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The 5 definitions of sustainability recruiting

<p>Sustainability recruiting can have a long-term impact on a company&#39;s profitability, productivity and employee happiness.</p>

Many people don't immediately connect "sustainability" and "recruiting," but putting these two powerful concepts together can yield several business benefits.

Sustainability recruiting can have a long-term impact on a company's profitability, productivity and employee happiness. There is not one but rather five definitions of sustainability recruiting.

They include:

1. Hiring sustainability professionals
2. Applying key performance metrics to hiring
3. Aligning with values
4. Using sustainability as a recruiting tool
5. Ensuring well-matched employees and employers stay together longer

Below is a closer look at each definition:

1. Hiring sustainability professionals

Sustainability professionals can be categorized into three tiers. The first tier is the head of sustainability or the chief sustainability officer. The second tier are those who directly report to the sustainability chief within the sustainability office. On average, a head of sustainability has four direct reports, leaving the sustainability office with a mere five employees. That's a lean organization to influence change and implement a broad range of sustainability initiatives.

Beyond the sustainability office is the third tier. They do not work for the sustainability office yet they are integrated and embedded into other business units. We call this layer the "Sustainability Embeds." This is where we are seeing the most growth, plus a formalization of how that embedded layer integrates with the sustainability office via governance structures and dotted line reporting.

2. Applying key performance metrics to hiring

It is important to assure placements are high performers that add value to the company for many years into the future. After all, isn't that what sustainability is all about -- that your workers are strong performers over a long period of time?

Job fair image by Eastern Washington University via Compfight cc.

Performance tools can allow the client to:

1. Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) at the launch of a search
2. Apply those KPIs as screens during the search
3. Check after 90 days of placement to assure the new recruit is on the right track (Full disclosure: My search firm has developed one such tool.)

3. Aligning with values

Some companies choose to align the company's purpose (also referred to as mission, vision and/or values) in their recruiting of all staff.

Sustainability recruiting exists when sustainability is built into the company's purpose and that purpose is tied to recruiting. Two companies apply sustainability recruiting to all their employees are IKEA and VanCity.

"We recruit based on our values and expect everyone to take responsibility and learn on the job," says Mikael Ohlsson, president and chief executive officer of the IKEA Group, in IKEA's 2012 Sustainability Report.

Ellen Pekeles, VanCity's senior vice president of operations, puts it succinctly: "We screen for skills and hire for fit with our values and vision."

4. Using sustainability as a recruiting tool

The most oft overlooked value of a sustainability program may be the value of that program to its employees. Beyond employee engagement, a company's sustainability commitment is a draw to new recruits.

Take PepsiCo, for example, and their "Performance with Purpose" initiative. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi says this initiative is the strongest recruiting tool they have:

"It is the most important and exciting factor," she says. "It's unbelievable. Sometimes people are sitting on the fence, a highly regarded person, and they agree to come to us for one reason. They say, 'We want to be part of the Performance with Purpose agenda,' and that's been the single biggest recruiting tool we have in Pepsico today."

Anecdotally, many college recruiters from companies say they only bring their CSR reports to campus recruiting events.

5. Ensuring well-matched employees and employers stay together longer

When the right employee is matched with the right employer, employees are more engaged in their work and have pride in their workplace. This results in many benefits for the company, including greater employee retention and higher productivity.

Highly engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave the organization, and "engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry." At the same time, more than $300 billion is lost annually in productivity due to disengaged workers.

Gallup research in 2012 shows that engaged employees have:

• 37 percent lower absenteeism
• 25 percent lower turnover in high-turnover organizations
• 65 percent lower turnover in low-turnover organizations
• 48 percent fewer safety incidents
• 41 percent fewer quality incidents (defects)
• 10 percent higher customer metrics
• 21 percent higher productivity
• 22 percent higher profitability

In addition to this impact on operations, engaged employees can become the best word-of-mouth marketing campaign a company could hope for, as well as profitable and productive workers.

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