Engaging Employees, Achieving Goals: More Lessons from RBSNY17

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — On Day 2 of the Responsible Business Summit RBSNY17, Jim Keane, the CEO of office furniture-maker Steelcase, said that according to a national survey, 66% of all employees are disengaged. This laid down another gauntlet for leaders—to talk about employee engagement. Keane said that for Steelcase, it was about treating their human resources with the same care as other resources. He cited three principles of engagement. The first is Purpose. Each employee should have a clear sense of how they fit in and how they contribute to the overall mission of the company. The second is Connection. They ask their employees, “do you have a best friend at work?” Finally, there is Progress. Are you learning, growing feeling like you are accomplishing something?

Keane then talked about how they moved their executive officers down from the top floor to the ground floor, so as to be more accessible to employees. From there, they practiced their own version of MBWA (management by walking around).

DSM, originally Dutch State Mines, is a company you’ve probably never heard of. They have a story of adaptability that’s relevant and informative. Founded in 1902 as a coal mining company, 50-plus years later, despite success, they saw coal as having a limited future, so they moved into chemicals and plastics. But as they began to incorporate sustainability into their vision, they again moved away from petrochemicals and into pharmaceuticals, bio-plastics, and sustainable agriculture. CEO Hugh Welsh told the audience that the company operates with an internal carbon price of €50 per tonne, higher than the EU price, set up so that each department must factor in the carbon impact of any activities as a budget item. As a member of RE100, they are committed to a target of 100% renewable power. But then this company took it even a step further by tying variable executive pay (i.e. stock options and bonuses) directly to sustainability goals. During the Q&A that followed, an audience member asked if their CFO had any problem with this new bonus plan. In fact, Welsh said, “our CFO did have a problem with it.”  When asked what they did about that, Welsh flatly replied, “we got a new CFO.”

Sandeep Dadlani, President of Infosys, sat on the same panel with Welsh. The panel was focused on delivering sustainability goals. Infosys is another company that takes thier goals seriously. They set a goal of reducing per capita energy use by 2018, less than a year from now. Not a problem—they achieved it two years ago. How? Being a tech company, Infosys, also an RE100 member with the same internal price on carbon as DSM, automated every inch of their 45 million square meters of facilities. Everything that uses energy is sensed and controlled by a command center in Bangalore. They expect to be carbon neutral by next year. One campus in India is already entirely off the grid. Dadlani’s answer to “why spend money on being a good corporate citizen?” Is that it helps to future-proof the company, provides risk management, (a survival issue) and it makes Infosys a better place to work in an industry where competition for talent is fierce. When looking for talent they look for the most learning-agile. They also focus on design thinking, seeking the person who can spot the next problem more than the one who can solve the last one.

Per Loof is the CEO of Kemet Corporation, an electronics manufacturer that produces 38 billion components per year. One class of components are capacitors which are made from tantalum, which comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a conflict zone. It is a dangerous place to do business, His story harkened back to something Jim Vella of the Ford Fund said the day before. “If we want a seat at the table we have to add value.” He described their efforts to build a hospital, a school, and various other infrastructure projects such as water wells, bridges and roads and solar street lights. With this they earned the good will that was needed in order for them to operate there safely. By working directly with the locals and cutting out the middle men, it was a win-win all around. His comment tied directly back to Keane’s challenge on employee engagement and more. “If you want to millennialize your workforce,” he said, you need to do these kinds of things.