By Raphael Bemporad Today’s consumers are distrustful of corporate claims and increasingly angry with the traditional business model. What’s a forward-looking brand to do? Look within to help bridge the divide.
It’s no secret that today’s brands face economic uncertainty and consumer skepticism at every turn, and that consumers are hungry for a new way of doing business that respects their intelligence as well as the world around them. From Davos to Rio, world leaders have identified trust and sustainable consumption as among the most important issues of our time.
All of which means every brand now faces a fork in the road. On one side: conventional tactics like price gouging and profit-only thinking—short-term solutions that are part of the larger problem. The other road is where brands like Project 7 choose to tread, by daring to defy traditional consumption models and wiring a sense of greater purpose into every business decision.
Based on thousands of conversations in BBMG’s online community, The Collective, and our recent experience creating a global engagement platform with Walmart, we believe employee engagement is one of the most effective tools for achieving long-term success and shared value.
The key, of course, is authenticity. Stick-on employee engagement programs can backfire as acutely as stick-on marketing. On the other hand, a recent Brighter Planet study found that "organizations with a method for employees to share ideas were more than six times as likely to have a very effective program."
With an eye on authenticity and lasting impact, we’ve laid out five simple steps that can serve as a basic framework for successful employee engagement programs. Organizations looking to introduce green teams or other engagement programs should keep these five tenets in mind—and can learn a thing or two from organizations that got it right.
1. Make it Strategic: Intel Corporation
Set the stage for employee buy-in by sharing a vision that ties engagement efforts to your core vision and larger business strategy—something Intel does by calculating each employee’s annual bonus according to sustainability results. By challenging all departments to improve their processes and products with sustainability in mind, Intel celebrates the diversity of its professionals while increasing accountability for multiple dimensions of value creation and impact.
2. Make it Personal: Hyatt Hotels & Resorts
Issues like climate change and biodiversity are complex, but framing these big issues in relatable terms is not impossible. Take inspiration from Hyatt: The hospitality company’s corporate responsibility platform, Hyatt Thrive, leverages the power of peer-to-peer influence and social networking to connect and empower 300 Green Teams worldwide. Employees use a Facebook-like interface to post photos, questions, and even presentations about their local sustainability efforts.
3. Make it Flexible: Walmart
While top-down leadership is important, the best employee engagement programs are co-created and co-owned by employees themselves. Walmart’s global engagement platform, My Sustainability Plan (MSP), was created with the goal of helping more than two million associates in 28 countries take everyday steps to live healthier, greener lives. The program encourages associates to choose goals most relevant to their own lives and break those goals into small, doable everyday actions—whether that’s eating a salad every day or biking to work.
4. Make it Easy: Google
To encourage involvement, chunk your program into easy steps that’ll let all employees participate. Google—a company already known for employee perks like free laundry and locally sourced meals—educates associates about the impact of simple actions like turning off their computers at night. Micro-kitchens built throughout the workplace are designed to encourage the use of reusable dishes and flatware (employees can even leave their dirty dishes in the sink).
5. Make it Last: Clif Bar
Creating an effective program is just the beginning. To encourage ongoing success, you’ve got to treat employee engagement as an ongoing campaign. Sustainability is such a big part of CLIF Bar’s culture, for example, that it’s embedded in employees’ benefits package, including incentives for actions like purchasing a fuel-efficient car and making eco-friendly home improvements. Momentum is ensured at weekly staff meetings, where employees share practical tips for living greener, and at yearly award ceremonies, where individuals are recognized for excellence according to the company’s values.
A great engagement program is a guaranteed way to recruit and retain top talent and drive productivity. But, even more important: Engaging employees and encouraging their input builds trust, drives innovation and inspires co-creativity from the inside out.
Want to learn more? Head to BBMG.com for a variety of resources—including a downloadable copy of our employee engagement starter guide, Green The Team.
If you're looking for ways to engage consumers, check out BBMG's how-to guide to Disrupt and Delight.
Raphael Bemporad is co-founder and chief strategy officer of BBMG, a brand innovation firm dedicated to the intersection of branding, sustainability and social purpose.