Connecting “green” events with employee engagement

Employee engagement is one of the most difficult problems facing companies.

Engaged employees are productive, efficient and looking to help resolve problems. Disengaged employees can bring down morale, will often do the minimum amount of work, and are actively looking for something better. Recent studies have shown that around 70% of employees are not fully engaged.

Getting employees engaged and passionate about the work your company does is the best solution, but sometimes employees don’t care that much about the company mission and objectives.

However, some employees will get excited about helping the environment, and if you can’t get them engaged in the company purpose, then you can get them engaged by including them in green teams and environmental events. But you need to understand what might peak most of their interest.

To assist with our employee engagement, I decided to setup an event that I thought could incorporate the environment with something they might be interested in. Since many of our employees have an engineering background, I planned an electric car “show and tell” over the lunch break.

electric vehicle show and tell
I knew there were four employees who owned electric vehicles (EV) in the company, so I asked them if they would spend one hour over their lunch break to park their vehicles near the entrance, answer questions, and show other employees their vehicle. The idea was that employees would be more likely to check out EVs if they were being shown by a fellow employee, without the sales pressure at a dealership. They would also get a more accurate and honest answer about the pros and cons of EVs.

nissan leaf show and tell event

Although the weather was overcast, we had an excellent turnout. There was a steady stream of employees, usually 8-12 at all times. I estimated about 40 employees who stopped by (out of 500 total employees).

The employees showing off their vehicles were very passionate about their vehicles (we had 3 total, 2 Nissan Leafs and 1 Tesla). It was so exciting to hear their love of their vehicles that I wanted to go buy one that same day!

nissan leaf electric vehicle employee event

On a side note, I didn’t just assume that electric vehicles would get employees interested. I’ve been listening to my friends and co-workers over the past few months, and that was a topic that kept coming up. From an engineering perspective, there is a lot of interest about how the battery technology works, the range of the charge, the time to recharge the battery, and the torque of the motor.

For your company, there might be different topics you might choose, depending on the employees and type of work, such as composting, recycling, clean energy, green chemistry, cradle to cradle design, hazardous waste, etc.

tesla motors employee event

The event was very easy to setup and coordinate (just needed approval to block off some parking spots near the entrance). The other benefit of the event is that I have a better idea which employees might be interested in participating in our Green Team meetings, based on their discussions about EVs. The event also increased the momentum around the electric vehicle charging station project that has been discussed over the past few years.

Similar to lean events, the real business value in these type of events is the interaction with other employees. I met new people, and formed a bond with them over a common interest. I’m certain that was the case for everyone who attended. Discussions I overheard centered around where they live, local vacations they’ve taken, their spouses’ driving behaviors, local places to charge their car, and other conversations that had nothing to do with work.

It will be much easier to approach one another and talk about business issues with someone I met at this event (compared to someone I haven’t met yet within the company). With continued events like this, it will also increase the chance of employees staying with the company longer. This is how environmental events can have a positive impact on the productivity, employee retention and success of the company.