Many of us start the new year with a sense of renewed purpose and optimism. January is a great time to harness that sense of motivation and take action to review your company’s approach to ESG and sustainability – but as with any company-wide initiative – if you don’t have your team fully onboard with your ESG strategy, chances are you’re not going to optimise your potential for success…
In this article, we’ll explore a few practical ideas and helpful principles that can help to get your employees fully engaged when it comes to creating and maintaining a successful sustainability and ESG strategy.
Engagement Starts Early: Make ESG Part Of Your Employer Branding
Let’s start at the very beginning. If you’re looking to build a truly engaged workforce, which makes time to get involved with the various ESG initiatives and schemes that your business runs, it makes sense to recruit the kind of people who are naturally inclined to this kind of cooperation.
By aligning ESG with your employer branding strategy – and by this we mean ensuring that the public-facing presentation of your brand is clearly aligned with your ESG goals and objectives – you can attract the kind of candidates who will be ready and willing to get involved with bringing your strategy to life, people already predisposed to engage with ESG and sustainability issues.
Statistics suggest that keeping ESG at the forefront of your employer branding can also help in terms of your acquisition of top talent, especially if your sector typically recruits from Millennials and Gen Z talent pools. Sustainability and ESG is a top consideration for these generations, with 40% of Millennials having chosen a job because the company had a better sustainability score.
Beyond this, leading with ESG is a great way of differentiating your brand from your closest competitors and standing out on a factor that goes beyond salary offered.
Level The Field: Remove Barriers To ESG Engagement
Businesses looking to boost engagement with ESG, should consider the factors that might be blocking their employees from getting involved. Many of your employees may like the idea of getting more involved with initiatives and schemes that you’ve set up, but find that when juggling their day to day routine, they just don’t have the scope or bandwidth to be a part of things.
With this in mind, it can be very helpful to consider the blockers that might be hindering better engagement. Perhaps you’re looking to reduce carbon emissions and encourage your staff to commute in a more eco-friendly way. Beyond just asking your staff to make changes to the way they get to and from work, could infrastructure be adapted to encourage more sustainable travel to and from work (by installing bike racks, setting up a car pooling Slack channel or permitting more days working from home?)
Could working hours be made more flexible to allow for better engagement with ESG initiatives? Could a certain number of paid hours be allocated to volunteering schemes? Ask yourself, do employees have an easy way of learning about opportunities to get involved with ESG schemes, and is this the same for remote employees, as well as those who are working within your organisation’s offices?
KindLink’s ESG platform can act as a great levelling tool to give employees equal access to opportunities for ESG engagement, promoting opportunities across digital channels and giving your team the opportunity to pick and choose the activities that align with their capabilities and capacity over time.
Rebels With A Cause: Learn What Truly Matters To Your Employees
If you’re looking to get the highest engagement levels from your employees, then it makes sense to set yourself up for success by aligning your ESG strategy with the areas where the highest interest and motivation preexists. With this in mind, it can pay real dividends to talk to your employees, learning more about the social and environmental causes that are closest to their hearts.
A great tool to keep your finger on the pulse here is regular surveying, company-wide voting on which charities your business will support, and the opportunity to feedback anonymously when it comes to the progress that your company is making with its overall ESG strategy.
Anonymising feedback is especially important when it comes to the Governance factors at play within your organisation, which might feel more controversial, and which employees may be more reticent about speaking out on.
Straight Talking: Communication Is Key
As mentioned, the opportunity for honest feedback is an essential element of any successful ESG scheme, but for optimal employee engagement, clear communication should be able to flow in both directions, internally and externally, at all times.
Clear channels of communication when it comes to ESG are critically important – both in terms of progress and the opportunities for engagement and support. The KindLink sustainability platform was designed to offer a streamlined way of integrating ESG messaging and easy engagement into your employees' every day digital workflows and your internal communication strategy, with widgets for common collaboration tools such as Slack and MS Teams, as well as personal profiles to allow autonomy and easy communication.
Motivation is key to engagement, and progress is key to motivation. For this reason, when it comes to your ESG strategy, it's essential to incorporate regular internal reporting of your progress (both positive and negative!) to keep engagement high. KindLink can make this kind of regular visibility easy to deliver by removing the burden via automations and instant reporting functionality.
Of course, external communication of your ESG progress is also important. Not only does this help improve your employer branding, as previously mentioned, but it also confirms to your employees that ESG is a highly valued aspect of your company’s operation, which gets the proper amount of attention and air time. KindLink allows your employees to link their engagements with ESG and CSR activities directly to their personal social media accounts, helping to spread the message of your impact far and wide.
Good To Be Good: Incentivise Involvement
Whatever kind of engagement you’re trying to optimise, a little positive persuasion seldom goes amiss. Adding incentives to getting involved with ESG initiatives can be a great way to get your strategy onto employees’ radars.
This could take the form of some friendly competition, either between departments, office locations or management levels. By giving everyone a common goal and allowing them to engage in some good natured rivalry for the best results (i.e. in waste management, or hours volunteered) helps boost up morale as well as your ESG score.
Consider recognising the achievements of individual employees - either with awards or a company-wide recognition programme. KindLink’s Employee Non Profit Accounts allow your team to save up money to donate to their favourite causes in a tax-friendly, ultra-efficient manner, helping them to track how much they’ve donated over time.
Something For Everyone: Give Options For Engagement
When you’re looking to get everyone involved, be sure to offer a diverse range of ESG activities to maximise the chances of all employees finding the time and motivation to join in. When it comes to your ESG strategy, what works for one employee might be impossible or impractical for another. Volunteering is a great example of this. Your business may have found a great opportunity for some practical volunteering with a local cause on the KindLink opportunities marketplace, but your remote (or more introverted) employees may be left out of this initiative. Instead, you could consider pairing “real life” volunteering opportunities with a digital volunteering scheme that allows members of your team to help donate their skills, time and experience from afar.
Giving employees control and choice when it comes to their engagement will always boost participation. Keep listening to new ideas when it comes to the ways in which employees feel most motivated to get involved.
All Ears For ESG: Take Feedback Onboard
Following on from the previous section, don’t forget (or underestimate) the importance of allowing employees to feedback on how they feel things are going. Just as you aim to diversify the options for getting involved, provide a diverse range of methods for feeding back on enjoyment and satisfaction, so that all employees feel able to provide their thoughts (ie. not just in person meetings, which people may find more intimidating to speak up at.)
Taking feedback is one thing, but even more importantly, you must show that feedback is valued and inspires tangible action in order to keep engagement levels high. Take feedback onboard and then demonstrate the changes that it brings about, so your employees feel heard and empowered to action positive changes within your ESG strategy going forward.
Celebrate Success But Keep Things Challenging
Finally, be mindful of the need to strike a balance between praising ESG progress, whilst still keeping the topic feeling like an appealing challenge that inspires real action from your team. Find a regular cadence to give updates on the great aspects of your strategy’s success – and to highlight the “room for improvement.”
Getting the balance right here will help to avoid complacency, as well as any accusations of “green” or “woke-washing” being levelled at the business. Ongoing honesty builds trust and confidence in your business as an employer.
Get Ready For A Highly Engaged ESG Workforce!
ESG has a unique ability to unite a workforce for the greater good, with everyone pulling together for something more than profit. This carries huge implications for team bonding, employee satisfaction, employee loyalty and retention. It’s well worth investing time and effort into keeping this balance and optimising engagement – for happier people and a happier planet.