Beyond awareness: The next step in employee engagement

Editor's note: This is the third installment in a series on engaging employees around sustainability. The first part introduced the four stages of employee engagement and the second part discussed the first stage, raising employee awareness about sustainability.

This month’s column will focus on the second stage in employee engagement, Connection, and will feature examples of companies that have successfully reached this stage. By connection, we mean taking a step beyond just presenting information – the first stage – and promoting interaction and a sense of belonging among employees, helping them make the home-work connection, supporting work-life balance and enabling them to share best practices with their peers and beyond.

Every company employs different methods of helping employees make the connection between sustainability and business. The key is to understand the culture of your organization and then design a program which embraces this culture and allows for interaction and sharing of information across business functions and locations. When this happens, employees "get it" and a true tangible and intangible connection occurs.

Here's how four different companies -- Fairmount Minerals, Altria, Ingersoll Rand and Energizer -- have put this into practice:

1) Fairmount Minerals, an Ohio-based sand and sand-products company, has successfully embedded sustainability into its business operations and company culture over the last seven years, creating a strong sense of belonging within its workforce. Employees are called "family members," ensuring that everyone knows they are a valued part of the organization. And the wellness program also includes employees' family members, which helps them create a stronger work-home connection and supports work-life balance.

The company's Sustainable Development Teams comprise volunteers who are responsible for setting annual team goals that are directly tied to the overall mission and vision of the organization. Furthermore, progress toward these team goals -- along with the overarching corporate goals -- are publicly reported every year in the company's social responsibility report.

Achieving these goals not only benefits the company's operations or bottom line, but also gives its teams a sense of pride and contribution to Fairmount Minerals' success and sustainability. The company also does plenty of outreach: Throughout the year, it holds open houses at its sites and "family members" visit community organizations and schools to educate community members, not only about the company, but about the importance of sustainability. All this helps connect business, sustainability and community well-being.

Image of networking by Jure Porenta via Shutterstock.

Next page: Altria, Ingersoll Rand and Energizer