What War for Talent?

Data Point TuesdayAccenture’s 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey compares the expectations and perceptions of 2014’s university graduates with the realities of the working world according to both 2012 and 2013 graduates. This comparison casts a focused and specific lens on the issue of entry-level talent development, and gives us some insightful data. Accenture’s survey underlines that at the end of the day, many organizations are not effectively developing their entry-level talent. When we consider that 69% of 2014 graduates state that more training or post-graduate education will be necessary for them to get their desired job, we see that organizations are likely facing a major talent supply problem. New graduates and entry level talent’s perceive that their organizations will provide them with career development training: 80% of 2014 graduates expect that their employer will provide the kind of formal training programs necessary for them to advance their careers. Despite this, the percentage of graduates that actually receive such training is low, creating a significant discrepancy between expectation and reality.Expectation vs Reality

Another concern when it comes to recent college graduates is that 46% (nearly half) of 2012/2013 graduates working today report that they are significantly underemployed (i.e. their jobs do not really depend on their college degrees). This statistic was at only 41% a year ago.Entry Level UnderemployedAccenture’s survey found that 84% of 2014 graduates believe they will find employment in their chosen field post graduation, and 61% expect that job to be full time. Again, we find a stark contrast between expectation and reality, with just 46% of 2012/2013 grads reporting holding a full-time job – 13% percent have been unemployed since graduation. How long do recent graduates stay at the jobs they do have? More than half (56%) of 2012/2013/2014 graduates have already left their first job or expect to be gone within one or two years. Is this be a reflection on the lack of development for entry-level talent? It seems more than plausible…

Recent graduates are also finding discrepancies between expectations and realities when it comes to income and job prospects. Of the 13% of 2012/2013 grads who have been unemployed since graduation, 41% believe their job prospects would have been enhanced had they chosen a different major (72% expect to go back to school within the next five years). Among Accenture’s 2014 survey respondents, 43% expect to earn more than $40,000 at their first job, however, just a minimal 21% of the 2012/2013 graduates that are in the workforce are actually earning at that level. 26% of these graduates report making less that $19,000, a concerning figure when roughly 28% of 2014’s graduates will finish school with debt of more than $30,000.

Accenture’s study does point to some silver linings, however. Increasingly, college students are turning an eye towards what they can do to be more market relevant. 75% of those who graduated this year took into account the availability of jobs in their field before selecting their major, compared to 70% of 2013 graduates and 65% of those in the class of 2012. Another positive is that 72% of 2014 graduates agree or strongly agree that their education prepared them for a career (compared to 66% of 2012/2013 grads) and 78% feel passionately about their area of study. 63% of 2014 graduates stated that their university was effective in helping them find employment opportunities, an increase from 51% among their recently graduated peers. Recent graduates are also increasing their chances of employment by being geographically flexible. 74% of 2014 graduates said they would be willing to relocate to another state to find work and 40% of those would be willing to move 1,000 miles or more to land a job.

Accenture’s study does, however, put into question many of the highly publicized reports that point to human capital/talent acquisition issues as a #1 concern in the C-Suite. If talent is the #1 issues, where is the attention to entry-level talent? Is the attention being placed exclusively on development for upper-level positions? It’s clear that there are multiple factors influencing graduates’ struggles for acceptable employment, including the rise of part-time and contingent work, but training and development is an important part of any entry-level position. The survey points to six areas in which organizations can focus on to help meet talent supply challenges:

  1. Reassess hiring and retention strategies
  2. Hire based on potential, not just immediate qualifications
  3. Use talent development as a hiring differentiator
  4. Remember that tangibles matter, even to Millennials
  5. Cast the net more widely
  6. Use talent development and other benefits as part of a total rewards and attraction approach

These are logical conclusions. But perhaps the biggest logical conclusion is that organizations are just paying lip service to the so-called war for talent and aren’t convinced that the there is, in fact, a shortage of talent. Am I wrong?

