Employee engagement, redefined

A group of people out on a Plastic Fishing boat. They have their litter pickers in the air showing what the litter they have 'fished' out of the water.
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Employee engagement, redefined

By Alex Robinson, 12th June 2024

Like it or not, many of us spend more time at work than we do with our friends and families. I was shocked to learn recently that at my age, people spend on average just two hours a day with their nearest and dearest.

Yet when we talk about engaging and influencing people on environmental topics, the workplace is often an afterthought.

There can be good reasons for this, not least that you need to work closely with employers to make it happen – and employers have all sorts of other considerations. They aren’t just going to let environmental campaigners and educators rampage through the office (though that sounds quite fun to me…).

But companies are increasingly aware of the need to have meaningful two-way conversations with colleagues about sustainability, and to back up their words with actions.

A recent report from Deloitte demonstrates why:

  • Only a minority of people think their employer is doing enough to address climate change and sustainability.
  • What’s more, they think they should have a say in what their employer does about it: 64% of 18–40-year-olds believe they have the power to drive change in their organisations.
  • Leaders are recognising this too, with 80% of C-suite leaders reporting that their employees have already impacted their sustainability plans, or soon will. Companies are increasing their training but their teams still don’t think it’s enough.

Our experience suggests training has value but can seem like a tick-box exercise.

What colleagues want is to be listened to, and for their words to lead to action.

At Hubbub, we’ve discovered that our work engaging colleagues at large companies should follow the same principles as our work with the wider public.Want an off-the-shelf training plan or event series? Sorry, no can do.Our approach always starts with an insight phase: we scope the problem and then dive into a discovery phase to uncover what lies behind the status quo. It’s the same whether we’re trying to shift people’s choice of milk, prompt them to bin their cigarette butt or identify opportunities for change in the workplace.What we’ve learned matches the results of the Deloitte survey: above all, there’s a need for companies to listen to the people in their organisation.

Sustainability plans need to be both top-down and bottom-up. People will be much more likely to get involved if they have a say in how things are done.

Genuinely paying attention to colleagues isn’t easy for overstretched sustainability teams, often already wrestling with an alphabet soup of reporting requirements and dizzying cross-functional demands.  

And it’s where we’ve learned we can help: designing and delivering in-depth consultation with teams and – crucially – using the insights we generate to design campaigns and actions that generate collective impact and a sense of momentum.

Putting it into practice

So, what does this look like in practice? Each partnership is different, shaped to the needs of the organisation.

We work with a software company which has embraced tech amnesties, and for whom energy use is a huge priority, and an academic publisher which loves to bring their teams together to learn. But one of our recent favourites was working with Britain’s leading pet care company.

Pets At Home banner. The logo is centred with a dog to the left holding his hand up to his ear, and a cat to the right looking straight into the camera.

Pets at Home brought us in to help get colleagues across all of their businesses involved in their sustainability plans.

We set up something called The Big Listen: a research project which enabled Pets at Home’s 17,000+ colleagues across the UK to have their say and influence the sustainability strategy.

Hubbub are our 'go to' people for sustainability campaigns. Their creative flair and ability to help us think strategically and challenge ourselves on our impact consistently makes our work better.

Catriona Curtis, Head of Sustainability, Pets at Home

  • We crowdsourced ideas for how Pets at Home stores, vet practices, offices and distribution centres across the country could become more sustainable. This involved 500 listening sessions (!) to uncover existing initiatives that could be scaled, suggestions for companywide changes and blue-sky ideas too.
  • This work generated over 1000 ideas, which we condensed into a report and used as the basis of ‘what’s next?’ sessions with senior stakeholders.
  • This work generated over 1000 ideas, which we condensed into a report and used as the basis of ‘what’s next?’ sessions with senior stakeholders.

At Hubbub, we’re here to inspire action that's good for the environment and for everyone. The workplace can be an overlooked place to do this – but also a powerful one.

After all, everyone has a life outside work too, and work isn’t just a place we go. The things we experience there, the skills we develop and the knowledge we gain all becomes part of who we are. This shapes how we interact with everyone: our family, friends, the people we play football with, the people we worship with – the impact stretches far beyond the office.

And for companies, giving colleagues a chance to be part of their sustainability plans and demonstrating growing commitment to the environment isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s becoming critical for business.

If you’re curious about the value that really listening to your teams would bring, then do get in touch.

Are you a business that wants to collaborate?

If you have a challenge to share, or want to get involved with our work, we'd love to hear from you.

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