By Scott Tew, executive director for the Center for Energy Efficiency
and Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand
At this point, the “sustainability” movement is no longer a passing trend. Cities require it. Hotels request it. Grocery stores reward it. Universities measure it. You can even order takeout food online by accepting (or rejecting) the “go green” option – “No thanks, don’t include napkins and plastic utensils in my delivery.”
Sustainability, as in squeezing more value out of resources than in the past or doing your part to reduce, reuse and recycle, is here to stay. And that’s a good thing.
Companies are continuously trying new ways to “go green” — whether by conserving power or adding recycling bins to the break room. Though all help the environment in some way, some actions can be a bit more complicated. In many cases, companies are turning to employee learning programs to help foster professional development and build a deeper understanding of sustainable business strategies. However, many of these programs are met with mixed success because these initiatives are either forced upon employees or use outdated content disconnected from employees’ personal or work lives, thus creating very little employee engagement.
According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, 65 percent of respondents said quality training and learning opportunities positively influenced their engagement on the job. However, sometimes those programs and protocols can seem to be forced and just another requirement to add onto daily work. How can you avoid that and make sustainability training more meaningful to employees?
- Offer training that is flexible and can work with different schedules.
Taking employees off line and bringing them into a physical classroom setting proves nearly impossible given the increasing demands of the professional workforce. Tech savvy employees appreciate learning at their own pace and using their “plugged-in” capabilities to learn on their own time.
E-learning is the option of choice for training and education, allowing employees the time flexibility that is so crucial to us all today. Self-paced learning, alongside a few hours of instructor-led training in a virtual classroom, can make training manageable and accessible and removes the offsetting factors employees face, such as time commitment.
- Offer certifications that are recognized and respected outside your organization.
Employees value, value. Instead of making employees feel training is another mandatory task, empower employees with a learning program that leaves them inspired and recognized by the broader industry. A frequent comment of employees is, “We want something with external validity, develops our capabilities, is recognized outside the company and makes us more personally marketable.”
How can you meet this desire? Look for a training partner with mass appeal. By offering certifications recognized outside your organization, employees may be more eager to get involved.
- Provide tools to make sustainability easily part of employees’ day-to-day routine.
There are many tools at a company’s disposal that can make sustainability part of employees’ day-to-day schedule, including strategies to implement new products into an organization, ways to assess the current state of products, and tactics to reduce consumption of natural resources.
A new product checklist can ensure sustainability is a priority throughout its beginning stages by pointing to the most common and potentially impactful environmental issues that must be addressed before product implementation can begin. Additionally, while evaluating current products, a sustainable product opportunity assessment tool can be used to identify the appropriate product strategy in response to market needs. Alongside these tools, a natural resource consumption checklist can be instituted to help project team members identify potential opportunities to reduce consumption of natural resources.
With these three elements in place, from flexible training platforms to third party validation programs, the principles of sustainability can be incorporated into every facet of the company and every employee’s work routine. Your employees will learn to naturally speak the sustainability language and in turn will create a new type of conversation with your customers. Teams from product design to manufacturing, sourcing, and customer service will be given new tools to better evaluate how to exceed customer expectations and to make better decisions regarding product function and design, manufacturability and make up.
About the Author
Written by W. Scott Tew, Executive Director for the Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand (CEES). He manages all sustainability-related public transparency, advocacy, reporting and goal setting, and engagement initiatives for the company.