Greenbiz recently published an article on the topic of how to know if employee engagement in sustainability is working. There are some good tips in the article, such as including both commitment and awareness, and tying sustainability efforts to overall employee satisfaction. But the article could have focused more on HOW to do these things in a meaningful way. Here are three additional suggestions based on our work engaging employees at large companies:
1. Many company-wide surveys these days include a question about whether an employee would recommend the company to a friend as a great place to work, and some surveys also measuring engagement in sustainability programs. A statistical analysis of the responses on these two questions can show the impact of sustainability engagement on the likelihood of a great-place-to-work with a high degree of statistical accuracy. Monitoring the statistical coefficients and p-value over time shows whether your employee engagement is really working. For example, one company we advised found that, while most employees agreed that sustainability was important, the impact of impact of sustainability on whether the employee would recommend the company was statistically very weak. The CSR leadership had its work cut out for it.
2. Measure awareness of your sustainability program by asking employees about it, keeping the methodology consistent to create a simple “message penetration index” of your communications success. For example, at one company where 94 percent of employees said sustainability is important, only 47 percent of employees correctly answered three very basic questions about the company’s recent sustainability news.
3. Set up engagement programs with specific goals, timeframes and metrics to determine your level of success, rather than than just managing an endless loop of activity. For instance, measuring energy use from lights and computers before and after a major communications campaign will yield useful information, whereas simply telling employees to turn off lights and computers periodically might be effective, but you’ll never know.
4. Look for ways engagement can connect to the company or industry sector. For example, many banks are trying hard to appear “green,” but often their efforts at the top don’t filter down to the retail level. We recently conducted field research to test how well retail bank employees could respond to potential customers asking about sustainable policies and procedures. The results were mixed—some employees revealed engagement in the way they talked about their companies’ green programs and operations; but most branch employees, even at banks with strong green programs, lacked the knowledge of those programs to convert our interest to new or expanded business.
The days are over where employee engagement is just communications about your programs. It’s not even just green teams any more. The challenge is to engage with employees where they care, where engagement can make a difference in core business, and in ways that have measurable results aligned to attraction, retention, and operating expenses.