I have always thought of employees as the first responders to a company’s reputation crisis. They are the front lines, but they are also the best responders to change and ideas when it comes to sustainability. Who better to react to your processes than someone who knows them inside and out?
Over the years I have seen a lot of companies ignore employees as a key audience. Either because they think they are achieving engagement through a quarterly newsletter or because they think they know more about what the company is focused on than they actually do. We have surveyed various groups of employees and from time to time the front office is often surprised by our findings.
According to a nationwide study conducted by Rutgers University and funded by The John and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “49 percent of workers who have impact opportunities on the job report high satisfaction levels, compared with 24 percent of those who don’t.” Match that with the number of young graduates looking to make a difference in the job they choose and you have an opportunity for win-win.
Employees are a valuable resource and engaging them on a higher level can often save you time and money, even when it comes to your sustainability efforts.
A recent article in FORTUNE highlighted how Alcoa is now linking sustainability goals and targets to employee pay. This is a prime example of how incentivizing good ideas and success within the company can achieve meaningful results. Getting every employee involved on some level, even with the smallest idea, can pay off.
Whoever thought that a piece of masking tape could save a company thousands of dollars a year? One of our clients did just that; they marked the light switches to verify which ones could be turned off at night. Now multiply that impact through dozens of plants and you’d find that one small piece of masking tape represented sizeable cost savings.
So think about your employees as the frontline and the strategists when you look at sustainability. The next million-dollar idea could come from somewhere you don’t expect.