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2014 World’s Best Multinational Workplaces: Trends for Thought

Data Point TuesdayHere at Great Place to Work we’re getting ready to reveal the 2014 World’s Best Multinational Workplaces list, so there seems like no better a time to talk about a positive organizational trend that’s been occurring among many of the less encouraging trends we consistently hear about (for example, the war on talent, low levels of employee engagement, or no work/life integration). The positive trend that I’m speaking, to be exact, is that levels of trust, camaraderie and pride are rising at the best workplaces – essentially, the world’s best workplaces are getting better. In recent years we’ve seen “the best” companies get better in the majority of the ~50 countries where we measure workplaces using our Trust Index© employee survey. Additionally, we have seen increasing trust at the companies that make up Great Place to Work®’s annual World’s Best Multinational Workplaces list.
trustindexchange2009-2014

The good news is that while this increase in trust trend is mostly notable within “best companies,” such positive culture changes are influencing other companies as well and helping to create a push towards a higher standard for organizations. The data discussed here comes from the decision to examine trust trends in individual countries and among the world’s best multinationals as we prepared our 4th annual World’s Best Multinational Workplaces list. In particular, we studied the Trust Index© scores of all the national Best Workplaces lists during the past five years. The Trust Index© is Great Place to Work®’s 58-statement employee survey that measures trust, pride and camaraderie in organizations.

Our research highlights seven reasons why trust is rising in great workplaces: awareness, evidence, Generation Y, employee gratitude, wellbeing, momentum, and transparency. Globally, company leaders have been demonstrating an increased awareness towards the importance of a high-trust workplace culture. Furthermore, we’re seeing increasingly more evidence published that great workplaces lead to better business results. For example, publicly traded companies on the U.S. Best Companies to Work For list have nearly doubled the performance of the stock market overall from 1997 to 2013 and a paper published earlier this year by the European Corporate Governance Institute which studied data from 14 countries, concluded that higher levels of employee satisfaction (reflected by earning a spot on a best workplaces list generated by Great Place to Work®) corresponded to stock market outperformance in countries with high levels of labor market flexibility, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Millennial generation is also an influencer. Globally, this generation is demanding better workplaces and pushing employers to place more focus on both social responsibility and work/life integration. Employee gratitude also plays a big role in high-trust cultures. Best workplace environments reflect employee gratitude and reciprocation and aren’t solely about what management is doing for employees. This is especially true during trying times for companies. When one company’s culture may take a turn for the worse during economic hardships, organizations that take care of their employees amid such a time can create higher levels of trust. We can also point to the ‘wellbeing’ movement as an influencer of high trust levels at organizations. With people placing more and more emphasis on mental and physical wellness, in part due to high stress work environments at many organizations, great workplaces are embracing the wellbeing trend. Among the three Trust Index© scores that have risen most among the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces is this statement: “People are encouraged to balance their work life and their personal life.”

Momentum and transparency are the last of the seven key trends we have noted as influencers of high-trust at organizations. Momentum refers to the positive upward spiral that seems to occur (owing to both management and employees) once an organization develops a trust-based workplace culture. This is logical as a more trust-based culture often sees employees that are more active participants in culture related activities and hold a greater appreciate for their workplace. With the amount of new technologies (like social media) and personal mobile devices available, organizations are faced with an amount of unprecedented transparency. This transparency works in favor of organizations with great cultures and rewards them while providing a “public eye” and ample incentive for less than great organizations to step up. Another of the three Trust Index© scores that have risen most among the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces is this statement: “Management keeps me informed about important issues and changes.”

Check out a few “Fast Facts” about the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces 2014 below, and be sure to check back here on Thursday to see which companies made the list!

Fast Facts: The World’s Best Multinational Workplaces 2014

  • Since last year, industry distribution has changed significantly on the World’s Best list. IT and Telecommunications now makes up 40% of the industries, replacing Manufacturing and Production (28%) as the dominating industry. The variety of industries represented has shrunk from 8 industries in 2013 to just 6 this year:industrydistribution2014
  • Among the 2014 World’s Best Multinational Companies to Work For in 2014, “Pride” is distinguished as the main strength. “Camaraderie” ranks stronger than “Respect” in the Top 10 and the Top 5, while “Fairness” continues to be biggest opportunity area:2014 Dimension Scores
  • Since 2011, the main improvements made by the best multinationals in the world are:
    • Encouraging work-life balance,
    • Management keeping employees informed
    • Promotions based on merit.

