Sunday, May 1, 2011

Employees should be more than engaged. They should be engaging.

For any of you who are still not convinced that HR Managers can help increase profits, just take a look at this data from the US Postal Service, which I happened to pick up as I was doing a little research for an executive lecture class gave on CSR for HR. I noticed this in an article on 2Sustain.

In 2010, the US Postal Service gained a $27.1 million cost saving benefit as a result of work done by Green Employees (i.e. employees who get involved in the organization's "Lean Green Team" activity). This is made up of the following:

$5 million in reduced resources consumption - energy, electricity etc
$13 million in revenue generation from sale of recycled materials
$9.1 million in landfill fee avoidance

That's a whopping sum of money saved in one year. A real HR contribution to the bottom line.

Emil Dzuray, acting Chief Sustainability Officer of the US Postal Service, said. “Our employee green teams are an important part of building a conservation culture and reducing our carbon footprint.”

This is an example of what I mean when I talk about moving from engaged employees to engaging employees i.e. employees who are engaging. Every single employee has tens of opportunities every single day to interact with internal and external stakeholders. Every single one of these interactions is an opportunity to champion the CSR cause through behavior and words and both. Just think, in a business of 5,000 employees, each of whom has at least 50 interactions a day either face-to-face or online, that's a minimum of 250,000 interaction possibilities EACH DAY.

The role of the CSHR Manager is to create a culture, supported by processes and frameworks, in which the maximum percentage of this total number of daily interactions (I call these touchpoints. Love jargon) with all stakeholders can become sustainability interactions. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to reinforce CSR messages, values, principles. The more employees have CSR as top-of-mind, the greater the number of touchpoints the organization will be able to rely upon to advance its sustainability agenda.

So what we need is engaging employees who leverage sustainability touchpoints.
Great phrase, no?
And who needs to create the conditions for this to happen in organizations?
Yes, you got it. The HR Managers.
But first, they have to wake up.
It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website


Henk Hadders said...

Great post and I like the image of employees as sustainability leaders who are not only engaged , but who are also engaging stakeholders, leveraging sustainability touch points. A great phrase, indeed! Who created the conditions for this to happen in organizations? HRM managers….. of all people! I agree, that most of them need to awaken first from their very deep sleep, but is this a truthful and right claim for those HRM managers who are awake? You wrote a great book about CSR for HR, and I suppose that you would like this to be true, but is it ?

What is the impact of HRM on corporate sustainability issues? How do we know for sure that “engaging employees” are the sole outcomes of HRM policies, and that this outcome isn’t to be contributed to Corporate Knowledge Management policies, Sustainability Management Policies etc…, with Chief Knowledge and Chief Sustainability Officers in place. Sure, sustainability is a human affair, but to give one organizational discipline all the credits “ without any proof of impact”, is going too far, for engaging this engaged reader on the issue. It’s just a small critical note in your ocean of lovely posts. Be well!

Kind regards,


elaine said...

Hello Henk, thank you for your comments. I think we agree. I made the point that it is HR Managers who SHOULD be creating the conditions for employees to be engaging, but that is rarely happening today. I would of course like it to be true, as I believe HR Managers have important and unique skills to contribute, but I agree that it is not happening right now.
As in any organization, business outcomes are a cumulation of different things, not just one single intervention. This is part of the challenge of measuring the HR impacts, though it can be done, and data about organizational processes can be correlated to outcomes such as profitability, customer satisfaction, innovation rates and more. HR should be creating the conditions in which CSR can be embedded but of course, HR Managers alone cannot make this happen which is why they need to work in effective partnership with other functions in the business.

My point is simply that if HR Managers do wake up and drive the right processes, then a business can perform much more effectively on sustainability issues.
warm regards

Ben said...

Really interesting post, Elaine. Those statistics about USPS are unbelievable. It would be great to see this type of practise become more common!


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