Employees start to flex their muscles on Sustainability
For the last ten years or so I’ve been starting my workshops with the killer question “Why should your business take Sustainability seriously?” Then I would shut up and wait for the participants to start suggesting answers.
Back at the start, the two first answers were invariably “save money” and “legislation”. More recently, customer demand started to bubble towards the top of the list, but if I wanted to get “employee demand” or “recruitment and retention” on the list at all, I would have to wait a long time for heads to be scratched and air to be sucked through teeth first. But in the last month or so, I’ve run four workshops, involving at least 40 small business owners and the leadership team of a larger corporate client – and the employee angle came up right at the start in all four.
Now, it has been well known for at least that decade that organisations with a better Sustainability record had better recruitment and retention rates. But what has changed, in my experience, is that business leaders now seem more aware of that and they can only be aware of that if their employees and/or potential recruits are telling them that this is an important issue.
This is vitally important as it appears that Sustainability is a gateway to the holy grail of ’employee engagement’, the degree to which staff are emotionally engaged to their job. Businesses with a high degree of employee engagement out perform those with low levels of engagement by a significant degree on every performance metric you can imagine from profitability to sickness absence.
On a practical level, it means the Sustainability Strategy must involve employees and their concerns to facilitate engagement. While I’m a big proponent of using the 80:20 rule to accelerate Sustainability, employee engagement may involve sweating the little stuff (eg single use plastics in the cafeteria) if that’s what they are concerned about. And the only way to find out what they are concerned about is to ask them!