Sustainability & Talent Retention

Sustainability and how it relates to talent attraction and retention

What is more topical than sustainability? With Extinction Rebellion back on the streets of London and more and more climate events causing destruction and loss of human lives our focus has now moved to future development and how we can change our ways.

Companies have understood the importance of sustainability and have now modified their outlook on how to conduct business. Over a decade ago it was all about maximising profits for shareholders; now, companies are assessing how to be profitable and responsible. Sustainability has become part of the long-term success of a firm and embedding these new values are an ongoing process.

This is where Human Resources can really make a difference. It is the only function in a company that has influence over every part of the business. From supporting the leadership team through the sustainability journey to recruiting and onboarding employees, HR is responsible for creating processes and for championing corporate values.

For Human Resources to use sustainability as a tool to foster cultural change and attract talent it is important that the company has a defined social purpose. Setting a vision, establishing values and building a strategy are all key steps in the sustainability journey. HR should be a driver through this process and involving employees in the development of the vision will help in getting their buy in and engagement. Once this has been formulated and validated, workplace practices must be reviewed to align them with the sustainability goals.

Those goals then need to be incorporated to the recruitment process. Companies that have a clear focus on sustainability and make it a core value often find it easier to attract top talent. Human Resources have a strong role in conveying the company’s values but also in identifying the individuals that will be the right cultural fit for the organisation. More and more people want to work for firms who share their values, so having a clear engagement in sustainability will help in attracting people who are passionate about what your company represents. These people will enrich the talent pool and push the firm’s commitments by generating new ideas. The innovation and buzz created will help in attracting further profiles and raise the quality of the recruitment.

Sustainability can also be used as a Talent Management tool. Encouraging existing employees to enhance their skillset and to take on different tasks within the company will foster loyalty and a stronger engagement with the firm’s values. Giving staff the opportunity to grow and develop will improve retention.

Human Resources will be instrumental in driving sustainability as they design and implement policies across the business. Setting up employee volunteering programmes and facilitating their access; decreasing the firm’s carbon footprint by reducing the use of paper and allowing the staff to work from home are a few examples of how sustainability goals can be included in a company’s policy and make an impact on the attraction and retention of talent. Building a value proposition that also benefits the brand will be one of the keys to talent attraction and retention.

To embed sustainability goals in the business and give the market and employees a real sense of commitment from the company, HR could incorporate those goals to the staff’s objectives. The Leadership team will have its own targets to achieve and to report to the Board; however, everybody at every level of the organisation should feel part of the effort. Incentivising employees to support and take part in initiatives, whether it is by including this in a bonus target or as part of non-monetary benefits should really drive engagement and pride. Sustainable development programmes will motivate employees who feel aligned with the company’s values, boost their performance and reduce staff turnover.

Organisations have realised that taking a sustainable view to doing business is not only good for the bottom line but is also an effective tool to drive employee engagement and retention. Customers and candidates alike want to associate themselves with companies who have a conscience and do not compromise the lives of future generations. There is a real opportunity to develop the leadership of tomorrow now by hiring the right people for your firm and by developing your existing workforce. However, a cultural change can only be completed if it is driven from the top. Employees will buy into senior role models who drive the behavioural shift. The tone needs to be set by the Leadership team and only then can a sustainability programme contribute to improving talent attraction and retention.

November 13, 2021