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CEO Insights: The Bumpy Road to ALWAYS ON

data point tuesday_500

PWC’s 17th annual global CEO report “Good to Grow: 2014 US CEO Survey”, provides a thorough snapshot of executive leadership perspectives and approaches at the current moment. PWC’s report includes perspectives from over 1,300 CEOs from 68 countries, including 162 CEOs with US-headquartered organizations. It’s clear from the responses that, globally, CEOs are making many changes within their organizations. For example, 86% of CEOs stated that advancing technologies are going to transform their businesses over the next five years. Positively, PWC’s data also suggests that CEOs are finding reasons to be more confident in many places (89% of US CEOs are fairly sure their companies will deliver revenue growth this year). In this period of rapid change though, what approaches are CEOs taking, and what insights can they offer?

The majority of CEO’s interviewed reported that “five great forces of transformation” are reshaping business as we know it:

  • Technology is making an impact across the whole enterprise.
  • CEOs are reinventing the operating model towards an “always on customer experience.”
  • CEOs are seeking new ways to work together in joint ventures and alliances to capture disruptive technologies faster.
  • In some cases, the business model is being innovated.
  • There are rising concerns about talent.

As organizations undeniably shift into a period of growth (62% expect to hire more people this year, the highest level of anticipated headcount expansion in the past five years for this survey), how do these five great forces of transformation come into play?

All CEOs seem to agree, that technology is what propels business, and will continue to do so. PWC states that, in part, “Technology” is a watchword for 2014 because CEOs use it when talking about both core innovation and information technology (IT). Technology has become an essential part of strategy in all areas – for organizations pursuing new business models, meeting new customer expectations, remaking their operating model, forging new alliances, or tackling talent challenges.

pwc-Technology

 

CEOs are reshaping business models though innovation. They are taking cues from the technology industry that has paved the way by creating value for customers in a multitude of new ways. Organizations are looking to create increased profit for what they offer beyond step-by-step product innovation, and they are stepping out of the box to innovate in ways such as turning a product into a service, or vice versa. New approaches to innovation and R&D are part of an increased strategy by many US CEOs in 2014. For example, some organizations report funding innovation incubators to foster rapid prototyping of new ideas, while others report wanting to join up with emerging market innovators who are developing low-cost products.

PWC’s survey also indicates that customer strategies will get a serious makeover in 2014, with 52% of CEOs reporting that they are planning to change their customer growth and retention strategies. As creating a positive and personal customer experience only continues to increase in value (and as a standard of expectation) more organizations will see CEOs leading them toward a strategy of customer interaction. This will move away from stand-alone transactions to a sustainable “always on” relationship with customers. While CEOs plan out such new strategies, they are also discovering that most current capabilities are “fair game for reinvention.” The vast majority of CEOs are already debuting a fair number of change initiatives with a focus on moving away from rigid structures towards more nimble, adaptable operations.

pwc-reinventing-operations

Business alliances and joint ventures also appear as a CEO noted trend for 2014 – within the U.S. and globally. 42% of CEOs surveyed report that they plan to enter a business alliance/joint venture this year while only 4% expect they’ll exit an existing relationship. CEOs are also looking at acquisitions, with 39% of US CEOs planning to complete a domestic acquisition in 2014 and 28% planning on a cross-border deal.

