Employee engagement is a crucial element of business success. Employees who are not ‘engaged’ in their job tend to have low morale and poor job performance. For employers, employee engagement is a large factor in company innovation, performance and work force turnover (how many employees quit and need to be replaced in an expensive and time-consuming process of recruiting and training a new person). Large companies spend monumental amounts of money to engage their employees for exactly these reasons. Typically, an employee engagement program centers on an initiative. Ford Motor Co. had a well-publicized employee engagement program centered on quality (you may remember their commercials with the tagline, “Quality is Job 1”). They were able to track several metrics around this issue, and incentivized workers to maintain high levels of quality by reducing mistakes made in their manufacturing facilities.
Increasingly, companies are looking at sustainability, both personal and company-wide, as a galvanizing force to get their employees to become more engaged in their work.
Sustainability arguably provides one of the most engaging topics for a theme of an employee engagement program. People are curious about it, and it is quite utilitarian (i.e., it has something for everyone). Sustainability encompasses people’s health (healthy food, clean drinking water, etc.), the health of the environment (clean air, clean water, healthy ecosystems providing ecological services like keeping disease at bay), societal issues (safe public parks, walkable communities, connecting with our neighbors, getting people together and away from the TV), and economic sustainability (people’s paychecks, business success, etc.). It’s so ubiquitous, in fact, that it lends itself well to improving employee satisfaction, morale, productivity, and retention. And just as importantly for the entrepreneur or manager, it also has terrific potential for contributing to the bottom line of the company.
And while Wal-Mart and Ford can spend millions of dollars on these kinds of initiatives, is it useful for a small business owner? According to a study just released by Brighter Planet, smaller companies (<100 employees) are arguably more successful with employee engagement programs as large ones. According to employees polled, small companies do a better job at connecting with their employees than large companies, communicating their sustainability initiatives “very frequently”. So how can your small business use employee engagement around sustainability to galvanize your workers, and improve the bottom line?