Employee Engagement Rules! Why Employees Are the Best Force for Change

Last week I delivered a presentation on BT’s Better Future programme at Georgetown University. My thanks to my friend and colleague Harriet Hentges who invited me in!   As always, I found it invigorating to present to a class of students, particularly students with experience under their belts.   The questions and comments that came during the session were challenging and thought provoking.    But I was sent an email from one of the students after the event that made me stop and think through where I should focus my efforts in order to best effect change.

As I see it, sustainable behavior will be implemented through our institutions and infrastructure.  How they are incented comes down to the individuals who influence them.   Companies are influenced by investors and customers, government is influenced by voters, and the media is influenced by readers.  And, as I have commented on before in this post on stakeholder engagement these apparently different individuals are, in reality, all the same people wearing different hats at different times.

The key is to try and identify where the best points of pressure, or leverage, are.  I am not currently encouraged that the actions of individuals in their capacity as consumers, investors, or voters are sufficient to incent our institutions, companies included, to make sustainable decisions.  I suspect that even motivated individuals don’t feel they have sufficient impact as individuals for it to be worth their while and the degrees of separation between their short term decisions and the desired outcomes are too many to be understood. Of course, part of my role is to try and change this.

I think that the most concentrated point of influence is individuals in their capacity as employees.   Employees may feel like they are a small cog in a big wheel but, for most, they have way more impact as individuals in their capacity as employees than they do in their capacity as investors, voters or customers. For this reason, while customers and investors remain critically important, I think that employees are the key!



  1. Comments 1

  2. harriet hentges 5:15 pm on May 8, 2013

    The students loved having Kevin because he gave them the insights into how the corporation and the individuals intersect...and make a difference. These students would love to move into full time sustainability jobs, but Kevin makes the right point that they can influence a company's direction from within, from a variety of positions. The challenge for us is to give them to the tools to do this in those various positions. Schools that can prepare students to have the knowledge and skills to do this will be the Schools from which corporations should want to recruit.

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