I was looking back at some note from a project I led for Interface Carpet a few years back. I was lucky enough to travel to Australia, Thailand, The Netherlands, Ireland and the U.S to explore sustainability and employee engagement at their company. Interface has set a mission of zero negative environmental impact by 2020 (5 years to go and the pressure is on). The research question was simple: In the minds of our employees, how are we doing? It is important to note that this is the metric that matters, not the actual data of impact reduction.
These notes are from Thailand and formed the basis of my philosophy of sustainability today.
Lessons from Employee Engagement in Thailand.
Sustainability is local. Even with a deep and broad understanding of the global interconnectedness of ecology, sustainability was about waste, water and tourism – three local issues hyper-relevent to Thailand.
People are very much the same and very much different. It might be too easy to connect this to Maslow, but it sure rings true. For engagement to reach higher levels, the basics of “taking care of employees have to be in pace.” A sustainability platform must also have personal relevance…finding and leveraging the shared value sets is not easy. Nothing worth doing is.
Visible Fun. Employees want to have fun when learning. Make it visible and make it fun, and make the fun visible.
Stuff is not Happiness. During some ethnographic research in the homes of employees, we saw first hand the power in the family unit with the absence of accumulated stuff.
Hidden Values are Visible. The hidden values of integrated sustainability are no longer hidden. They are discussed in the halls – from HR to Cost Accounting – deeper value is making its way out front. No one talks about the marketing value when they’re are more impressive values to brag about.