Can Targeted Employee Engagement Help Grow Renewable Energy Use?

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With the celebration of Labor Day in early September came a report of Americans having the highest rating of dissatisfaction with their job in modern history. Given the muddled state of our national economy, maybe it’s not such a surprise. And it’s certainly not hard to imagine jobs in which the hours of 9–5 are a grind, where you might feel disconnected from your values and not “fully present” in your position—I’ve certainly been there before! If you’re running a business, there are myriad reasons you want your employees to be as happy as possible: greater productivity, higher creativity, increased loyalty, better recruitment, and improved resiliency. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index suggests that this disengagement is a crisis costing America $300 billion in lost productivity annually. But what are the paths to managing greater job satisfaction? There are many contributions to greater workplace well-being, but I’d like to focus on one: employee engagement.

Much of the literature today suggests that those employees who perceive their company to be good corporate citizens will bring a greater part of their “true self” to work, because the company reflects more of their own value set. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a long-time buyer of renewable energy, puts this into practice. President Bob Stiller has talked openly about how their meaningful workplace gives the company a competitive edge in attracting and retaining employees:

I’ve learned that people are motivated and more willing to go the extra mile to make the company successful when there’s a higher good associated with it. It’s no longer just a job. Work becomes meaningful and this makes us more competitive. (see Glavas and Piderit 2009).

If we’re looking to create programs, benefits, or incentives to address a common set of values that speak to employees, then why not focus on renewable energy? Over 80% of Americans are supportive of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. In a divisive age, with entrenched views expressed through sharp tongues, the value of renewable energy rises neatly above the political spectrum because of its numerous and often universal appeals: energy independence, clean air, economic growth opportunities, and generational responsibility.

Marty Sedler, Intel’s Director of Global Utilities and Infrastructure, provided insightful discussion in a recent Green-e webinar “Engaging Employees in Sustainability: Insights from the Field.” While Intel is long known as the top U.S. purchaser of renewable energy, Sedler outlined the company’s recent work on many new initiatives, including installing solar panels on covered parking for employees and negotiating group discounts with a solar panel manufacturer for employees who were looking to install solar panels on their own homes. He talked of having workers so engaged and creating so many new sustainability ideas that Intel is now looking to set up management systems just to harness this burst of employee-led innovation.

The workplace is the location where we spend the single most amount of time in our waking life, so job satisfaction is critically linked to life satisfaction. If organizations want to create environments that help reflect employee’s personal values and bring bottom line benefits, then there certainly is an opportunity for engagement around renewable energy.

Article by Orrin Cook, manager of Green-e Marketplace; appearing courtesy 3BL Media.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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