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How to turn your team on

Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 | No Comments

How do you really motivate your employees or fellow staff to save energy?

Telling people what to do but not why and what’s in it for them will just make sustainability seem like an inconvenient initiative. How can you create an environment where your employees feel inspired and empowered to make a positive change? To drive and sustain behaviour change in the workplace creative and innovative ideas that make sustainability both meaningful and tailor-made to your team and culture of your organisation are crucial. We’ve picked five ideas we really like for getting staff switched on.

If you’re not paying the bill why should you care about switching off a light?

But what if turning off the lights in your office could help someone in Africa turn theirs on? To change habits you must first tackle the questions of what do people care about and why should they care about sustainability? A compelling example of how to make savings much more tangible for employees is provided by communications agency Wieden Kennedy London working in partnership with the development charity SolarAid with their Off-On Programme. Wieden + Kennedy employees can directly see how much energy they’re using through super visual real time energy displays throughout the office and on their workstations with all resulting energy savings from positive behaviour change being channelled into funding for a solar installation at a children’s home in Nairobi, Kenya.

A real turn off: W&K partnership with Solar Aid engages staff with sustainability though creating a much more tangible connection between actions and effects (Source:Wieden + Kennedy).

A coalition that works:

What if you make the low energy option the fun one? The focus of a recent project by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Carbon Culture was on how to build and sustain engagement by creating an online space that can deliver behaviour change through developing and reinforcing community, encouraging user engagement with fun and easy to use tools. From incentivising carbon zero methods of commuting to work to working together in “scrunch” evenings (reducing the ‘size’ of the office to the size of the workforce who are in the office outside of normal work hours) Carbon Culture and DECC focussed on offering rewards (carrots or pizzas in the case of scrunch evenings!) rather than directives (sticks) so that “the action is seen as a choice and not something that is begrudgingly followed”. Choosing to change your habits rather than top down instructions are much more likely to engage and empower individuals to change their behaviour in the long run. The online social platform made it easy and fun to record daily activities, introduced an element of competition between employees and greatly increased awareness through visualisation of the impact of everyday activities.

                                              Making it visual (Source:CarbonCulture)

Making waste visible

How can you encourage your staff to really think about the consequences of their actions? In 2006, Burt’s Bees set a goal to be zero waste by 2020. Some top tips to get higher employee engagement from their story include being firm with your goals but flexible in your tactics as different facilities require different approaches and engaging your employees with original methods to really connect them with the results of their actions. One such bespoke and highly original staff engagement campaign was at the heart of the project making current levels of waste much more visible. ‘Dumpster dives’ took place where employees donned hazmat suits and got up close and personal with two weeks of their waste dumped in the car park at their headquarters link. Employees sorted over 5 tonnes of material through this eye opening educational exercise, educating employees how the majority of this waste bound for landfill was actually either compostable or recyclable. By 2010 Burt’s Bees had achieved zero solid waste to landfill.

‘                                                Dumpster Days (Source: Burts Bees) 

Taking your work home with you

What if you gave your employees opportunities to reduce their energy bill at home? Marks and Spencer’s provides us with an excellent case study of a company committed to engaging their staff in embedding sustainability. The breadth of PLAN A in making the company’s operations carbon neutral goes as far as engaging staff with sustainability at home. M&S offer their staff discounts on green services, loft insulation and solar technology grants as well as discounts with other companies for bikes, train and coach fares, even for eco holidays. Shifting how employees use and think about energy at home is a crucial and often neglected aspect of really engaging your staff with behaviour change. When your energy bill is cut due to initiatives supported by your employer it is likely that the benefits of acting sustainably seem much more meaningful.

Bringing relief from above

What if you improved your workspace and made it green? The space you work in is incredibly important to the happiness and productivity of your team. Sustainability doesn’t have to mean your Office space is any less comfortable, in fact quite the opposite. Successful engagement of the concept of sustainability must be expanded to include consideration of whether workplaces are good not only for the environment, but also for people. A green roof initiative can engage staff through providing a concrete visible example and incentive of the benefits of embedding sustainable practice.  UBS Global Asset management have installed an intensive and extensive green roof in their London Offices simultaneously providing benefits for both the environment and staff. As well as increasing the insulation and cooling capacity of your building, improving water management and increasing the biodiversity of your building green roofs can really help to engage your staff through creating an area which can be used for after work functions, a place for staff to eat lunch and relax or even some lunchtime yoga.

                                UBS Roof Garden (Source: Tim Soar and Fletcher Priest Architects)

For all these initiatives to be successful effective monitoring of energy consumption is imperative. To maintain engagement employees need to see that their actions are really making a difference. Only through measuring and reporting emissions can companies set future targets and evaluate their carbon management initiatives. Using a tool like EnergyDeck can really help in this department Link

Socrates once said that “the way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” Brand reputation is arguably the most valuable asset  an organisation has over the long term in both attracting staff and productivity. Successful employee engagement is about creating a culture in the workplace which thrives in the longer term, creating a virtuous circle feeding into happy staff and overall business success and reputation. Time spent really enabling employee engagement is both a long term investment and time well spent.

Whilst there’s no silver bullet to staff engagement there are an incredible number of effective and exciting options out there. You will need to investigate and experiment to find out what really works for the culture of your organisation and involve all your staff along the journey. Our next WECC network event being hosted by Buro Happold in Bath on Wednesday 7th November shall continue discussion of how to go further to energise your staff to get involved. Link



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