Ventura County finds 5 keys to engaging employees

Ventura County finds 5 keys to engaging employees

Image courtesy of Ventura County.

Green Impact recently helped the County of Ventura, Calif., design and launch a new sustainability employee engagement strategy.  The end result is a new sustainability website, video and a web-based engagement tool. While there is much buzz these days about engaging employees, I still find the actual execution of such programs more art than science. Here are five tips to help you get an engagement program launched or to amp up your existing program:

1. Integrate tips for living greener at home as well as work
2. Create a catchy and unique brand and tagline
3. Have a clear call to action
4. Make it personal -- engage senior management as green champions
5. Use video to tell your story

1. Integrate tips for living greener at home as well as work

One key strategic decision was to expand the scope of the engagement program to include actions for both work and home.

"One of the County of Ventura's top priorities is to engage employees at work to reduce energy and waste, but we are also interested in informing employees how to integrate sustainability into their lives at home and in the community," explained Alejandra Tellez, county program administrator.

The website includes specific actions and supporting information for living greener both at work and at home, with special sections on eating sustainably and engaging your kids.

2. Create a catchy and unique brand and tagline

Take the time to create a unique and catchy brand and tagline for the engagement program. It is an opportunity to create a look, feel and message that resonates with employees and begins to build brand awareness of the program.

The team was faced with a familiar challenge: How do they inspire busy employees to feel compelled to take a small action that individually might seem like a drop in the bucket?

With 8,000 employees, small actions collectively can make an impact. Using the tagline "One person. One action. Together," this message was weaved throughout the program in the video, on the website and on T-shirts.

3. Have a clear call to action

The county was clear it wanted to focus on reducing carbon emissions and waste, but when it came time to identify which actions employees had control over, it was a bit more challenging to clearly identify the most effective call to action. As we engaged key stakeholders, analyzed data and reviewed existing programs, three key priorities emerged:

• Cut vampire energy use
• Increase recycling and reduce waste
• Promote use of the county green fleet with its cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles

How does one get these messages out without sounding like a nag? We created a lively video that incorporated the three calls to action and developed an action-oriented website. On the homepage, we have included a rotating "Featured Action" that includes a quick link to more details.

The program also is supported by an engagement tool designed to spark friendly competition by allowing departments to see how their engagement level ranks compared to their peers. The tool also allows green teams to easily organize, create customized posters with the program branding and track results.


4. Make it personal and engage senior management as green champions

We breathed some life into issues that could be seen as mundane by telling personal success stories on both the website and in the video. To add a bit of spice and interest to what might sound like Charlie Brown's teacher saying "whaa-whaa-whaa," we engaged senior leaders for the video from a variety of departments ranging from the fire chief to the sheriff to the county executive officer, as well as his son Charlie.

Green champions such as the fire chief and the sheriff emerged as we identified success stories. We were able to incorporate a touch of humor by engaging the sheriff to remind everyone to "just unplug it." The website also includes a section called "Green Stars" to highlight the personal stories of actual employees.

5. Use video to tell your story

Video is the perfect medium for telling your green story. Part of our strategy for engaging employees with the county was to inform and engage all new employees. The initial concept for the video was to have something to show at new employee orientation. But it also lives on the website homepage and was successfully shown at a board of supervisors meeting to kick off the program.

"Producing a video took more work than we realized, but it was worth it," said Sue Hughes, county deputy executive officer. "The value of engaging a range of stakeholders across different departments was priceless and an unexpected benefit of creating the video. The final product is being used to get the word out across multiple channels: local television, the board of supervisors, new employee orientation and the website."

By engaging the county's most senior management in the video, as well as front-line employees, the video engaged green champions to model green behaviors and initiated the process of creating a recognizable, sustainable brand.

Image courtesy of Ventura County.