A last trend to note from this survey is in regards to talent. I’ve talked about the talent acquisition “crisis” or “war on talent” in past posts, and unfortunately, PWC’s CEO survey does nothing to dispel this issue. 70% of US business leaders report being concerned about the availability of key skills. This compares to 54% that said so in 2013.

pwc-skill gaps

Despite continued economic uncertainty both within the U.S and globally, PWC reports that the number of US CEOs who believe that global growth is returning has more than doubled since last year, perhaps indicating that organizations are successfully finding a path forward. It is also clear from the research though, that this is a time of intense transformation, which encompasses a wide range of organizational areas and strategies. The ability to navigate such transformational trends is vital for organizational success. So while the overall sentiment is positive for growth, the ride to get there is going to bumpy. Are you and your teams ready to be “always on?”

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HR: How Disconnected Are You From Employees?

ADP recently released a report which, based on data they’ve collected from several studies, examines the causes and implications of a persistent disconnect recorded between HR’s and employees’ perceptions. The topic is an interesting one: despite the vast improvement in and efficiency of communications tools and processes that we’ve witnessed over the years, employees and HR departments have seemed to maintain notably differing perceptions on many key human capital management effectiveness issues. This disparity holds true globally, and in companies of all sizes. ADP has noted this trend in three of their ADP Research Institute® global studies in 2013: Quantifying Great Human Capital Management, Employee Perspectives on Human Capital Management, and HR 360. All three studies measured perceptions of status and value of the HR function and showed consequential differences between employees and HR in key areas such as how well employees were being managed, how well questions regarding HR and benefits issues were addressed, whether feedback was communicated or even collected, and in performance evaluations. Data indicate that similar gaps in perception exist between HR and senior management on these same topics, and as ADP points out, these differences matter because they may be indicative of larger problems within organizations – such as whether investments in HR technology are actually delivering the results of more effective communication, or whether advantages of a strategic HR function are being actively sought and realized.

ADP’s research studies show that globally, employees have much more negative perceptions of how well their organizations are managing them than the perceptions of their senior executives and HR leaders. This disparity is notable in such areas as compensation, work/life balance, career opportunities, and the effectiveness of senior leadership. The data also show that the larger the organization, the greater likelihood that employees’ perceptions of how well the organization is managed will decline.how well companies manage employees

differing perceptionsSenior executives and HR leaders are also significantly more satisfied than employees with the processes they have in place for getting employees’ answers to their questions regarding HR/benefits. Globally, this disparity is greatest in the Asia-Pacific region and in the United States. In the U.S. 79% of HR leaders report that it is Extremely/Very Easy to get HR/benefits questions answered, compared to only 56% of employees. Continuing the gap in perceptions is that, when employees’ questions are answered, HR leaders and senior executives perceive that employees are far more satisfied with the process they’ve gone through to get questions answered than employees actually are.

Such differences in perception bring to light a number of potential challenges. How do organizations know they’ve secured the advantages of providing benefits if HR is more fully convinced of employees’ satisfaction than employees themselves? Additionally, if HR thinks that their processes for answering questions are more effective than they actually are, are employees even aware of all their benefit options? This becomes especially disconcerting if organizations are counting on their benefits as a way to attract and retain talent. Interestingly, more than half of employees in large U.S. companies stated that an employee portal is an important informational resource, while less than one-third of their HR leaders shared that conclusion. The options primarily cited by HR leaders for employees to get answers to their questions included an in-office HR team, a dedicated HR representative, and the employees’ managers. Employees’ responses however, cited an 800 number or internal company portal as the most important resources for getting answers.

Note too, that among respondents who felt that it was extremely or very easy to have their HR questions answered, less than 1/5 reported they would be likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months; but among respondents who said it is not easy to have their HR questions answered, that number almost doubled to more than 25%. Lastly, another key area to note where disconnect occurs is between employers and employees perceptions of their organizations talent management processes:talent management disconnect

For more on information on the disconnect between employees and human capital management, make sure to check out ADP’s full report, “Human Capital Management’s Employee Disconnect. A Global Snapshot.”

And perhaps it’s time to begin questioning whether the data you are reviewing regarding your organization’s HR effectiveness is actually true.

