Sample Chapter: Truth #40: Engaging Employees
Highly engaged employees outperform their disengaged colleagues
by 20 percent to 28 percent. A 2004 study of 28 multinational
companies found that the share prices of organizations with
highly engaged employees rose three times faster than industry
Building your green strategy into the daily life of your business means
changes in behavior, not just technology. But how do you get your
employees aboard? How do you get your employees to embrace and
implement your company’s green mission? And how does the
“We’ve always done it this way” sentiment change?
Clean technology gets a lot of attention, but people are the heart of
greening a company. People—staff at all levels, not just managers—
hold valuable knowledge about how a company operates, what
works, and what doesn’t. Their knowledge is as important as their
participation in green teams. What people do each day is where
the DNA of your company (its culture and its policies and operating
procedures) is “expressed.” Changing the DNA is one thing; having
that show up as different behavior on the ground—in everything from
purchasing to design to customer service— is quite another.
How to engage your employees
Engaging your employees—really engaging them, not just
paying lip service to the notion —takes thoughtfulness, commitment,
heart, and, above all, respect.
■ Know the value. Managers often assume they can’t afford to
engage their employees; but the value of an employee who
knows the right thing to do—or how to fi gure out what that is—
outweighs the effort needed to engage them. Employees who
are engaged in greening create value through added effi ciency,
waste reduction, and process improvement.
■ Know that greening your business is something to do with your
employees, not to them. Many clients ask us about “training” their
staff, but in truth it’s more about learning than training.
■ Know that change does happen, but it’s a bit like the old joke: 40
“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Just
one, but the light bulb’s got to really want to change.”
■ Get everyone on same page. A shared mental model, like the
Natural Step (TNS) management framework (see Truth #9,
“Secrets hiding in plain sight”), provides a common
sense of direction and a shared vocabulary for discovering new
opportunities. When Ikea trained its entire workforce in the TNS
framework, it was surprised to fi nd suggestion boxes stuffed to
the brim with good ideas.
■ Listen to your employees—even ones you might not think of as
innovative. When the Scandic hotel chain engaged its workforce
in learning and working with the TNS framework, management
was surprised to fi nd that many of the best ideas came from the
chambermaids; they weren’t highly educated, but they were
“face to customer,” and once equipped with the right questions, they
saw things that no one else could see.
■ Start a Green Team, representing a cross-section of the company,
with different functions and levels of seniority. Get management
support if at all possible—if only to give your green champions
some free time to drive the process. (Look what a gold mine
3M’s “15% rule,” which encourages people to spend 15 percent
of their time on projects of their own choosing, has been for that
company’s patent pipeline!)3 But be prepared to proceed and
show value as informal “skunkworks” if management isn’t ready.
■ Build greening efforts into your employees’ job tasks. Let them
know how what they can contribute. The payoff to the company is
clear, so enable them to spend some time on green initiatives.
■ Communicate the results, including both successes and failures.
Case studies and demonstrated cost-savings are effective tools in
communicating the value and results of employee initiatives.
■ Show the results directly, whether in management reports,
control charts, or performance dashboards, so people can see
how their “drop in the bucket,” bucket,” in the words of David
Gershon, helps fill the bucket (see Truth 42, “Keeping score”).
■ Let employees know that their opinions and efforts matter, and
reward their contributions. Use the right incentives, since different
people will be motivated by different things (see Truth 43,
“Employee incentives”). One thing is clear, however—everyone’s
busy, so you need to be clear about why they should bother
with helping green their company.
The bigger picture
This isn’t just about profit. It’s also about impacting people’s
lives by giving them control in their jobs and their impact on
the environment. (Example: Wal-Mart’s personal sustainability
plans challenge employees to make changes in their personal
lives and their work lives.)
That kind of engaged employee isn’t just good for the employee —
though it certainly is. It might be the best thing for your profit, too.