Coro’s Blog: On Purpose

Employee Engagement 2.0 – Embedding Sustainability in the Business

Published on March 23, 2014

A guest post by employee engagement and learning expert, Grant Ricketts

It’s my pleasure to introduce Grant Ricketts, CEO and co-founder of Tripos Software, Inc. a US-based employee engagement company. Grant’s background is in learning and talent management which sheds light on the issues and opportunities his company addresses in sustainability. Grant provided advice and feedback on my green team continuum designed to help companies think about how to leverage green teams for transformational impact. Having picked the low-hanging fruit of sustainability, organizations are seeking to embed sustainability into their corporate cultures. Grant shares his insights on how to do this. Now over to Grant …

Taking employee engagement to the next level and finding ways to embed sustainability into the business has been a common theme discussed in recent industry conferences, panels and webinars, including some co-hosted sessions with Coro Strandberg and myself. So we thought to share a few more insights on how companies can harness their talent to further embed sustainability in the organization. We refer to this as the migration from employee engagement 1.0 to employee engagement 2.0 where companies can achieve a tipping point in scaling sustainability results.

Employee Engagement 1.0 vs. 2.0

Currently, employee engagement usually focuses on voluntary efforts involving people of like-minded interest with most activities remaining at the organization’s periphery. A common attitude expressed is that, “it’s not part of my day job.” We refer to this current “state of practice” as Employee Engagement 1.0 with key characteristics summarized in the table below.

Employee engagement 2.0, on the other hand, represents the future “state of art” of sustainability practice. To get there, companies must link sustainability to business strategy, operating processes and work functions, engage mid-management, and make it relevant to one’s ‘day job’.  In so doing, employees will be better able to see the possibilities that exist and take actions that contribute to the overall success of the organization, regardless of whether they are ‘true believers’ or not.

The Secret Sauce

The secret is to implement sustainability as a series of business initiatives, linking it with functions such as product design, operations, supply chains and procurement, buildings and facilities, IT, logistics and customer-facing groups. Such alignment is a fundamental distinction between Employee Engagement 1.0 and 2.0.

There are two critical steps in this process: One, engage internal management stakeholders in a discussion about the intersection of sustainability with their specific line of business so you can jointly set goals, establish objectives and support programs related to that group; and two, provide the right training and know-how to employees within these groups so they are better able to contribute. This way, both functional leaders and departmental employees have more ‘ownership’ of the results.

Organizations like the US Postal Service (USPS) have down this quite well. And their results show it. USPS reported over $52 million in savings last year – a number that is still growing – and which they cite as “largely due to employee-led initiatives.” The organization is building further on these capabilities by expanding its online training efforts to reach 15,000 more people this year.

Getting Started, Big or Small

Companies can be large and complex with many different initiatives to address. But, sustainability leaders don’t have to try and address everything at once. Even smaller direct approaches can produce substantial results. Here is another example.

Landmark Group of Builders Ltd., a Canadian building company, provided a product team of 90 people with a short online sustainability learning program explicitly tailored to their product roles. Using the interactive feedback elements in the program they captured 132 new ideas and suggestions in the first three months of training. The company continues to link sustainability to a number of other corporate functions as well, as it seeks to position itself as a leading ‘green’ builder. Landmark won the prestigious GLOBE Award for Corporate Environmental Excellence for its efforts. (Check here for information on Tripos Software’s role-based learning program: Sustainability in Practice.)

In our experience these programs succeed when they have mid-management support and result in positive business benefits. They also lower environmental impacts and engage thousands more employees who might otherwise not be engaged.

But, more than this, these companies are each building a story around innovation and culture change as well. And after all, isn’t that the real end-game.

About Grant Ricketts and Tripos Software, Inc.

grant-rickettsGrant Rickets is the CEO and co-founder of Tripos Software, Inc. The company provides a SaaS-based platform with content, training, tools and services to engage people in sustainability initiatives, track and measure results, and provide visibility into sustainability performance. Before he launched Tripos, Grant was Vice President and founding member of Saba Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: SABA), a leading provider of learning and talent management systems. He worked there for eleven years helping it grow from a garage-based start-up to over $100 million in revenue and 600 employees.

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