With COP 26 rapidly approaching and the eyes of the world looking to global leaders coming together to create a plan to battle Climate Change, many of us are thinking about how we can be more sustainable in our own lives.
Viewing the Workforce as a resource to be protected
Sustainability in the workplace is not just about protecting natural resources it is also about protecting and investing in employees. Viewing the workforce as a scarce resource that needs that needs developing and nurturing rather than a disposable commodity not only impacts the bottom line but also the success of a company. An unmotivated, unhealthy, unstable workforce is a huge risk for an organisation.
What is a Sustainable Workforce?
One of the best descriptions of workforce sustainability is offered by researchers Ellen Kossek, Monique Valcour, and Pamela Lirio in their chapter, The Sustainable Workforce: Organizational Strategies for Promoting Work–Life Balance and Wellbeing, published in the book Work and Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide:
“A sustainable workforce is one where the work environment is caring and supports employee wellbeing. Employees are not seen as primarily resources that can be deployed (and depleted) to serve employers’ economic ends. Their skills, talent, and energies are not overused or overly depleted. They are not faced with excessive workload nor with a relentless pace of work for weeks or years on end. During times of crisis (e.g., natural disasters, sickness), employees are given time to recover or seek the extra resources they need to be able to perform in the future. Burnout is avoided and workers are given time for renewal.
“When human resources are used in a sustainable way, employees are not only able to perform in-role or requisite job demands, but also to flourish, be creative, and innovate. Sustainable human resource management practices develop positive social relationships at work, which enhances business performance, including greater cohesion among organizational members, commitment to common purpose, hope for success, resilience, knowledge sharing, and collaborative capacity.”
Allow staff to be open about their workload, private life, skills and inspiration. Use that knowledge to motivate people and increase morale. Be adaptable and lead from the front to create an open environment where employees are encouraged to communicate and share. Measure morale in the organisation, own it and make strategies to improve it.
Environment and Wellbeing
The last year has shown us the importance of a working environment and that one size does not suit all. It has also shown us that traditional working practices and hours do not need to be as rigid as previously thought. Creating a flexible working environment that encourages diversity in the way that people behave in line with their preferences and responsibilities has a direct impact on their wellbeing and motivation.
Invest and Upskill
When management invests in strengthening an employees’ skills, they are showing them that there is an opportunity to progress, grow and develop within the firm. This has a huge impact on performance. An employee who feels valued will perform to a higher level than one who does not.
It’s also important for business to acknowledge different learning styles for their employees; some will benefit from informal sessions, whilst others may need external sources or formal accreditation.
Replacing leavers is an expense and a risk to a business, hiring mistakes or leaving a job open can cost a business greatly, see article here
Companies and markets are in a constant state of change, by having an agile organisation that anticipate change with a flexile workforce skilled and ready to adapt; storms can be weathered, opportunities can be grasped, and businesses succeed.
Through strong management, mentoring and an open dialogue a company is able to keep hold of it’s workforce and ensure that they are in the correct role and performing to the best of their abilities.
The benefits of a Sustainable Workforce
A more stable, engaged, and motivated workforce directly impacts the success of a company. Fewer sick days, motivated harder workers, fewer leavers, lower recruitment costs through internal promotions, more strategic ideas and contributions through training and development, increased employer satisfaction and loyalty all lead to better interactions with customers and a more profitable outcome.