How ESG programs can combat the great resignation

This article originally appeared in the author’s weekly newsletter and has been reprinted with permission.

In her book “How to Change,” author Katy Milkman mentions the importance of reset dates or events that enable a mentally fresh start. Hence the popularity of New Year’s Day, birthdays and Mondays in behavior change. In the new “major resignation”, where an estimated 41 percent of people will change jobs, the pandemic has catalyzed a huge, global career reset.

People experienced the benefits of flexibility and teleworking and leaving if they could not keep it. Some took stock of grueling hours or working conditions and said, “Life is too short.” Others realized that they want to make a difference in this world and are looking for jobs with greater meaning, purpose and influence.

WeSpire has compelling research showing that embracing a strong environmental, social and management strategy (ESG) is a critical way to combat the big layoffs by retaining the employees you have. In our State of Employee Engagement research published earlier this year, 93 percent of employees who said their company had a strong positive impact in this world planned to stay in their jobs. For employees who did not agree with this statement, on average, only 43 percent planned to stay with their employer.

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

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

  1. Has clear, transparent and motivating ESG goals. No matter what industry you are in, you have the opportunity to be more sustainable and inclusive, committed to your community and improve employee well-being. But if you have not set goals, you do not have much way to express internally or externally what you are trying to achieve.

    The best way to set goals is to make a materiality assessment and use it to guide your efforts. But if you’re a small organization and it’s not possible, gather a group to consider how you can be a better force for good in this world that is consistent with your industry, your community, and issues, which your people care about. Then set goals and develop efforts to achieve them.

  2. Establish and support year-round employee engagements in ESG. Although we see a significant interest in event events, e.g. An entire company’s service day or a sustainability month, inventory benefits are limited if that’s all you do all year. Employees must feel that there are opportunities to regularly contribute to the impact efforts. Similarly, large donations are meaningful to the recipients, but if there is no way in which donation touches the employee experience, it also limits the benefit.

    The best programs are those that enable employees to participate in a meaningful way on a consistent basis. One way to expand your efforts is to more actively link your employee resource groups with your CSR efforts. Another is to create quarterly global, all staff efforts, but also strongly encourage ongoing local efforts on these topics.

  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 who voluntarily give and give, or highlight a sustainability project with clear evidence of employee involvement or have an inclusive effort undertaken by their employee resource group. They spend time on all meetings, newsletters, management meetings and yes, even board meetings, for ESG goals. The most impressive effort I have ever seen is an annual meeting to share progress with external stakeholders in which employees could participate.

Yes, the big resignation is upon us, but I do not think it is too late for a company to double ESG as a way to keep the people they have. Just move.

Find a way to make a virtual or hybrid volunteer day in the 4th quarter. Have employees designate organizations they have been meaningfully impressed with during the donation pandemic, or give everyone a small grant to donate on their own. Hold a wellness challenge with a focus on active movement or gratitude. Spend a month on energy, and encourage people to get ready for winter with little weather forecast tips. Your ESG efforts will be appreciated and may just be what convinces someone that they can find purpose, meaning and influence in you.

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