Want to Attract Star Employees? Dangle the Sustainability Carrot

Published on September 9, 2016

Your company’s sustainability commitments help attract the best and the brightest, reduce turnover and enhance productivity. That’s the substance of consistent and compelling research that shows the power of embedding sustainability into corporate culture and its relationship to the bottom line. HR Leaders can use this knowledge to create powerful recruitment, engagement and retention strategies.

The role of the HR Leader – as the driver of company value – is a topic I’ll be exploring in detail in an upcoming September webinar.

The best sustainability plans in the world languish on the shelf unless and until sustainability becomes embedded in the corporate culture. While this job is the responsibility of the board and the CEO, the executive who controls many of the levers is the Chief People Officer and the HR team.

I profile many of these levers in this HR sustainability checklist and whitepaper. The key levers include:

  • Updating competency models to include sustainability
  • Including sustainability in the incentive program

Job one for HR? Ensuring both these culture tools embrace sustainability factors.

The feature image may be a cartoon, but its message is sobering: global sustainability trends will affect the ability of business to succeed over the next 30 years. To thrive in this new context, current and future leaders will need a host of new skills and competencies.

Leading companies retool their talent management systems to reflect the competencies that will position their firms for future success. As set out in this global research I conducted into Sustainability Talent Management, they define the mission-critical skillsets and mindsets leaders need that will create and protect future value for the company and society. Those behaviours, skills and knowledge become embedded in organizational competency models, enabling more objective talent decisions in recruitment and promotion.

A Canadian company with exemplary practices in this area is The Co-operators, a multi-line insurance company consistently ranked one of the top corporate citizens in Canada by Corporate Knights. Among their ten core competencies is “critical thinking” which includes the need to integrate sustainability principles in all areas of decision-making and familiarity with the foundational concepts of sustainability as set out in their sustainability policy. The “influence” competency includes translating and promoting sustainability principles in decision-making and the “strategic agility” competency includes awareness of sustainability trends affecting the organization. The Co-operators believes that by embedding sustainability into their competencies, they will foster a sustainability mindset in the organization.

The Co-operators goes further, tying compensation to sustainability performance. All of their top executives have had bonusable goals since 2011, which continue to drive sustainable progress at the organization. This is in contrast to research I conducted into the sustainable pay practices of large Canadian companies that reveals few have measurable, bonusable goals in short term incentive plans and none include sustainability in long term incentive plans.

To attract and retain top talent, companies must leverage their sustainability commitments as a key business driver. The HR Leader is essential in this bottom line effort.

Please join me and my colleagues Chad Park, the Chief Innovation Officer of The Natural Step Canada, and Bernie Mitchell, the SVP of HR and Workplace Services at The Co-operators, as we dive into the robust topic of “Sustainability and the Role of the HR Professional” in this webinar on September 27th. Reserve your spot today.

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