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CBRE, city of Cleveland share employee engagement lessons

<p>CBRE&#39;s Real Green Research challenge puts its money where its mouth is in funding research on sustainable real estate practices, while a Cleveland program involves citizens in creating sustainable economic growth.</p>

In this column, we last discussed the connection stage of employee engagement. 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. Deeply rooted connection leads to commitment, our third stage of employee engagement. Commitment requires ongoing interaction, knowledge sharing and reinforcement of a company’s values as they move through their sustainability journey.

CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm, has made great strides in engaging its employees to inform and shape its corporate sustainability strategy. In 2007, after a rigorous process to evaluate its impacts and effectively mitigate its carbon emissions, the company committed itself to carbon neutrality. Upon achieving carbon neutrality, CBRE put a great deal of thought into how to go about creating employee enthusiasm and securing commitment from the entire organization to drive forward its sustainability journey.

In 2012, CBRE announced its Real Green Research Challenge (RGRC). Over the next four years, CBRE will award up to $1 million to fund independent academic research into sustainable real estate practices. CBRE conceived the Real Green Research Challenge to help connect researchers to its market-leading capabilities and data on building construction and management. To see a video about this, go here.

CBRE paired its financial commitment with employee engagement. Through an extensive education and global outreach campaign, the company engaged employees to help make the RGRC happen, including their active participation in the design of the award process and the evaluation of the ideas.

CBRE is using the Real Green Research Challenge to catalyze market-disrupting ideas and create “green” innovation. The challenge reflects the company’s core values (Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence or RISE) and corporate responsibility commitment, and supports the desire for transformative change in the industry. President and CEO Bob Sulentic comments, “Our RGRC program will help to unleash innovation by connecting ideas with funding and with CBRE’s unparalleled information and people resources.”

Another strong example of the commitment phase of employee engagement is being demonstrated in Cleveland, Ohio, through a community-wide economic development initiative called Sustainable Cleveland 2019 (SC2019).The SC2019 initiative focuses on the strengths of the region and leverages these strengths to create new opportunities for sustainable economic growth.

Through a whole system process, engaged community members have been able to connect with the activities that they are most interested in working on and have been empowered to do so. Since 2009, individuals and organizations alike have been creating new ways of working together to foster innovative and entrepreneurial solutions for generating economic activity that is regenerating the region.

Now that the initiative is in its fourth year, people have demonstrated their commitment to seeing the projects and initiatives through. A reason for this is a commitment by the city to reconvene annually to celebrate progress, recognize success and recommit to an open and accessible process for creating a sustainable economy. This engagement is being led top down as well as bottom up. This unique approach is proving to be a successful recipe for whole system change.

CBRE and SC2019 are two great examples of how organizations are bringing stakeholders and, in particular, employees, together to move from the connection stage to the commitment stage in engagement. Once an organization has received buy-in from employees and helped them make the connection between information and action, it solidifies an employee’s commitment in the company’s journey and ultimate success. Next month, we will discuss the final stage in employee engagement, action, sharing best practices and relevant examples of companies that have achieved effective results. Stay tuned!

Photo of Cuyahoga River in Cleveland provided by StonePhotos via Shutterstock. 

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