How do you know if employee engagement is working?

This metric reflects another lesson learned by a few of these respondents. One panel member reported, "Employees see sustainability as an important business or social benefit but that there has been so many overhyped green claims…they do not know what to believe." Another noted, "Our employees want to be informed about what sustainability is more than have us ask what sustainability means to them at this point."

While that may seem discouraging, it is an opening for greater employee engagement, a theme echoed by numerous responses. "[Our employees] want to learn more but want the messaging in easy sound bytes that they can remember. They want constant accessibility to information and prefer that we not bombard them with messaging. They are most interested in local efforts -- what's in it for me and my direct community."

Several other panel members identified the importance of sustainability efforts as part of overall employee satisfaction. One respondent quantified some of their findings from a recent survey. "Eighty-nine percent of our employees view it as important for us to pursue sustainability. Sixty-five percent see it as contributing directly to our goals. [In our surveys] women are more favorable towards sustainability than men. Asia-Pacific and Japan employees are more favorable than EMEA [Europe, Middle East, and Africa] and the US. And young employees are more favorable to sustainability than older employees."

Perhaps the biggest benefit of surveying employees is to learn where you need to focus your efforts, as one panelist related how "we are including sustainability-related questions in the all employee engagement survey for the first time -- coming up in Q2 2012. From past surveys we learned that 29 percent of respondents answered neutral or "don't know" on the one question related to their belief that our company is responsive to our business' impacts on the environment. This data validated the need for more education and awareness activities."

Employee surveys can be a risk if the results don't lead to actions. But according to one of our panel members "Substantive and credible sustainability efforts by the company make our employees feel proud of where they work."

Survey photo via Shutterstock.