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How ESG programs can combat the great resignation

Employee engagement

This article originally appeared in the author's weekly newsletter and is reprinted with permission.

In her book "How to Change," author Katy Milkman cites the importance of reset dates or events that enable a mental fresh start. Hence the popularity of New Year's Day, birthdays and Mondays in behavior change. In the emerging "great resignation," where an estimated 41 percent of people will change jobs, the pandemic has catalyzed a giant, global career reset event.

People experienced the benefits of flexibility and remote work and will leave if they can’t retain it. Some took stock of grueling hours or work conditions and said, "life’s too short." Others realized they want to make a difference in this world and are looking for jobs with more meaning, purpose and impact.

WeSpire has compelling research that shows that embracing a strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy is one critical way to combat the great resignation, by keeping the employees you have. In our State of Employee Engagement research published earlier this year, 93 percent of employees who said that their company was making a strong positive impact in this world were planning to stay in their jobs. For employees who did not agree with that statement, on average only 43 percent were planning to stay with their employer.

The best programs are those that enable employees to participate in some meaningful way on a consistent basis.

So how do you convince people you are a force for good in this world?

  1. Have clear, transparent and motivating ESG goals. No matter what industry you are in, you have an opportunity to be more sustainable and inclusive, engaged in your community and improve employee wellbeing. But if you haven’t set goals, you have little way of expressing internally or externally what you are trying to accomplish.

    The best way to set goals is to conduct a materiality assessment and use that to direct your efforts. But if you are a small organization and that’s not feasible, get a group together to consider how to be a better force for good in this world that aligns with your industry, your community and issues your people care about. Then set goals and develop efforts to achieve them.
     
  2. Establish and support year-round employee engagement efforts in ESG. While we see significant interest in capstone events, such as a whole company service day or sustainability month, if that’s all you do all year, retention benefits are limited. Employees need to feel that there are opportunities to contribute regularly to the impact efforts. Likewise, large donations are meaningful to the recipients, but if there isn’t a way that donation touches the employee experience, it also limits the benefit.

    The best programs are those that enable employees to participate in some meaningful way on a consistent basis. One way to broaden your efforts is to more actively link your employee resource groups with your corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Another is to create quarterly global, all employee efforts, but strongly encourage ongoing local efforts on those topics as well.
     
  3. Celebrate your ESG successes internally and externally. We can often tell how committed a company is to ESG engagement with a check of their website and social media posts. Best practice companies show photos and data about their employees volunteering and giving, or highlight a sustainability project with clear proof of employee involvement, or feature an inclusivity effort their employee resource group took on. They devote time in every all-hands meeting, newsletter, leadership meeting and yes, even board meetings, to ESG goals. The most impressive effort I’ve ever seen is an annual meeting to share progress with external stakeholders that employees could attend.

Yes, the great resignation is upon us, but I don’t think it’s too late for a company to double down on ESG as one way to keep the people they have. Just get moving.

Find a way to do a virtual or hybrid volunteering day in Q4. Have employees nominate organizations they have been meaningfully impressed with during the pandemic for donations or give everyone a small stipend to donate on their own. Hold a well-being challenge focused on active movement or gratitude. Devote a month to energy, and encourage people to get ready for winter with small weatherizing tips. Your ESG efforts will be appreciated and may just be what convinces someone they can find purpose, meaning and impact with you.

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