September 2015’s NWSBQ: Behaviour change and employee engagement

greenangels commercialFor September’s event, we welcomed Fiona Place, a Director of Anthesis, as the host of the evening. Ann was able to experience the event from a whole new angle – speaking alongside the inspirational Co-founder of Commercial Group, Simone Hindmarch-Bye. As always, many thanks to GoodMoodFood for another wonderful buffet and Bruntwood – impeccable hosts, as always.

To drive culture change and make sustainable practices everyday habit, Ann explained the importance of understanding the psychology behind what we humans do. She compared sustainable behaviour change to the theory of Pavlov’s dogs – getting to the ideal where particular behaviours occur, but any “reward” has long since been removed from the equation.

Ann provided ideas about how to drive this culture change, and it mainly comes down to this: the focus should be on changing people’s behaviours, and not their attitudes. Whether someone is acting sustainably because it’s an ingrained behaviour, or whether it’s because of their altruistic love of the planet, often the end result is the same eco-friendly action.

Ann then gave us a whistle-stop tour of behaviour change techniques, including:

  • Tell people what to do simply and clearly in a way that they can understand and contribute to (tell people to tangibly ‘switch of the lights’ rather than the vague direction to ‘save energy’).
  • Make it easy by making the sustainable behaviour simpler than the unsustainable one; this could be a change as simple as the position of your bins.
  • Make it normal – accept that different people are in different places on the scale from sustainability superstar to sustainability sinner, but that by moving most people towards the preferred end of that scale, it makes it socially unacceptable to continue being unsustainable!

Also on the whistle-stop tour, Ann touched upon the importance of setting stretching goals, yet splitting them into achievable short term stepping stones; the efficacy of giving variable rewards to encourage desirable behaviours until they become habit; and how to use competition to reward both the best and the most improved performance.

Ann highlighted that the engagement approach you take should never be one-size-fits-all – it should always be linked back to the values of the individuals you are talking to (and don’t ignore the fact that some people actually do want to take part for altruistic reasons!). Whoever your target audience may be, making behaviour change a fun and positive experience, using a range of media, is vital.

The above is a hand-picked selection of what Ann covered. To see the full list of behaviour change techniques Ann ran us through, please see her slides.

Simone then took centre stage to tell us about how she is steadfast in the belief that Commercial Group’s focus on staff engagement in their CSR programme has been the most beneficial change her company has ever made.

Seeing Simone’s commitment, it is interesting to know that sustainability was not something central to Simone’s outlook some years ago. She took us back to her epiphany moment when, eight years ago, she was invited to see Al Gore speak – an event which humbled her and enabled her to appreciate the opportunity she had to play an influential role in changing her organisation for the better.

Simone explained how, after getting enthusiastic members of her team together to push Commercial Group’s sustainability with mixed success, she reached the conclusion that responsibility for sustainability should never be down to a subgroup – it should involve everyone.

To get this workforce-wide engagement, Commercial Group launched their 10 sustainability commitments, the basis for their immensely successful ‘Green Angels’ campaign. This idea is simple yet profound: small groups of 6-8 employees take part in 12-15 week projects to focus on 1 of the 10 commitments. This is a process which 80 of their 220 staff have now taken part in, across 15 diverse projects. The benefit of these short projects is that new life is regularly breathed into their sustainability programme, and this programme, in turn, constantly breathes new life back into their business. She also explained how achieving a major goal can involve multiple teams – having one team to take you from A-B and another from B-C can keep targets fresh and achievable.

To get a flavour of what Green Angel involves, please watch the video here. Simone also explained the vast – and also unexpected – benefits of the programme, including the opportunity for 16 year-old apprentices to present to Commercial’s board, as well as its ability to foster collaboration across their whole business.

This Green Angels concept – one with few rules, based on aspirational thinking and a simple framework – is evidence of the creativity which is likely to exist in any workforce.

And even better, Commercial Group want to share the not-so-secret of their success – please get in touch if you want to visit their Cheltenham office and roll out your own Green Angels campaign with Commercial Group’s support.

For Simone’s slides, please click here.

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