Sunday, November 13, 2011

HR Voice Article: Sustaining A Core Competitive Culture

‘Sustaining’ a Core Competitive Culture

By Tracy Lydiatt

Does caring about sustainability help you retain valued employees? The simple answer is yes; green matters to business.

The Harvard Business Review followed 30 large corporations over several years and found a positive correlation between an employee’s positions on their company’s sustainability initiatives and their work place happiness.

Employees who work for companies that align with their values perform better and the payoff for attracting and retaining the type of talent capable of innovating in a challenging market goes right to the bottom line. Positively affecting the organizational bottom line through talent acquisition and retention is a priority for any human resources professional.

Regardless of size, of the biggest investments companies make is in their employees. Often getting them in the door is the easy part; convincing them to stay can require consideration and effort. It also makes a convincing case for developing sustainability as a core culture.

In their February 2010 article, The Business Case for Sustainability, authors Hollander, Orgain and Nunez state that 75 per cent of entrants into today’s workforce evaluate a firm’s environmental and social responsibility records prior to choosing and employer of preference.  Globe Scan (2006) reported that 83 per cent of employees in G7 countries say company’s positive corporate social responsibility (CSR) reputation increases loyalty.

The Vargas Group in 2007 published finding that showed only 24 per cent of employees report feeling “truly loyal” to their employers with plans to stay at least two years.  Inversely, the report showed that 76 per cent of employees are job hunting to varying degrees, ranging from casually surfing the Internet to actively interviewing for new jobs.

What is important to these employees? How long do they typically stay and are there things that are important enough to sway their decision to leave? Important questions to ponder considering that the cost of replacing a valued employee is often 2-3 times the value of that person and comes as a burdened cost to the company.

In her book, One Foot Out the Door, Judith Bardwick summarizes employee priorities at work to be:
  • to keep learning;
  • achieve reasonable security;
  • be successful;
  • to have their work and family flourish and;
  • for their lives as well as work to have meaning.
This list of priorities provides a strong indication that no longer are employees happy to go to work, be committed, productive and have no sense of meaning attached to their individual contributions. Seventy per cent of employees with a favourable perception of their company’s community engagement, plan to stay for the next two years vs. 50 per cent of those with a less favorable perception. This provides an opportunity for businesses and HR professionals to connect with employees, learn what is of importance to them and support the fulfillment of these values.

So what do you do if your company does not have a strong corporate social responsibility program?
The first and important step is to approach the management of the business to share your thoughts and present the business case for emphasizing activities and programs such as:
  • green office team
  • company supported volunteerism
  • lunch and learns with sustainability experts
  • ride share board or forum
  • bicycling incentives etc…
Buy-in from management is an essential and key step for implementing any initiatives with staying power.  If you are fortunate, your management may already be thinking about corporate social responsibility and have any number of the programs suggested above in place.  In this case, it is important to involve employees and effectively disseminate information about company efforts, especially the stories which communicate wins and progress forward.

If you are in the position of starting from scratch or face a challenging future with convincing management of the value and impact sustainability initiatives can have on the bottom line, you are not alone nor without resources.  Thankfully there are some amazing tools available to support you in preparing and presenting the business case for sustainability.

A recommended resource for calculating the business case are two sets of spreadsheets created by Canadian Dr. Bob Willard, designed to be used for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large corporations.  They allow you to use real company numbers and put tangible numbers to aspects such as employee productivity and loyalty that are traditionally harder to quantify. Strategic Sustainability Consulting offers some fantastic resources for both SMEs and large corporations including eight free white papers on varying employee engagement issues related to office and corporate sustainability.

Tracy Lydiatt is an award-winning sustainability advisor and author known as The Green Families Guru. She is an international expert and three-time TEDx speaker on sustainability. Her book, Your Green Family Blueprint, is a must have resource for anyone interested in easy strategies to integrate eco-friendly into their lives without going broke or crazy.  Her mission is to empower people to become more sustainable and delivers her work through corporate and private training, both in person and through her online 7-Day Going Green Challenge.

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