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Filed under ADP, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, HR, Human Capital, Workplace Studies

Pump Up Your Change Management Competencies

Data Point Tuesday
IBM
recently released an executive report: “Making change work… while the work keeps changing – How change architects lead and manage organizational change.” The report, based on data from their latest “Making Change Work Study” seems a very pertinent one for the times. As a whole, we know that this is a period of significant change for the workforce, we talk about these changes, and how they can and are affecting organizations, but there is significantly less talk around how organizations are successfully managing such change – which is exactly what IBM’s report dives into. As IBM states, “the gap between the magnitude of change and the ability of organizations to manage it continues to widen.” While many organizations are struggling to close this gap, IBM identifies a select few – change architects – that have “found the keys to making change work while the work keeps changing.” IBM’s data is based on survey results from almost 1,400 individuals responsible for designing, creating or implementing change across their respective organizations.

In IBM’s study, they consider only the top 20 percent of organizations to be highly successful when it comes to change management. These “Change Architects” are organizations that indicated at least 75% of their projects were a complete success (i.e. a minimum of three-in-four projects met all predefined goals).Avg. success rate of projects

Change Architects capitalize on “the vortex of change permeating every aspect of business.” Such organizations are considerably more successful at managing projects. Compared to the average in IBM’s survey, Change Architects have at least 56 percent more projects that were a complete success. What do Change Architects do differently to manage change in their organizations? IBM identifies three critical imperatives that allow them to be change-effective:

  • “Lead at all Levels”
  • “Make Change Matter”
  • “Build the Muscle”

When it comes to managing change, organizations must lead at all levels. Many organizations fail to successfully manage change because they have do not embrace a “change-centric” culture, despite, as IBM points out, that change is the one constant that organizations will always face. Driving a change-centric culture must begin at the top from executive management and cascade throughout all levels of the organization. Survey respondents view “Top Management Sponsorship for Change” as the #1 most important aspect for organizational change:

Most important aspects of change
Despite this fact, only 66% of respondents state that their top management is enabled to act as change leaders (for Change Architects, this jumps to 77%). How are top management at Change Architect organizations driving change? IBM identifies three key characteristics that enable leaders to drive change across the organization:

  1. Role modeling throughout the organization.
  2. Engaging employees with a compelling case for change.
  3. Empowering new and passionate change leaders at all organizational levels.

Another critical responsibility of top management in regards to effectively managing change is making change matter. Managers must make sure that if change management programs exist, employees thoroughly understand the activities and benefits of those programs. The majority of organizations invest only 5% or less of total project budgets in change management activities on key projects, and 87 percent of respondents indicate that not enough focus is currently placed on change management in critical projects.

Budget allocation project management vs. change management

Respondents report that when change management activities are incorporated into the overall project plans from the beginning, successful project results are more likely. What then, is preventing change management activities? According to survey respondents, there are five key barriers that keep organizations from pursuing new change capabilities:

  • Change management benefits are not clear (69%)
  • Change management activities are not clear (53%)
  • Role of change professional is not clear (49%)
  • Lack of skilled change management resources (43%)
  • Change management is too expensive (26%)

Last but not least, Change Architect organizations – those that are successful at managing change – have a focus on “building muscle.” 60% of organizations in IBM’s study confirm a formal career path for project managers. This is opposed to only 25% for change professionals. Change Architects often establish a formal career path for change professionals (42% more than other organizations). They use this formalized change discipline for central change coordination; to drive consistent methods, change-related trainings, career developments, asset reuse, company-wide knowledge and best practice sharing.

Formal Change Management methods
While organizations that we can truly call “Change Architects” may still be few are far between, the good news is that between 2008 and 2014 the use of formal change management methods increased significantly. This indicates that awareness for this organizational management need is, at the very least, rising on companies’ radars. Managing change is tough, as we all know. This report suggests that making change management a core competence in our organizations may just make our change experiences more successful in every way. Building and exercising change management muscles may make all the difference!

