The case for corporate sustainability? Better employees

The case for corporate sustainability? Better employees

When it comes to finding and keeping top talent, companies can offer benefits and good pay – but they can also offer a less easily articulated perk: the sense of working toward a higher goal.

“Being part of something meaningful is really cool,” said Simon Mainwaring, CEO of We First Branding, after the We First Brand Leadership Summit in Los Angeles last week. “Every employee is looking to feel good about where they work and make a larger contribution. Through sustainability they can feel better about their role within a company.”

And those feelings matter to a company’s bottom line. Employees who are the most committed to their jobs put in 57% more effort on the job and are 87% less likely to resign, according to a study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board.

Sustainability can be woven into a corporate culture, said Michelle Montakhab, Vice President of People and Culture at Nutiva, a company that has hired 60 people in the past year. Montakhab said that people often cite the company’s social policies, like giving 1% of sales to sustainable agriculture, as a reason they want to work there. The neophytes quickly learn how sustainability works at their Richmond, California, headquarters. “Sometimes, new hires end up with their lunch waste dumped back on their desk, because they didn’t sort it in the proper bins,” she said.

Despite the tough love, the message is clear that people want to work at places where they feel like they’re engaged and learning. “Most millennials grew up in a world where they were told that everything was falling apart,” said Montakhab. “So I think it only follows that people want to work somewhere that’s addressing these issues.”

Companies that engage in social and environmental stewardship also benefit from employees who are more aware and involved. Christopher Crummey, Worldwide director of sales at IBM, said employee engagement is cultural engagement – and innovation is tied directly to how businesses engage their employees.

At IBM, the collaborative workplace means that information flows freely between workers and the CEO communicates not through corporate memos, but through short video messages – and the company uses social analytics to understand the sentiments following an announcement. “Engagement is fundamental to attracting and maintaining talent,” said Crummey.

He points to places like TD Bank, which recently had to decide whether or not it wanted to open on Sundays or not. The bank gave all 80,000 of its employees a say in making that decision – something that they ultimately decided to go for, and the employees said they felt proud about it. “Giving employees a voice and a say to participate in the business drives innovation, and feeling valued,” said Crummey.

Research backs this up – a LinkedIn and Altimeter study showed that when employees feel inspired and empowered, they were 20% more likely to stay at a company. Losing and replacing a good employee costs companies between 70% and 200% of an employee’s annual salary, according to several estimates.

Too often brands or marketing departments forget that their employees are their first line of advertising, said Mainwaring: “Whether it’s simply recycling or a systemic commitment to the environment like Unilever, it gives employees a chance to feel like they matter, and what they do matters. By extension, they will build awareness of the brand and grow the business.”

Research backs up the idea that the voices of employees who advocate for their companies are heard – and valued. A 2014 Edelman study found that when the public gauges trust in a company, they respect the views of employees there more than any other stakeholder.

To increase employee engagement, Mainwaring said that companies can clearly articulate what their corporate purpose is, and then give employees a way to take part in that purpose – be it through a fun run, matching charitable giving or volunteer days: “Align good works so that everyone goes to work saying: hey, this is why I work here.”

Source: The Guardian / Katharine Gammon

Service HrmForce