The social and pandemic-driven disruptions we’ve seen over the past few years have brought many changes to both our personal and work lives, including the shift to hybrid work and a rise in workers reevaluating their needs and priorities. Beyond the changes we’re seeing in the workplace, people are paying closer attention to issues like climate change and racial, gender, and ethnic justice.
In the past, there was often a wall between our private and professional lives — one’s values rarely entered the company’s doors. Now, workers want to know that their employer shares those values — and fosters them in a vocal and meaningful way. More and more workers are weighing broader ethical or cultural considerations when deciding whether to join or remain with an employer.
In ADP Research Institute’s People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View sentiment study, 76% of workers said they would consider looking for a new job if they discovered that their company had an unfair gender pay gap or no diversity and inclusion policy. Though women are more likely to say so, men are not far behind, and younger workers feel particularly strongly.
So, what can employers do to show talent they’re not only heeding but leading the calls for change?
It’s clear that job seekers today want not just pay but purpose, too. They want to be part of a larger effort to improve the world. Or, at the very least, they want to be sure they’re not working for a business that is negatively impacting the world.
This means that you need to communicate clearly where your company stands on larger societal issues and what you’re doing specifically to make change. A paragraph with some stock photos will not do the trick. Candidates are looking at how you are tackling these challenges and if your values mirror their own.
What should you say when explaining your stance on sustainability, for example? Consider the following:
Why. Explain why your organization is pursuing these goals. People want to understand how these commitments tie into the larger business strategy in order to better understand how they’ll be achieved and where accountability sits.
For example, at ADP we believe that our sustainability efforts will drive efficiency, innovation, and ultimately long-term value-creation. In turn, as with our DEI goals, a portion of our executive compensation is linked to our efforts to reduce ADP’s environmental footprint. Being clear about impact and expectations shows talent that the business is committed.
How. What specifically is happening? Within what timeframe? Where? When it comes to sustainability, employees want specifics. To engage talent in the commitment ADP made to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, we’ve been intentional about keeping people informed.
For a goal like this, it’s important to share with your workforce your primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions and measures you’re taking to reduce those emissions. Report regularly on how those efforts are progressing and reductions you’ve made. Not only does this practice keep employees in the know, but it opens the door for them to contribute their own ideas.
Governance. What is the overall structure for making these sustainability goals happen? Do you have a steering committee in place to oversee your commitments or business resource groups to engage employees? Who is involved and at what levels of the organization? Talent wants to see how wide-reaching your commitments are to understand the gravity your business assigns to the issues they care most about.
Communication. How are the results of these efforts reported? Is there transparency? Is progress shared on a frequent basis with specific details? Establishing a communications structure is a key piece in engaging your talent base in your commitments. To engage talent in the commitments you’re making, they must see the impact of their collective actions.
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This kind of detail not only attracts great candidates; it motivates current employees to become part of the process.
As an individual, trying to create a more sustainable planet can be an overwhelming and sometimes disillusioning feat. Does throwing #6 plastics into my recycling bin really make a difference? What if I can’t afford an electric vehicle? These small personal steps in a bigger picture can often feel like just drops in a very large bucket.
But being part of a larger effort can be incredibly empowering. Employees who are involved in a company’s sustainability program often see an opportunity to exponentially grow their personal impact. In truth, the only way to make a difference in sustainability efforts is with the help of your associates. You need their knowledge and input. Crowdsourcing their ideas triggers analysis of a multitude of solutions and enables more effective change.
The key to employee involvement is putting structure around opportunities where they can contribute. Such structure can help provide that sense of productivity and progress that they’re looking for when it comes to making a measurable impact.
As a case in point, in the spring ADP launched its first business resource group (BRG) focused solely on sustainability. Within four weeks, there were almost a thousand members across the organization and more join each day. Employees have reached out wanting to establish chapters around the U.S. and internationally. Why? Because it’s a personal passion for so many and they want to feel ownership in carrying it forward.
Connection and Retention
Engaging employees in your sustainability efforts can impact retention, as well. The more connected people feel to an organization, the more likely they are to stay.
In 2021, the ADP Research Institute found that U.S. workers who have no intent to leave are seven times more likely to be “strongly connected” to their employer and 75 times more likely to be “fully engaged” than those who do not feel connected.
As organizations seek to find the best people and hold onto them, this focus on the future and making a difference can be among their deciding factors. If employees don’t believe that you have an authentic passion for sustainability — or diversity, equity and inclusion, for that matter — they’re going to take their skills and experience elsewhere where they can make an impact.