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by Pia Kristiansen
Earlier this summer, I shared my initial thoughts on working through the complexities of designing and implementing an employee engagement strategy during my EDF Climate Corps fellowship at McDonald’s Corporation. Anyone interested in the topic of employee engagement, specifically around sustainability initiatives like energy efficiency, is probably familiar with the plethora of resources listing five or ten “top” attributes of a successful program.
These resources provided a great starting point for me but did not necessarily define the path I needed to convert my ideas into actions and establish those attributes during my fellowship. That said, it is worth sharing the lessons learned from this experience and its unique challenges, so here are my take-aways:
Takeaway: Pitch your ideas, collaborate on other projects, and take the time to get to know all of the stakeholders – valuable insight can be found in less obvious places.
Takeaway: Solicit a variety of perspectives to gain a real understanding of the company. Frame your goals to focus on developing tools and resources that innovate and strengthen the culture and value system, rather than change it. Remember that these are the foundation for your engagement program.
Takeaway: Make it a priority to become an expert on the infrastructure, policies, processes, and offerings already available. This knowledge will shed significant light on the feasibility and potential of your employee engagement initiatives.
With these lessons, I was able to deliver the concept design and proposal for an educational video on energy efficiency for distribution to approximately 14,000 U.S. McDonald’s restaurants as well as a summary of strategic recommendations that are being integrated into McDonald’s worldwide energy management program.
None of this would have been possible without significant time spent building a business case that reflects my understanding of the various audiences I was seeking to engage. While many of my Climate Corps counterparts faced technical equipment and finance challenges this summer, I found myself fielding more theoretical process-oriented questions. I had to clearly articulate why engaging employees helps to reduce energy use and how I planned on doing so successfully within a large and complex system.
All of this leads to a final piece of advice: Get comfortable building a dynamic business case. Employee engagement requires relationship building and strategic intuition that goes beyond a reliance on quantitative data.
Pia Kristiansen is a 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at McDonald’s and an MBA Candidate at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business
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