The business case for people engagement in sustainability O2 

The business case for people engagement in sustainability

You may have read about the Think Big Programme at Telefonica UK (better known to you and me as O2), and how Global Action Plan have helped people from across our business (Telefonica UK, O2 and partners) to get involved with Think Big, directly delivering sustainability benefits.

The following post has been written by Global Action Plan.

We believe it is not only the right thing to do, but that it’s also smart for our business. However, until now, we’ve been relying on a combination of volunteering hours, alongside some of the anecdotal benefits people report when they get involved with Think Big, to demonstrate the impact of our internal engagement activities. Networking skills, confidence, digital capabilities as well as, employee engagement score increases.

Not any more…

We’d like to share more about the work we’ve been leading, with our friends at Global Action Plan, to review the business case for employee engagement, and to create a framework for measuring the impact of involving our staff in driving our sustainability strategy for people and planet.

The first of its kind

With assistance from Global Action Plan’s Shelley McIvor and Michael Gentry, we set out to determine the financial benefits that occur when employees are engaged to actively deliver sustainability and social action. We looked at our employee engagement scores (from our annual Reflect survey), we looked at annual appraisal scores, sickness days, on-boarding costs; we asked people and their managers about the skills they developed when getting involved and we then cross referenced everything with the literature available to determine its strength.

To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind in the UK to go beyond traditional employee engagement metrics, and towards a more holistic review of the impacts and benefits of employee participation in delivering sustainability goals.

And this is what we found:

Of those people actively involved in Think Big:

64% of participants reported increased sense of motivation

59% of participants reported increased confidence

87% of participants reported being more positive about O2 as a brand

60% of participants reported being more positive about O2 as an employer

Whilst managers said that:

58% of managers rated networking benefits seen in their people after their engagement with Think Big

88% of managers saw better team cohesion

67% of managers saw higher productivity

73% of managers stated their people were more motivated after being involved.

And 88% of managers said their people’s confidence had risen…the list goes on.

We also calculated the direct business savings that result from employee engagement on sustainability. Financial savings including: reducing waste to landfill, which saved £6,400, water usage down by 4% in 2012, 300,000 mobile phones recycled thanks to our call centre and store staff – raising over £750,000.

The personal development benefits and the employee engagement increases can be translated, thanks often to wider HR and L&D research, into financial benefits. This means that we can take the data above and turn it into a number. And that number…?

For every £1 we invest in engaging our people in Think Big – to deliver sustainability benefits, they deliver £1.40 back to our business

This is great news, especially as we’ve been deliberately conservative in the assumptions and calculations which underpin our results. We haven’t even begun to take into account all the possible benefits, such as positive PR resulting from employee activities.

Join us- help us build the real business case

I mentioned earlier that this study appears to be the first of its kind in the UK to deliver in-depth analysis of the business case for employee engagement through sustainability. In many respects, the dearth of detailed analysis on employee engagement made it challenging to devise a robust research and evaluation framework for our own activities.

That’s why we would like to invite other business to join this business case too; to open your books and share the results of your own employee engagement activities and the measures you use to determine their success. By sharing data and evaluation frameworks, we hope to build a more comprehensive picture of why we should invest in engaging our people to deliver sustainability.

Together, we hope to create a library of examples, case studies and toolkits, to help UK business realise the benefits of strategic people engagement, as well as the social and environmental benefits.

If you have further questions about the study, or you’d like to share your own employee engagement data, please contact shelley.mcivor@globalactionplan.org.uk who’ll be happy to discuss this opportunity.

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