which enhances their work life.
- Connection. Groups bring together associates at different levels and across departments to build community. And in our hybrid work environment, building connections is more vital than ever.
- Growth. Dols said it best: “Being on the leadership team of SYPN, I’ve developed my event planning and public speaking/presentation skills through organizing events as well as learning more about mentorship, personal brand and creating goals. This has helped me grow my network and career in a short amount of time.”
The importance of ARGS.
Belonging to an ARG can help employees feel that they can be authentic at work and derive more meaning and purpose from their work.3 ARGs can help build high-trust relationships that help companies thrive. The groups foster a sense of belonging, inspire conversation, bring new ways to look at issues, and drive innovation.