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On Earth Day, How Employee Listening Can Support Sustainability

On Earth Day, How Employee Listening Can Support Sustainability

April 22 marks Earth Day, a globally recognized occasion that traces its origins back to the environmental movement. This day emphasizes the need for sustainable practices and the importance of our planet's delicate ecosystem. As the climate crisis deepens, an increasing number of individuals, especially those in younger generations, are demanding not just recognition of global environmental crises, but also tangible and immediate action from all sectors, including the corporate world. 

The Rise of Gen Z and Millennial Environmental Activism

Gen Z and Millennials are stepping into their roles in society and the workforce amid escalating environmental crises. Unlike their predecessors, these cohorts are markedly more politically and socially aware, often prioritizing these aspects over traditional factors, such as pay and benefits, when conducting job searches. For instance, research from 2022 revealed that more than half of Gen Z candidates investigate a company's environmental policies before deciding whether to apply. 42% would like employers to provide information about their sustainability practices during the hiring process. Moreover, a staggering three-quarters of young professionals affirm that a potential employer’s commitment to environmental sustainability plays a crucial role in their job decision process, underscoring a profound shift in workplace expectations where sustainability is viewed not merely as an added bonus but as an integral element of a company’s employee value proposition.

The Emergence of "Climate-Quitting"

The phenomenon of "Climate-Quitting" is increasingly prevalent, where dissatisfaction with a company's environmental strategies leads to resignation. In 2023, about 16% of Gen Z and Millennials switched jobs due to climate concerns, with nearly a quarter expressing intentions to seek new employment if their current organizations fail to meet their environmental expectations. This trend is supported by a UK study where 35% of workers across all generations would consider leaving their jobs if their employers did not engage in reducing environmental impact, suggesting a potential future of employment decisions heavily influenced by sustainability credentials.

This is understandable in light of the profound effects of climate change. Extreme weather events, such as wildfires and hurricanes, displaced nearly 2.5 million Americans in 2023 alone. These changes pose risks of physical injury, health issues like heat stroke, and major disruptions to everyday work life, including impacts on productivity, which declines precipitously as temperatures climb. This situation emphasizes the need for adaptive organizational policies related to work-life balance that can respond to the increasingly frequent disruptions caused by climate change.

Special Focus: The Healthcare Sector

The healthcare sector, a critical component of the global infrastructure, finds itself in a challenging situation concerning environmental sustainability. It's a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about 8.5% of U.S. emissions and 4.6% globally. This highlights a troubling contradiction: the sector dedicated to health and well-being inadvertently fuels the climate crisis, which, in turn, exacerbates public health issues worldwide.

Healthcare operations, from hospitals to clinics, require vast amounts of energy for heating, cooling, and medical equipment, making them substantial emitters of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. The reliance on disposable medical supplies and their disposal process further adds to the environmental burden. This extensive carbon footprint not only contributes to global warming but also poses direct and indirect health risks to the population, thereby contradicting the sector's mission to promote health.

Amidst the ongoing challenges, healthcare workers are increasingly vocal about the need for sustainable practices within their industry. Surveys indicate that a vast majority (80%) of healthcare professionals are actively urging their organizations to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. This demand for sustainability is driven by their firsthand experiences with the health impacts of environmental degradation, particularly as they relate to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases linked to air pollution.

Perceptyx has established itself as a critical partner in this sector by enabling healthcare organizations to gather and analyze data on employee perceptions. Our People Insights Platform offers a way to harness the collective insights of thousands of healthcare workers, whose feedback can drive significant organizational change. For example, understanding that 60% of clinicians would weigh a prospective employer's commitment to sustainability heavily in their decision-making process emphasizes the need for healthcare institutions to communicate and implement effective environmental policies. Healthcare workers, already stretched thin and burnt out, clearly recognize the urgency of addressing these future crises.

The Role of Employee Listening in Fostering Sustainable Practices

A powerful employee listening and action platform can help leaders align corporate decision-making with the environmental expectations of today's workforce. Our innovative platform does more than just gather data; it can provide deep insights into employee perspectives on sustainability, enabling organizations to act on these views effectively. Through the effective use of employee listening, organizations can tailor their sustainability efforts to meet employee expectations, fostering a work environment that aligns with their values and enhances overall engagement.

The insights provided by Perceptyx are not limited to general feedback but extend into critical areas such as career development and the perception of long-term opportunities within the organization, which are significant factors in employee retention and can be impacted by sustainability-forward messaging. Research from Perceptyx has shown that focusing on career development and providing clear career pathways and a sense of overall mission are more effective in retaining employees than compensation alone.

This approach facilitates a virtuous feedback loop wherein employees can see the tangible outcomes of their input, further boosting their commitment and satisfaction. For organizations, this means a more motivated workforce and, for employees, a more meaningful workplace where their voices lead to real change.

Training and Upskilling for a Sustainable Future

Training and upskilling are essential components of a sustainable future, and Perceptyx's findings highlight the importance of integrating these elements into employee development strategies. More than half of Gen Z and Millennial workers surveyed believe their company has deprioritized sustainability efforts since the pandemic, while 75% of their business leaders say they have increased efforts indicating a clear disconnect between employees and senior leaders that can be understood and then closed through effective employee listening. Companies that invest in these areas and then socialize the outcomes of their efforts — using employee listening to gauge how well this work has been communicated — are not only preparing their workforce for the challenges of tomorrow but are also showing a commitment to the personal growth and satisfaction of their employees.

Perceptyx's research underscores the necessity of such investments, revealing that organizations that prioritize comprehensive career development opportunities and a sense of organizational mission are more likely to retain talent. For example, nurses managed by leaders who focus on their career development are 10x more likely to remain in their positions, illustrating how upskilling and growth opportunities are tied to higher retention rates​.

Crowdsourcing Ideas Through Engaged Dialogue

Perceptyx can also leverage its People Insights Platform to enable organizations to crowdsource ideas effectively, thereby fostering a culture of innovation and inclusivity. This approach not only helps companies enhance their sustainability efforts but also ensures that these initiatives reflect the genuine concerns and ideas of their employees. 

Integrating Perceptyx's platform to facilitate crowdsourced dialogue offers a dynamic way to enhance a company's sustainability efforts. Inspired by Perceptyx’s documented successes in improving healthcare safety cultures through crowdsourcing, the same principles can be applied to environmental sustainability. This approach involves gathering insights and suggestions directly from employees about how to better integrate sustainable practices into daily operations.

Crowdsourcing taps into the collective intelligence of the organization, uncovering innovative ideas that might not emerge through traditional top-down communication channels. For example, employees at various levels often see practical ways to improve energy efficiency or reduce waste that management might overlook. By creating a forum for sharing these ideas, companies can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment among employees, which is crucial for cultivating a proactive and engaged workplace culture.

Such dialogues not only generate actionable ideas but also build a culture of trust and collaboration. As employees see their suggestions being taken seriously and implemented, their trust in leadership strengthens, and their commitment to the company deepens. This approach does not merely solve immediate sustainability challenges but builds a resilient and innovative organizational culture capable of navigating the complexities of future environmental concerns.

Perceptyx Can Help Define Sustainability Priorities and Outcomes Within Your EX

Given the undeniable link between corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and measures like employee engagement, particularly for younger workers, it’s essential to gauge worker sentiment on this topic and understand its potential impact on your employee experience.

By partnering with Perceptyx, you can build an employee listening and actioning strategy that captures the perceptions as well as the unique behaviors of your people — one of the 16 key business and talent priorities tracked in our People Insights Model. To learn more, schedule a meeting with a member of the Perceptyx team.


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