Make it easy for your staff to be green!
At the minute I am spending the bulk of my project time engaging clients’ staff members in sustainability with the aim of changing their attitudes and behaviour. I’ve talked about some of the techniques I use elsewhere, but one issue that keeps coming up is non-green behaviour is often easier than green. It stands to reason that if you expect your staff to act green, you’ve got to make it easy for them – if you want someone to use a recycling bin, then don’t stick it at the end of the corridor, put it by their desk.
A great recent example was a session where someone complained that no-one was using the company’s teleconferencing system. When we explored why not, we discovered that in order to calculate the financial benefits of the system the company made it a condition of booking that a calculation of avoided staff travel time and travel costs had to be included. So you’d have to sit down and work out where everyone was coming from, how they were travelling, how long it would take them, what each person’s hourly cost was and what fares/hire car charges/mileage they would incur. And then add it all up and then you could use the system.
Most people are unfamiliar with teleconferencing, so by putting this extra burden on “good” behaviour, staff were just sticking to the same old “bad” behaviour they were used to – booking a conference room and letting everyone make their own travel arrangements. You can hardly blame them.
This is known in the trade as a “perverse incentive”. If you want your staff to act in a certain way, you have to make sure that the architecture of choices (to borrow from the book Nudge which is all about this type of thinking) always makes it easy to take the green choice and harder to take the non-green choice.
A positive example of this I came across recently with another client was they had changed their travel booking so that booking a train fare was done in house for you, but if you wanted a short haul flight, you had to book and pay for it yourself and claim back the cost. So while you still had the choice, it was much more of a hassle to fly.
One option I always offer to my clients is to capture these issues because they are often below the radar issues that only emerge when I challenge attendees to think of solutions. Not only does the client get an extremely useful “to fix” list, the attendees feel empowered and much more likely to engage properly both inside the session and afterwards.