The importance of knowing your employees
We are currently facing crucial changes in the way that we live and work, the Covid-19 world pandemic magnifies if not accelerates this fundamental change. Since the United Nations Green deal ratification in 2015-16 of the Paris agreement regarding climate change and the 17 SDGs (Sustainable development goals). The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were established as the new global sustainable development agenda for 2030, the idea is to meet human needs now and in the future, whilst conserving and enhancing the natural environment. Based on the Triple bottom line theory People-Planet-Profit (“The Triple Bottom Line: How Today's Best-Run Companies Are”, Book by Andrew Savitz, Karl Weber) businesses began to realize the connection between environmental, social well-being and the organization’s financial success and resilience. Indeed certifications like BCorp certifications, pushes organizations to take into account impacts on all stakeholders this includes: employees, customers, suppliers, community, and environment, thus helping the triple bottom line framework (https://bcorporation.net/). The theory behind is that if an organization is only profit focused and ignore people and the planet, it can not account for the full cost of doing business and hence it will not be resilient and succeed in the long term.
According to the UN (www.un.org) ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, conserving and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources, as well as taking urgent actions to combat climate change (respectively goals: 3, 14, 13) and preserve the environment have all been identified as Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore it is crucial to recognise that achieving a sustainable workplace is only possible when approaching well being and the natural environment in a holistic way.
In 2018 a Gallup study (https://news.gallup.com/topic/well_being_index.aspx) showed that 85% of employees in the world do not feel as though they reach their potential at work and do not feel engaged. Moreover the 2021 EU Regional Social Progress Index that measures social progress on three dimensions: basic human needs, foundations of well being and opportunity confirms the 2018 Gallup study (https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/information/maps/social_progress2021/).
These studies also showed the lack of opportunities was a strong indicator. This means that by providing growth opportunities to employees, well being can positively be impacted and hence create a sense of purpose. Indeed an engaged employee will feel as though they are contributing towards something that matters to them and “present and future conditions of the environment” is one of the vital top 5 triggers.
Understanding the importance of your human resources (employees) and making sure your human resources understand how their job affect the bottom line is a sustainable strategy. Indeed, how can employees be fully engaged to the organization and productive, if they do not really understand how their job is linked and affects their company's business? While some employees can work efficiently without knowing what the "bigger picture" is, for most employees such disconnection with the organization contributes to the lack of engagement and efficiency.
Statistical studies made in Europe in 2019 (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat) show that organizations focusing on implementing sustainability practices not only for their outside environment but as well for their inside environment can resolve the disruption employees feel between their personal values and their work by providing a higher purpose.
Management scholar Paul Strebel (“Why Do Employees Resist Change?” Harvard Business Review, May/June 1996, p. 86), who found that employees and organizations have reciprocal obligations and mutual commitments defining their relationship call those agreements “personal compacts”. Initiative such as a transition to a sustainable business model based on the 3P’s (People, Planet, Profit) requires changing these compacts and connect personal and corporate values. These “personal compacts” have three dimensions: formal (job descriptions, employment contracts, performance agreements), psychological (rewards, recognition, expectations, and commitment), and social (perception, culture, and values). In order, to implement and integrate sustainability into an organization, management needs to reconcile the gap between personal and corporate values in all of the above mentioned (three) dimensions.
So, the critical point is the importance of aligning profit with purpose for employees and all stakeholders at every level of an organization. Sustainability addresses achieving the wants and needs of human beings today, while also focusing on the preservation of the environment and ensuring the well being of the future generation. As the world pandemic emphasized, we are rapidly transitioning in the way we work in Europe and employers must identify and tackle the integrated qualities of sustainability or risk losing out on vital human resources and become vulnerable to any crisis whether economic, sanitary or environmental.
Furthermore, when organizations know their employees it plays a crucial part in motivating them to deliver their best work level. Knowing employees helps managers understand their needs and expectations from the organization as well as knowing whether or not it aligns with the organization’s mission and vision in the long run. Moreover, the time spend at work counts for an important part of people’s everyday life, hence the importance of a healthy work culture. Often employees don’t feel engaged towards the organization because they lack a sustainable work culture. Its absence significantly impacts the work ethic, performance and potential of employees. To the contrary when sustainable work culture is nurtured, employees arise to actively drive the company towards its mission with passion and innovation, promoting its resilience and success in the long term. Knowing your employees well also means knowing them not only in a professional aspect but also understanding their personal situation avoiding misunderstandings, incomprehension, leading to a healthy work culture which also highly contributes to a productive internal work cohesion.
For instance managers need to know the names of all their team members and understand where all their team members are skillful and where they are lacking and what initiatives would make them a better human resource; leading to better professional growth and better productivity.
A critical factor of well being index is economic security which itself is depends on the strategy and actions taken towards a greener and more circular economy. This provides organizations with an outstanding opportunity, as by stimulating awareness towards the organizations sustainable action plan(s) the organization helps accelerate its sustainability level while giving its employees a sense of “doing the right thing” and being part of “the good guys”. Besides, environmental sustainability can improve well being at work, organizations should encourage sustainable travel (eg walking and cycling) whic also helps physical and mental health, reduce stress and decrease air pollution;30% of European companies CO2 emisisons is emited by the daily professional comute (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat).
Paul Strebel who is a professor and director of the Change Program for international managers at IMD, the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland; found that there are 8 ways to engage employees in the organizations sustainability’s journey which will help the employees well being by stimultaing its search for purpose and awarness.
The employment market of today (2021) comprises “Generation Z” (born starting 1996) who form the majority of our employee demographic by more than 23% in Europe
(https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat). This is the generation of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Employers must not ignore what makes a desirable company to Gen Z or they risk losing a large proportion of the future work-pool.
Cone’s 2017 Gen Z CSR Study shows that nowadays, the stakes for an organization have gotten a lot higher, as organizations must now share not only what they stand for, but what they stand up for, making reconciling your organizations mission and vision with your employees purposes a vital aspect of your organizations future successes.
It still remains to note that although it may seem simple, getting to know your team members on a more personal level can make a big difference in workplace morale, employee performance, and job satisfaction.