LinkedIn is joining the short list of employers that financially reward the volunteer leaders of their employee resource groups (ERGs), also known as affinity or business resource groups (BRGs). Its 20 ERG global co-chairs will receive $10,000 for each year of their two-year terms. The payment is separate from compensation for performing their core role.
"We are at a point in our company history where our ERGs have reached a level of operational excellence, cultural transformation and powerful retention impact," said Meredith Morales, SHRM-CP, LinkedIn's senior diversity, inclusion and belonging program manager. "We knew it was time to design our systems of recognition and appreciation to more fully demonstrate the value we see in the contributions of our ERG leaders."
LinkedIn's ERGs have evolved over the years, and its 10 groups now encompass employees who are age 40 and older, Asian, Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+, parents, veterans, women, and people with disabilities. Another group focuses on cultural, nationality and ethnic diversity. There are more than 6,000 ERG members and allies worldwide. In addition to the global ERG co-chairs, there are more than 500 ERG leaders.
"ERG leaders put in time and effort alongside their core job responsibilities to accomplish large-scale strategic plans and programming," Morales pointed out.
These leaders, she added, have powerful teams and a member base "that is active in work streams related to developing the culture of the ERG, advancing their careers, connecting with the external community and influencing our products." They create communities where underrepresented and historically excluded groups of people feel a sense of belonging, Morales said.
Global co-chairs periodically meet with their ERG executive sponsors—two executive-level champions who offer strategic-planning advice and ongoing feedback and serve as personal leadership coaches to the global co-chairs.
LinkedIn talked with other companies about how they demonstrate appreciation for their ERG leaders, and while career mentoring and professional development were common, few offered any monetary recognition.
Twitter announced in 2020 that it was introducing a new compensation program to formally recognize its BRG global leadership team. On June 1, 2020, HR outsourcing company Justworks launched a one-year pilot reward program for its ERG leaders, which includes cash compensation, stock options, budget to participate in external ERG conferences, access to management coaching, and optional formal mentorship.
Justworks introduced ERGs in 2017, and today there are seven, in addition to a diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) book club and newsletter.
"At any company, it takes a special kind of person to take on additional responsibilities and accountabilities—often for a whole demographic group—without consistent formal recognition and/or rewards," wrote Michael Baptiste, DE&I director at Justworks, in a blog announcing the program. "However, given the nature of what ERG leads typically do, and the positive impact of their work, one has to wonder why formally rewarding ERG leads for their contributions is not an automatic consideration for most businesses."
Morales said the contributions ERG co-chairs make to LinkedIn's culture and business decisions are huge: "They often have a seat at the table to weigh in on product and member initiatives, receive unique opportunities to gain experience leading large global teams or projects, and receive coaching and career advocacy from our most senior executive leaders."
Applicants for a global co-chair position at LinkedIn must have the recommendation of their manager and go through a rigorous, monthlong selection process that includes interviews with ERG leaders. The positions are highly competitive, she said, and attract several global candidates every year.
Dalana Brand, vice president of people experience and head of inclusion and diversity at Twitter, expressed delight at LinkedIn's decision to recognize its global ERG co-chairs with a financial award.
"It's exciting to see more companies compensate their ERG leaders," she tweeted. "I'm beyond proud that @Twitter's global BRG leaders have been formally compensated since last year. At 11 BRGs, 60+ leaders and growing, this work does not stop."