“Uniting big companies with small green businesses, community by community, will infuse our state with new energy and excitement.”
A look at some striking rankings for Connecticut’s economy offers insight for a sustainable business solution.
As a state resident, and small business owner, I find it alarming that we currently rank 48th in economic growth in the US. This dismal stat is surprising in light of the fact that Connecticut places #1 in per capita income ($70,000 / household in 2015). It would seem then that this income is not being spent in the local economy.
Bear with me for one more set of numbers: A Gallup poll of Employee Engagement, which is a measurement of workforce satisfaction, reports that on average, 69% of workers nationally are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their work. Among the fifty US states, Connecticut comes in 48th on this list as well, with close to 80% of employees not engaged in their work!
Whether ranking 48th in economic woes as well as employee engagement is a coincidence or not, there’s a significant relationship between business success and a happy workforce. So significant, in fact, that Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends survey reveals “…employee engagement and culture issues (are) the no.1 challenge companies face.” The report concludes, “In an era of heightened corporate transparency, greater workforce mobility, and severe skills shortages, culture, engagement, and retention have emerged as top issues for business leaders.” These issues are even more crucial for Connecticut’s business leaders who are struggling to regain their competitive edge against states with a friendlier business climate.
What is an Engaged Employee?
An engaged employee is someone who approaches their workday with enthusiasm, effort and energy. Author and sustainable business guru Kevin Wilhelm describes employee engagement as work that satisfies the “head, heart and hands.” Employees want to see their values aligned with company mission and goals. Especially for millennials, a sense of purpose at work outside of financial gain is important. They want an emotional attachment to their work and the company. Job satisfaction surveys point to several additional factors, among them, opportunities for networking outside of one’s immediate team, good quality relationships between staff and management, and work-life balance.
Benefits of Engaged Employees
Another Gallup study reported the impact employee engagement has on company performance and found the following percentage gaps between the bottom and top quartiles of engagement:
16% in profitability
18% in productivity
12% in customer loyalty
60% increase in quality (fewer defects)
49% decrease in safety incidents
37% decrease in absenteeism
These numbers are based on surveys of large publicly held corporations with workforces numbering in the hundreds up to tens of thousands. In this sector, companies with high marks for employee engagement also enjoyed 29% above average shareholder returns. With that great an advantage, business leaders should be taking notice, and they are. The challenge lies in developing meaningful engagement initiatives that don’t create additional burdens.
Sustainable Living Expos
My partners and I looked at Connecticut’s twin problems of slow economic growth and low employee engagement and came up with a turnkey solution that promotes several key employee engagement aspects and will help spark the state’s economy by channeling spending back into the local economy.
We are well connected with a large network of Connecticut-based green businesses, mostly small and mid-sized companies. We’ve heard the folks running these businesses – farmers, inventors, restaurateurs, manufacturers, retailers, builders, designers, etc. – all complain about the lack of a cohesive ecosystem in which to market their goods and services. Our firm’s aim is to create a sustainable business ecosystem in Connecticut, and this perspective gave us the idea of connecting these green businesses directly to larger companies that are looking to foster a culture of sustainability among their employees.
Sustainable Living Expos are themed events that take place onsite at companies of 200+ employees. We designed the Expos as a monthly or bi-monthly fun and educational series that take place during lunch break or after work. Themes include Food & Beverage, Energy & Transportation, Home Maintenance & Renovation, Yard & Garden, Wellness & Personal Care, Travel & Leisure. A select group of vendors share samples, explain their product differentiation and offer coupons and other incentives for ongoing interactions. Each Expo also includes related non-profit organizations offering opportunities to volunteer and support their work.
We customize a mobile event app for employees, exhibitors, and organizers to communicate, navigate, and engage with one another. The visitor experience is interactive and includes cross-functional team building challenges; employees can check in with each exhibitor, answer questions to earn points for their team, compete for prizes, request follow up from and rate exhibitors, book mark content, ask questions, answer surveys, and share content with other employees. Staff gains exposure to leading-edge technology, environmentally friendly products, energy saving solutions, child-safe home care, delicious locally sourced food and innovations in everything from Ayurveda to Zeroscaping.
