Lessons from Wells Fargo's green team program

Because employee engagement programs increase employee satisfaction and ultimately drive business value, organizations increasingly see employee engagement as a necessary part of sustainability. But getting everyone on board, with so many competing priorities, presents challenges. Wells Fargo has a comprehensive employee engagement program with sustainability-focused employees organized into “green teams.” This program was highlighted here on GreenBiz in January of 2011.

In a recent conversation with Krista Van Tassel, vice president for team member engagement at Wells Fargo, we discussed some hurdles involved with employee engagement programs, ways to trouble-shoot and overcome these issues, and lessons learned from specific examples of green team successes.

Van Tassel works on empowering green teams to be innovative in making Wells Fargo’s  corporate message work locally. The entire environmental affairs team has launched a comprehensive outreach program for the green teams. This includes supporting green team projects, and giving them tools and templates. When providing these things they also encourage employees to add a local touch to their projects, and to be creative as they plan. Since 2009, the number of green teams at has increased from 30 to 65 across the globe with anywhere from 17 to 1000 employees per team.

Environmental affairs outreach also includes a menu of options that represents a “variety of shades of green,” as Van Tassel put it. Team members already savvy about the environment who are leaders of green teams represent the darker shades of green, but there are plenty of Wells Fargo employees just starting to consider their environmental impact.

For these team members, Van Tassel and the environmental affairs team provide regular communication about sustainability, what green teams are doing across the world, and the value they bring to Wells Fargo. They also provide posters and signs about the environment -- from stickers near light switches to signs at printers.

They are “creating an environment where people can make the right choices in daily life,” Van Tassel said. She stresses the necessity of meeting employees where they are and of encouraging first steps for employees operating in the lighter hues of green. Encouragement and education are necessary elements of employee engagement at every level.

One of the greatest challenges at Wells Fargo in terms of employee engagement has been getting middle manager buy-in and support. Across the board they have seen that in order to succeed a green team needs support from managers in the area, so employees wanting to get involved must get managers in their location to back them.

But managers already support an immense amount of business goals, so if the start and growth of a green team is not communicated effectively it can seem like just one more thing added to a lengthy list of priorities.

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