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In an article also written this week, and as a follow-up to her post I cited a couple days ago, Deborah Fleischer explored why and how employee engagement and CSR can and should be integrated to benefit an organization’s bottom line.

The theory is if you can get employees engaged and excited about being greener in their personal lives, they will bring this excitement and energy to their jobs as well.

To this end, AngelPoints and Saatchi & Saatchi S have launched a new software tool to help companies increase and subsequently measure Slide21-300x225sustainability engagement among employees.

The new online Personal Sustainability Project (PSP) tool charts individual and team progress in a number of “green” areas by focusing on (1) creating project goals and commitment; (2) tracking progress and impact; and (3) measuring end results.

Read: Deborah Fleischer on Employee Engagement: AngelPoints and Saatchi S Launch New PSP Tool for TriplePundit (10.27.09)

Thankfully, this article also addresses the important questions you may be asking, such as: Who cares? Why should a company be so concerned about whether its employees are actively engaged in sustainability initiatives?

Employee engagement is a key driver for increasing employee retention, attracting the best and brightest talent, fostering innovation and capturing cost savings from efficiency. However, to capture these benefits, there is growing pressure on companies to get their employees thinking about sustainability and incorporating it into their daily jobs.

This summary makes it sound relatively easy, but employee engagement is actually a very complex, and challenging, issue for internal communicators. In fact, I am currently enrolled in a semester-long course dedicated to the subject of internal engagement (and will be blogging about it quite a bit in the coming days).

Slide12-650x487But in the meantime, the AngelPoints PSP model (at left) shows that motivated employees can ultimately affect improved business performance and inspire a corporate culture of sustainability. In case you’re not convinced, this general progression is supported by research conducted by consulting powerhouses Watson Wyatt and Towers Perrin (among others).

I’m optimistic that an online PSP tool will encourage employees to connect with one another in support of their company’s CSR strategy. Given the adoption of online communications tools in other areas of organizations, this seems like a natural progression. A bonus? Accountability. Always a good thing.

(Photo Credits: AngelPoints)

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Speaking green

According to the say-do matrix (Roger D’Aprix, Communicating for Change), it’s not enough for a company to think green; it must also learn to speak green. This, of course, is the hard part.

Just last week, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR)—one of the world’s leaders in corporate social responsibility consulting and research—hosted its 2009 conference in San Francisco. On this year’s agenda? Internal Communications: Making the Case for CSR’s Value.

Read: Deborah Fleischer on BSR 2009: Top Strategies for Getting Employees Behind Sustainability for TriplePundit (10.26.09)

In her article, Fleischer recaps the session and outlines several expert recommendations for promoting CSR within an organization. Key themes include: getting senior management support, getting employees more engaged at work, and making the case for CSR as a good business practice.

To increase employee engagement, Kevin Moss from BT Americas offered roughly these three strategies:

  1. Demonstrate commitment. Get senior leaders behind the initiatives and outline clear policies and procedures to show that the company is truly committed to achieving certain targets.
  2. Empower employees. Make sure employees have the support and occasion to engage in the company’s CSR initiatives. Even something as simple as providing recycling bins can help employees see that they are contributing. Opportunities to submit sustainable ideas or take action at home also increase engagement.
  3. Harness the momentum. Create a line of sight so individual employees can see the impact they are having on the company’s bottom line and the environment. It is important for employees to know that they have the ability to make a difference.

Also useful, I thought, was the complete list of best practices and strategies that came out of the author’s breakout session with Moss. A few highlights:

  • Create a council where employees come together to share resources and ideas;
  • Create more defined strategies—for example, BT America is focused on climate change, digital inclusion and disaster relief;
  • Give stores/facilities latitude to do what they want—for example, Best Buy gives stores only broad, general guidelines. Not as much consistency, but you harness what individuals care about;
  • Build sustainability metrics into performance objectives;
  • Link volunteer hours and community engagement to sustainability priorities;
  • Recognize employees by making a monetary donation to employees’ charity of choice; and
  • Engage employees in their personal lives (i.e. Pfizer It Begins With Me and Wal-Mart Personal Sustainability Projects).

But even when it comes to noble CSR initiatives, a number of challenges exist for organizations to increase engagement and tap into employees’ willingness to exert discretionary effort. Successful organizations will be those who take the time to carefully craft an internal communications plan around a thoughtfully-constructed CSR strategy. This includes taking into consideration current corporate culture, employee sentiments, and existing internal communications structure. Good luck!

