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Five Ways AT&T Engages Employees to Do One Thing

By Nicole Anderson

Do One Thing, or DOT, is an invitation to employees to think about their daily actions and pick one change they can make that will have a positive impact on themselves, their community and/or the company.  It breaks that scary “s” word (sustainability) down for employees to a simple action, like turning off their computer screen when logging off at night, recycling soda cans, volunteering once a month, exercising or signing up a customer for paperless billing.

But the real beauty of DOT is its ability to create culture change. After all, once you start engaging your employees to change behaviors, they will push the company to do the same.  The simplicity of DOT allows it to stir up a little counter programming while respecting the boundaries of your company’s current culture.

Skeptical?  I was, too, when first given the assignment to implement this employee sustainability activation initiative at AT&T, in consultation with Saatchi & Saatchi S.  I soon learned, however, that I had been given an amazing gift of a job with a long rope to create change. This is not to say all DOT roads have been smooth, we’ve ruffled feathers and hit roadblocks. But we’ve also learned what works, and how to crack small holes in those first impenetrable brick walls.

Here are five effective strategies we’ve found to be essential:

  1. Be authentic and invite innovation – Be transparent with employees about where your company is in its sustainability journey, while inviting them to contribute ideas to further your company’s sustainability initiatives. Though DOT is a grassroots movement, it still needs to tie to your company’s long established cultural norms, otherwise employees won’t trust it – that’s why at AT&T we’ve connected DOT to existing initiatives. For example, at AT&T, one suggested DOT is for an employee to submit an innovative idea through The Innovation Pipeline (TIP), an internal website where employees can submit ideas for products and services as well as comment and vote on existing ones; top vote-getting ideas are then considered for seed funding by AT&T leadership.

  2. Highlight employee stories – Motivate employees by recognizing the great work they’re doing. Each month, AT&T showcases employee efforts through our internal news site.  We also provide resources to business leaders across the company to recognize employees on their teams who have made strides with their DOTs. In the past year, we’ve highlighted more than two dozen employee stories across company-wide channels, and we just awarded four Champions of DOT (check out our 2012 Champions of DOT recognition video below).

  3. Make it matter to the business – The best way to make sustainability tangible to employees is to link it with business goals and business value. For example, AT&T retail stores across the country have signed up for region-wide DOTs to encourage customers to sign up for paperless billing, which is a focus area within AT&T’s business. Last year, one region quadrupled its customer signups of paperless billing with their Team DOT.

  4. Keep it simple and fun – Employees do a lot already, so make your sustainability initiative something that’s effortless and fun to be a part of, not a task. One way we do this is to deliver all DOT messaging and materials in creative, enticing ways (think quick and sharp animated videos), and to always be conscious of consuming as little of the employee’s time as necessary.

  5. Emphasize team collective impact – Let employees know that while DOT starts with the individual, real impact is created through collective action. As part of AT&T’s internal DOT website, employees can start, manage and track a wide range of Team DOTs; currently, more than 300 teams across the company are amplifying their impacts. One DOT team in Lancaster, TX started recycling empty cardboard boxes at the warehouse where they worked; so far, they’ve diverted 159,156 lbs of loose cardboard and 30,668 lbs of plastic from landfills, and created a $17,500 annual cost savings for AT&T by decreasing trash pickups. Now that’s collective impact.

The best part of my job is seeing how employees make DOT their own -- from the communication tech who created a video detailing his community recycling initiative to the store manager in San Antonio who made it her store’s DOT to show seniors at a local community center how to use their cellphones. By choosing to Do One Thing, AT&T employees have prevented more than 252 thousand pounds of trash from entering landfills, saved nearly 7.1 million gallons of water, and collectively lost more than 7100 pounds of weight to date. The ultimate success will be when the next great sustainability idea is born from someone’s DOT, not from the corporate tower.  That’s when cultural change will really start to take hold.


Nicole is the Director of Sustainability Activation at AT&T, where she leads initiatives like DOT that promote and integrate sustainability within the company. Her DOT is to encourage five friends a month to take the pledge to not text and drive. Check out AT&T’s website to learn more about the company’s corporate sustainability initiatives -- and click here to learn more about DOT. 

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