In today’s environmentally conscious culture, in which companies’ carbon footprints and sustainability efforts are scrutinized, organizations no longer can afford to ignore the building momentum of the green movement. But one might wonder what being green or socially responsible has to do with learning and development.
Tim Sanders, author of Saving the World at Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference, would argue they have much to do with each other.
“I believe that when a company is green, what that means is that it grows everything it touches, which starts with its people, spreads to the communities where it does business and ultimately has an impact on the natural environment,” he explained. “Green means to grow, and growing starts with learning and development.”
How you treat your employees is the No. 1 driver in how your organization is viewed by others in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR), according to a survey released in 2006 by Golin Harris. As a result, organizations need to be attuned to the landscape of their organizations and especially the “education deltas.”
“These are natural gaps in learning that occur based on various industries,” Sanders said. “If you work at a high-tech firm with a big engineering culture, relationship development and money management are really important learning things to put into place. And the reason why is most entry-level engineers haven’t put a high bounty on relationship development. And that’s why they have such a difficult time being integrated as people managers or collaborating across groups. The same goes for money management.”
But for training to be successful, it must be supported by the manager.
“This is radical, but managers should be judged for compensation or bonus in part by the level of development and job satisfaction of the people that report to them,” Sanders said. “I know this sounds like the high school popularity contest, but at the end of the day, if the manager’s comp is influenced by the level of learning and training participation, you’re going to change behavior remarkably.”
Besides development, work-life balance is also a part of CSR. Because e-mail can be disruptive to that balance, Sanders believes organizations should train managers and leaders in when and how to e-mail employees.
“E-mail training is a good starting point for creating relationship development, protecting a company’s brand and preserving work-life balance,” he explained. “We found that if you don’t train managers on the use of e-mail, they steal personal time from employees with 3 a.m. e-mails and 75 e-mails on weekends. And we’ve learned it has a direct relationship to turnover.
“We have to start expanding our view of, ‘What does training mean?’ And again, it starts with, ‘What’s our biggest problem?’ We’re looking for the deltas, the gaps, the hot spots, and we develop against it.”
Making CSR a part of your organization’s brand not only makes your employees more invested in the company, but it ultimately creates a culture of collaboration.
“As a person volunteers, they become reprogrammed to believe there’s enough time and money to go around,” Sanders said. “Companies that encourage community involvement down to the development level, like Timberland, experience much higher job satisfaction of their employees — but they also find that those employees are much more likely to assist, volunteer and help the community of other employees inside the organization.”