Thinking green

Last month, Newsweek published its inaugural “Green Rankings”—a list of the 500 most environmentally-responsible U.S.-based companies. Environmental data is admittedly hard to collect and compare across vastly green-recycle-imgdifferent industries (obviously the carbon footprint of an oil company will be greater than that of a consulting firm). But Newsweek did its best to acknowledge efforts to improve environmental policies, performance, and reputation by assigning each company an industry-adjusted “Green Score.”

I was expecting to see General Electric at the top of the list, mostly as a result of its Ecomagination campaign. Not surprisingly, GE’s reputation survey score came in at 2nd, behind only Walmart. But I was surprised and, if I’m being honest, a little pleased to see that GE was ranked only 82nd overall and a mere 261st for its green policies and performance. Apparently, and thankfully, Newsweek based a company’s total Green Score on more than expensive above-the-line marketing and Wizard-of-Oz-themed Superbowl ads. If external communications can’t secure a more enviable spot in the Green Rankings, what can?

Well, lots of things, obviously. Low carbon emissions, energy efficiency, and waste reduction, to name a few. But beyond that, how “green” can a company truly become if it doesn’t expend effort on its internal communications?

In mid-October, Ethical Corporation published a four-part series on social media and sustainability (you can get a free two-week subscription to read the full article text). The first part supported the argument for using social media to engage with stakeholders on sustainability issues. Based on the bottom-up origins of both movements, the integration of the two seems only natural.

The second article in the series dealt with the growth of social networking, the new tools that continue to evolve and expand, and the best way to harness social networking to promote corporate sustainability and responsibility.

The next section tackled the ongoing debate over who owns social media. Is it a PR function? Does it belong to marketing ? Or, in this case, maybe the corporate social responsibility (CSR) department, if there is one, should take over. The reality is that social media is present throughout an organization and every employee, regardless of job description, should be called upon to be active in the movement.

The fourth and final section is what got my attention with this underlying premise: when it comes to CSR, employee engagement is not a novelty, it is a necessity.

Most companies now recognize the business value and good karma that results from CSR, but the challenge remains to integrate it into corporate culture and make it a part of every employee’s experience. This happens to be the topic of my next post, so stay tuned!

(Photo credit: Wired.com)

In perhaps a sign of what’s to come in the field of organizational communications, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently announced that it is launching the Center for Social and Cognitive Networks. The Center will be part of the Army Research Laboratory’s Collaborative Technology Alliances.

Drawing on the fields of social science, neuroscience, and cognitive science, and incorporating the work of experts in physics, computer science, mathematics, and engineering, the Center will study the role of social and cognitive networks in society and organizations.

Read: Rensselaer to Lead Multimillion-Dollar Research Center for Social and Cognitive Networks (RPI press release dated 10.22.09)

The Center’s research will cover five primary areas. Of the most interest to me was topic number two: networks and the transfer of knowledge within organizations. More specifically, the press release states that researchers will focus on “digital traces of collaboration and communication within an organization at all levels to understand how information flows.” Though much of the research in this area will focus on the Army, there is no doubt that the findings will be applicable to a wide range of organizational systems and settings.

In fact, according to Boleslaw Szymanski, Rensselaer’s Claire & Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and the Center’s appointed leader:

The impact of our work will be far-reaching. We are in an entirely new world where Twitter, cell phones, and wireless communication change the way we interact with each other. Together and with the support of the ARL, the researchers in the center will be able to investigate how technology enhances social interactions and how those technologies and relationships can be used to better measure and understand people’s interactions with each other.

Besides the obvious benefits of having research dedicated to exploring complex social and organizational interactions, the Center’s work will help emphasize the science behind communication within organizations. Too often, internal communications is viewed as a “soft skill” promoted by former journalists with a penchant for producing glossy employee newsletters. Research drawn on scientific disciplines will give credence to the field and hopefully help internal communicators earn buy-in from key stakeholders and secure a seat at the strategy-making table once and for all. Phew!

(PS: thanks to a loyal reader–my dad–for bringing this to my attention!)