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The 2020 Workforce: Misconceptions Between Management and Employees

data point tuesday

Oxford Economics and SAP recently released the report “Workforce 2020: The Looming Talent Crisis” aimed at understanding the opportunities and challenges of the evolving workforce. The research is based on survey responses from over 2,700 executives and more than 2,700 employees in 27 countries. Understanding the core characteristics of “the new face of work,” as SAP puts it, is an important step in recognizing the opportunities and challenges that will come with it. SAP and Oxford Economics’ research identifies several key characteristics of the 2020 workforce, including that it will be an increasingly flexible one. Of executives surveyed, 83% cited that they plan to increase use of contingent, intermittent, or consultant employees in the next three years and 58% say that this requires changing HR policy. In addition to being flexible, the 2020 workforce will be increasingly diverse, and SAP advises that because of this HR leaders will need to become more evidence-based to deal with these realities. As of now, only 50% of HR departments state that they use quantifiable metrics and benchmarking in workforce development and only 47% say they know how to extract meaningful insights from the data available to them. This is likely part of what influences the reported lack of progress towards meeting workforce goals that many executives cite. Just 33% stated that they have made “good” or “significant” progress towards workforce goals.

SAP identifies technology as a key need for the evolving workforce that organizations are unprepared for. While this may seem obvious, in the U.S. just 39% of employees report getting ample training on workplace technology and only 27% report access to the latest technology. While it’s understandable that not all organizations can offer the most cutting edge technologies, a lack of sufficient training for the technologies that are in place could be seriously affecting employee productivity. Aside from technology, misconceptions about Millennials are another trend of the evolving workforce that SAP points out (and with the expectation that this generation will make up more than 50% of the workforce by 2020, any misconceptions are noteworthy). The research points out that while Millennials are different than other generations, they may not be as different as they are typically portrayed. According to executives surveyed, 60% believe Millennials are frustrated with manager quality but only 18% of Millennials say that they actually are. Additionally, 62% of executives report that Millennials will consider leaving their job due to a lack of learning and development, but just 31% of Millennials say they have considered this.

millenial-misconception

In terms of the emerging workforce, there may also be gaps between what companies believe employees want from them and what employees actually want.

what-employees-say
Perhaps not surprisingly, the most important incentive to U.S employees is competitive compensation (84%) followed by retirement plans (75%), and vacation time (62%). 39% of employees say higher compensation would increase loyalty and engagement with their current job. When it comes to attributes that employees think are most important to their employer, job performance and results is number one (46%), followed by the ability to learn and be trained quickly (29%), and loyalty and long-term commitment to the company (28%). This differs however, from what employers deem most important. The top three attributes executives want in employees are a high level of education and/or institutional training (33%), loyalty and long-term commitment 32%), and the ability to learn and be trained quickly (31%).

What executives and employees do agree on is that organizations are not focused enough on developing future leaders. Only 51% of U.S. executives say their company plans for succession and continuity in key roles and 47% say their plans for growth are being hampered by lack of access to the right leaders. Employees agree that leadership is a problem area, with just 51% of employees stating that leadership at their company is equipped to lead the company to success. Better learning and education opportunities will be key to bridging this talent gap. The need for technology skills in particular will increase in demand (e.g. cloud and analytics), although SAP’s data states that just 33% of employees expect to be proficient in cloud in three years. This statistic is slightly better when it comes to analytics, with 43% expecting proficiency in three years and almost 50% expecting proficiency in mobile, social media, and social collaboration. In terms of training programs, only about half (51%) of American executives say their company widely offers supplemental training programs to develop new skills. This aligns with employees’ perceptions toward training, with 51% reporting that their company provides the right tools to help them grow and improve job performance. Additionally, about half (52%) of employees say their company encourages continuing education and training to further career development.

