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How are employees’ environmental and social values changing and what does this mean for your engagement strategy?





Posted by Justine Woolf on 28 July 2022

How are employees’ environmental and social values changing and what does this mean for your engagement strategy?

Employee engagement | Responsible Reward | ESG

Over the past few years, we have seen an acceptance that the global business ecosystem is no longer sustainable if we carry on consuming at the current rate. This broad realisation has forced many businesses to look at how they’re running and make some fundamental changes to the way they incentivise their people.

My Responsible Reward Guide white paper reflects in some detail on this area and one unmistakable factor is that a lot of the impetus around responsible reward is being driven by the expectations of the younger generation. Most millennials believe employers should play a key role in tackling income inequality, hunger and environmental impact. They are more likely to stay with a company if they see it supporting its community. Nearly six in ten actively seek out an employer that shares their values.

Research also suggests that they are bringing much of the work force with them, with 67% of employees preferring to work for socially responsible companies. With pressure coming from employees, investors and consumers, companies are certainly having to look at how they can run in a more sustainable and accountable way. The challenge for many is understanding what it really means for them, so that they can be authentic and transparent.

Thinking Green

We’ve seen a wide variety of reward initiatives with environmental aims which set out to change behaviours and actions, from the individual right up to corporate level. Typically, they set out to align a company’s ‘green agenda’ with its employees through recognition, voucher or wellbeing schemes. These can encourage workers to be greener in their everyday lives, for example promoting the take-up of electric cars or by enabling car-sharing.

By investing in digital engagement platforms companies can also reward employees for taking positive steps to improve the environment while working on their own wellbeing. This might include cycling to work, recycling in the workplace, volunteering in the community or monitoring personal fitness. By cycling a mile to work, for example, an employee might earn points to either donate to charity projects or ‘spend’ on the platform.

Currently, these measures tend to be more aligned to executive reward, with senior managers being given targets for take-up, but there is potential for it to be pushed lower down the pay grades.

Building a community

On the ‘social’ side of ESG and the employee / employer relationship, charitable giving is one visible way for companies to demonstrate social impact, with many now linking their financial performance to the donation of money or granting employees time to volunteer. We have seen charitable giving range from 1% to 20% of profits. 

Increasingly, though, it is not just about the money. How a company takes care of its people and looks after their overall wellbeing is becoming a key issue for transparency. Fostering an environment of inclusivity by growing a sense of community is a big part of how a business can make its people feel connected to a purpose. This whole area really took a hit during Covid times but if they feel connected, workers are more likely to feel like they can make a difference. 

With more hybrid working post-Covid, a lot of organisations are encouraging employee resource groups to bring people together around subjects of mutual interest. These touch points can be many and varied, from faith and religion to knitting, sustainability, diet or veganism. Where there's a cause, and people are like-minded, organisations are doing well by encouraging that connection and then feedback, for example on what they offer in their canteen. All these things combine to increase inclusivity and promote transparency.

In the area of reward, there is also growing evidence that making reward and recognition more inclusive gets better results by growing community spirit. Peers recognising and nominating their colleagues can lead to a far more meaningful and constructive reward than a simple material benefit. It can also increase job satisfaction, so the overall value of that reward to the company and the employee ends up being far greater. 

Often bigger organisations face greater complexity in these areas and so tend to allocate more resource and time to it, while in smaller organisations things tend to happen more organically.

One hub

To maximise engagement and inclusivity across all of these areas, ideally a company would pool all of its ideas, schemes and offerings in one place, from where it can also communicate to its workforce.

The HAPI app is a perfect example of this. As an employee engagement hub, HAPI enables a company to communicate around recognition and reward, benefits, discounts and ESG initiatives, in one place, straight to employees’ phones. The company tailors the tone and frequency of its messaging and, crucially, can rely on various ways to communicate, actively via push notifications or more passively through information channels and employee surveys.

To get engagement right and to make it worthwhile, more than ever companies need to consider how they make their employees feel a part of something. Find the best way to connect people. Work hard to align their values and desires with your company vision. Be authentic, transparent and inclusive about how you do it. If you’re doing all those things, you should have an engaged and motivated workforce.

More recent insight from Justine Woolf

How to utilise workforce data to inform pay fairness in your reward strategy

The Great Re-Engagement: How has Employee Engagement changed post-pandemic?

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