Empowering the frontline
Claudia Capitini, the aptly named Sustainability Maven at Eco-Products, had a problem.
She knew, as smart companies do, that sustainability is the path to greater prosperity and profitability. Twenty six separate studies from such consultancies as those wild eyed-environmentalists at Goldman Sachs show that the companies that are the leaders in environment social and good governance policies, bolster stock prices, achieve higher profitability,and secure an enduring competitive advantage.
With a large sales staff that had no formal training in sustainability, Claudia needed to enhance their understanding of the environmental attributes of the company’s products so that they could sell them effectively. She observed,
With a brand centered around sustainability, and a complex offering such as ours, we needed to tell our story with precision, but we realized our sustainability story was being lost in translation to the customer.
Claudia and her team identified the knowledge, skills and attitudes her sales staff needed to communicate sustainability to customers. Realizing that a “Sustainability 101” approach wouldn’t suffice, the team built a series of interactive e-learning modules that distinguish the life-cycle characteristics of the company’s diverse product offering. The flexibility of the e-learning platform enabled the company to create updated online learning modules as new content becomes available.
The tool taught salespeople how to communicate sustainability concepts to customers with differing values, and distinguish Eco-Products recycled and compostable features for the market. Claudia commented, "The program provided a practical training on how to communicate the importance of sustainability to different types of customers."
To encourage participation, and track employees’ progress through the educational material Eco-Products then implemented an incentive structure, rewarding salespeople who completed the training. By engaging employees and customers and extending their commitment to sustainability beyond their headquarters, Eco-products not only captures the eco-premium, but is enjoying improved worker productivity.
Claudia found what 85 percent of senior managers surveyed believe: managing human capital is the most important means of improving productivity. Gallup reiterates, “Engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry.” Companies with an engaged workforce achieve higher earnings than organizations that fail to engage their employees. There are may ways to capture employees interests, but engaging employees on sustainability turns out to be a powerful motivating tool for delivering improved customer satisfaction, increased productivity, and reduced employee turnover and absenteeism. At a time when Americans feel worse about their jobs than ever before, this coupling of sustainability training and employee engagement is a particularly effective way to enhance productivity, retain customers and motivate your workforce.