Take a look at the graphic below that highlights the five major labor market shifts discussed. Are you beginning to think about shifting workforce development strategies for the future? Are you really sure what your employees think? Or are you making assumptions based on popular press reports that may not be founded on fact?

labor-market-shifts

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Sustainability in 2014: The Language of CSR

Data Point Tuesday
GreenBiz Group Inc.
recently released their 2014 Sustainability & Employee Engagement Report, content generated from responses of more than 5,600 members of the GreenBiz Intelligence Panel (executives and thought leaders in the area of corporate environmental strategy and performance). GreenBiz’s report “examines aspects of corporate environmental and sustainability education initiatives at companies at varying stages of program development and provides a quantitative understanding of the evolution of employee engagement” and notes that while sustainability professionals commonly think of challenges in terms of the physical or fiscal impact of their efforts, the most problematic challenge for this area today may actually be its use of language. Take the term “employee engagement” as an example. While sustainability professionals frequently use this term to describe their attempts to motivate a company’s employees to participate in furthering the sustainability or CSR program, it’s likely that HR executives already have a definition for the term and a way to measure it. HR commonly defines engagement as an employee’s willingness to apply discretionary effort toward meeting the company’s goals and to do more than merely meet job requirements/customer needs and measures this via an index approach using employee answers to survey questions. For example “are you proud to work at this company?” or “do you feel this is a great place to work?”

If HR and Sustainability teams have different definitions of terms like employee engagement, it can cause disconnect and communication barriers. GreenBiz uses the example of a CSR professional who ran into resistance when he met with HR to talk about how to improve employee engagement efforts at his organization. When he changed the language of the conversation however, and asked to discuss how they could increase the participation numbers in the company’s sustainability programs, he was meet with much more enthusiasm. GreenBiz points out that another potential language gap occurs when Sustainability and HR professionals discuss how to achieve greater participation from employees in furthering the sustainability mission. While 73 percent of respondents indicated that their company is educating employees across the organization about its corporate sustainability goals, in a recent study by The Conference Board, only 5 percent of the S&P 500 have instituted employee CSR training. This highlights the differences in association and potential confusion that can occur between the terms “training” and “education,” where training is generally more skills based and education often refers to broader and more general learning activities.

Sept 16 sustainability definitions chart
Understanding the kinds of language used in CSR and HR programs, and how to frame such language, can be a vital tool in breaking down communication barriers within an organization. With this in mind, let’s look more closely at what GreenBiz’s report uncovered, starting with the basic definition of “sustainability” initiatives. Over the last six years the term “sustainability” has become the standard for describing such initiatives. 51% of respondents report identifying with this term, up from 49 percent in 2011 and 34 percent in 2008. While this term is increasing, two terms have lost value in describing sustainability initiatives, “environmental, health and safety” and “greening” (see chart above). Another sustainability trend for 2014 is the convergence of social and environmental issues. When GreenBiz looked at the extent to which environmental and social issues are linked today vs. five years ago, they noted an increase across all companies regardless of size. The largest increase in the correlation was at large companies, from 87% to 94%. When it comes to educating employees about their corporate sustainability goals, almost all companies participate. 73% of respondents at small companies indicated their organizations are providing this education, as did 80% of respondents at large companies. Interestingly, which department champions sustainability education efforts most seems to be dependent on the size of the company (see graphic below).

Sustainability champions grapic
When it comes to the topics on which departments focus for employee sustainability education programs, the top 5 have remained steady over the last six years and are: “general information about sustainability initiatives,” “the company’s sustainability successes and accomplishments,” “Actions at work to conserve or protect resources,” “environmental footprint of the company,” and “volunteer programs.” For 2014, the top three motivators for employee participation in corporate sustainability activities were: “concern for the environment and society,” “evident CEO support or mandate,” and “sustainability goals included in performance evaluation.” GreenBiz’s report also cites internal hurdles to sustainability education, which include executive commitment, education and communication, budget/resources/competing priorities, and time.

This data around participation by employees in corporate CSR or Sustainability programs, links nicely to last week’s post about Millennials’ participation in “cause work.” Coming at this topic from both directions – desire on the part of Millennials to participate and corporate CSR/Sustainability professionals’ desire for higher participation levels – creates significant opportunity for everyone. Building trust levels , creating opportunities for growing camaraderie and making strides in being good stewards of the Earth, the economy and our communities in one fell swoop could be a monumental win/win for all of us.

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