Back to basics

Lately, I’ve been reading and posting a lot about the use of technology in internal communications. In doing so, I’ve discovered that it’s easy to become preoccupied in learning about the newest software, gadgets, and tools that promise to transform your organization’s internal communications from good (hopefully) to great.

But even sophisticated technology can’t be separated from what we would probably consider the more basic means of communicating. In other words, internal communicators can’t afford to abandon excellent written, verbal, and persuasion skills in favor of hopping on the latest technology bandwagon.

That’s why I was so happy to stumble upon a feature article in IABC’s Student Connection (a newsletter for communications students) about writing for the Intranet. It was a good reminder that internal communications needs more than technology to be successful.

Read: Modifying Your Prose to Fit the Intranet by Shel Holtz for IABC Student Connection

Shel Holtz, ABC, IABC Fellow, also blogs regularly about internal communications at: A Shel of My Former Self.

SharePoints of view

Before this week, I didn’t know much—make that anything—about SharePoint. But in the immediate wake of Microsoft’s annual conference, there has been no shortage of news and analysis on the subject.

So I’ve taken this opportunity to educate myself about the software platform and have compiled just a few of the more interesting articles and points of view I found on both the benefits and limitations of SharePoint when it comes to successfully managing internal communications.

A Forrester interview with Steve Ballmer about the SharePoint Business (Matthew Brown for ZDNet, 10.22.09)

CEO of Microsoft shares his point of view on SharePoint’s evolution from a document sharing application to a platform that offers social computing, intranet, search, and content management, among other applications.

Microsoft Putting a Web Sheen on SharePoint (Ann All for ITBusinessEdge, 10.22.09)

Currently, according to a recent study by IDC survey, “just 8 percent of American companies use SharePoint for Web content management, vs. 36 percent that use it for internal portals and 51 percent that use it for collaborative team sites.” The author explores improvements to SharePoint software aimed at increasing its attractiveness for Web site management.

The Future of SharePoint Project Management (Dux Raymond Sy for CMSWire, 10.23.09) 

The author posits that SharePoint enables organizations to combat project management shortcomings, including “inefficient communication among stakeholders, poor information management practices and undefined project collaboration standards that compromises project success.”

Corporate Culture, Not Technology, Drives Online Collaboration (Will Kelly for Web Worker Daily, 10.23.09)

Mr. Kelly hypothesizes that using the latest collaboration technology, including SharePoint, is futile if an organization’s corporate culture is not collaborative at its core. The cultural elements he claims are critical include: “Come-and-go-as-you-please” schedules; no knowledge archipelagos; presence beyond the office (and regular office hours); technically savvy employees; and supportive management.

Live from Las Vegas…

sharepointlogo

…it’s Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009!

While it may not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing getaway, the conference is apparently THE place to be to learn about Microsoft’s newest collaboration platform: SharePoint 2010. Though the conference is sold out, Microsoft has made some content available online.

Watch: Video highlights from the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009

According to Microsoft’s official SharePoint 2010 Web site, the primary capabilities of SharePoint 2010 include:

Sites

SharePoint Sites delivers a single infrastructure to provide portal and collaboration capabilities across intranet, extranet, and Internet sites. Bring users together to share information, data, and expertise across organizations.

Search

SharePoint Search gives users the ability to find the content, information, and people they need by combining an integrated, easy-to-manage platform with best-of-breed enterprise search technology.

Communities

SharePoint Communities empowers people to work together in ways that are most effective for them. Allow people to collaborate in groups, share knowledge and ideas, connect with colleagues, and find information and experts easily.

Insights

SharePoint Insights enables users to access and interact with information across unstructured and structured data sources. Empowers users to discover the right people and expertise to make better and more agile business decisions.

Content

SharePoint Content enables all users to participate in a governed, compliant content management lifecycle. SharePoint Content makes it possible to expertly balance user experience with policy and process.

Composites

SharePoint Composites empowers users to rapidly respond to business needs by creating their own no-code solutions on-premises or in the cloud, through a rich set of building blocks, tools, and self-service capabilities.

For all things SharePoint, visit SharePoint Buzz or the Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog (the official blog of the Microsoft SharePoint Product group).

In my own digging, I stumbled upon mixed reviews of the SharePoint 2007 platform. I’m interested to hear how it may have helped or hindered internal communications in your organization, as well whether you have plans to adopt this newest version.