We provide event data that measures and reports engagement and impact, revealing valuable insight into employee behavior and interests.
Benefits to Employees
Hosting a series of Sustainable Living Expos demonstrates the importance of sustainability to the core values of a company. A focus on sustainability gets everyone on the same page and excited about working for a greater good. It creates emotional connections among participants from different departments and ranks. The emphasis on sustainable lifestyle nurtures work-life balance; personal, community and planetary health and a sense of shared values. The Expos engage employees with new information, tools and insight that empower them to become thought leaders in their own social networks and inspire them to apply principles of sustainability to innovations at work.
The impact of a series of Expos is long lasting. Employees discover new resources and leisure activities right in their own communities. They discover exciting and cost-effective ways to lower their carbon footprint and lower their greenhouse gas emissions while supporting local businesses and doing good locally and globally.
Benefits to the Host Company
A report jointly produced by GreenBiz and The National Environmental Education Fund found that: “Front-line employees are often in the best position to identify inefficiencies and propose improvements. Environmental & Sustainability education of employees can improve profitability by supporting greater efficiency through less waste, water and energy usage”
Engaging employees through Sustainable Living Expos embeds sustainability into corporate culture and integrates sustainable principles throughout the workforce, linking the firm’s brand with a positive employee brand. Networking with local vendors and mission-driven businesses helps companies grow deeper roots, cultivates stakeholder relationships, keeps dollars in the community and provides jobs, all while enhancing profitability through employee retention, engagement and empowerment. The visibility of the Expos makes them a terrific vehicle for storytelling as well as delivering metrics that can roll up into reporting and PR, which in turns attracts smarter and more loyal employees.
Measurable outcomes and stories include:
Home energy efficiency improvements
Lower commuter miles and gas consumption with electric vehicles, ride shares and telecommuting
Lower C02 and GHG emissions from purchasing locally and changing eating habits
Fewer food miles
Less food waste
Less packaging waste
More local jobs
Small business growth
More creative and innovative workforce
Benefits to exhibitors
Companies demonstrate sustainability and support the local economy by sourcing locally and encouraging their employees to do the same. Sustainable Living Expos enable green businesses to showcase their goods and services to a guaranteed audience of motivated attendees. By inclusion in the Expos, vendors are differentiated from their competitors. They have opportunities to network with other like-minded businesses, capture leads, build loyalty, brand their business in the sustainable business marketplace and become part of a local sustainable business ecosystem.
Benefits to Managers and HR
The GreenBiz / National Environmental Education Fund report calculates that:
“Losing and replacing a good employee costs companies between 70%– 200% of an employee’s annual salary” and that “employee engagement has resulted in increased employee loyalty, more company pride, and improved morale.”
Management and HR often bear the brunt of employee dis-engagement, finding themselves scrambling to keep up with job vacancies and stop-gap measures. In Connecticut, more workers are moving out than in, and even in a slow-growth economy, it can be difficult to fill vacant positions with qualified personnel – especially when other state economies are growing faster. Companies with engaged employees have notable advantages such as:
Talent attraction and retention
Fewer open jobs
Loyalty, company pride, improved morale
Our team aims to break the cycle of disengagement and crisis management with a turn-key solution that doesn’t create more work for company staff. We design each Sustainable Living Expo series around the specific needs, tastes and demands of each of our corporate clients, and then take the burden off their shoulders.
We’re taking a grass-roots approach to Connecticut’s economic woes. Uniting big companies with small green businesses, community by community, we will infuse our state with new (renewable) energy and excitement. By marrying employee engagement to sustainability and community engagement, corporate sustainability culture is strengthened, employees are empowered, the local economy develops and there is synergistic impact. This is not only good for business, it just is good business.
Wilhelm, Kevin. Making Sustainability Stick, 2014. Pearson Education, Inc.