Some of my most recent conversations with executives have revealed that ESG initiatives are among their top priorities. In this two-part series for Customer Experience Magazine, I’m exploring the role experience management leaders can play in bringing ESG strategies to life.

Part one saw me explore the foundations of experience as the essence of a well-rounded ESG strategy. In this next instalment, I delve further into the topic and discuss the final two reasons why experience should be a vital part of any ESG strategy. I’ll begin by examining how to use experience management to effectively engage employees and create a culture of purpose.

Enabling a purpose-driven culture through engagement

A key plank in an organisation’s ESG plan should be its strategy for employee engagement. We know that companies with engaged employees outperform their industry peers in terms of growth in gross profit. However, more importantly, engaged employees are powerful advocates for and enablers of ESG transformation.
To truly drive employee engagement around ESG, companies have to invest in their corporate purpose and communicate it properly.

Research by Willis Towers Watson shows that 58% of employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. However, a McKinsey Study of 1000 US employees, found that while 82% of employees confirmed the importance of purpose, only 42% of employees reported that their company’s stated ‘purpose’ had much effect.

Closing the ‘purpose gap’ with experience management

There is clearly a disconnect between what organisations say they do and what employees are experiencing. Better employee engagement would readdress this so-called “purpose gap”. A simple starting point would be the integration of questions around ESG into organisations’ regular employee pulse surveys. Here you could ask colleagues how satisfied they are with their employer’s commitment to ESG.

However, that’s just the start – leaders should think about delving much deeper into the topic of building a strong corporate purpose. Tools such as speech and text analytics can be used to reveal themes that are less clear but still prevalent in employee feedback data on ESG.

Again, these results can be broken down by ethnicity, race, and gender – enabling organizations to understand, for example, the impact of their company’s diversity and inclusion policies on their employees. By uncovering these richer ‘social’ insights from employees, organizations can confidently inform improvements across culture, and policies, all while closing the “purpose gap.

Facilitating ESG dialogues for fuelling change

Often, the challenge with ESG is its complexity and difficulty to navigate it easily across different departments.  Organisations that want to succeed should create “knowledge ecosystems” to harness the creativity of their customers, employees, and shareholders. Additionally, business stakeholders should include everyday citizens too. In other words, to drive real change, organisations need to engage in dialogue with all relevant stakeholders. 

However, these meaningful conversations don’t happen nearly enough. When it comes to climate change, for instance, Dr Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, identifies a spiral of silence:

I may want to talk about climate change, but I don’t know what you think. I don’t want to get into a fight with a climate denier so neither of us talks about it. And as a result, we end up in this downward spiral, spiral, spiral of nobody talking about it. And if you’re not talking about it, how important can it be?

And yet, the work done by Dr Leiserowitz’s programme shows that only a small minority of individuals remain firmly in denial about climate change. The first step in overcoming this spiral is to counteract the false impression subjects that come under the umbrella of ESG are in some way controversial. Instead, organisations should look to facilitate forums where the like-minded majority can focus their thoughts on ideation.

How technology can support a dialogue

As part of their insights-to-action functions, leaders in experience management are already turning towards platforms for crowdsourcing ideas that could improve known friction points. We’re seeing this across the board. Companies are issuing challenges to their communities around how best to diversify hiring pipelines, which corporate social responsibility initiatives to sponsor, and how to innovate to reach carbon offset and conservation goals.

A fantastic example is being set by the UK Department of Health and Social Care, in partnership with the BioIndustry Association, the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association and the Royal College of Pathologists. At the height of the pandemic, they launched #testingmethods2020 – a community to crowdsource suggestions to help upscale capacity for coronavirus testing. 

In the first week alone, they generated over 140 submissions. These included several RNA extraction ideas ready to be adopted, ramped up, and shared with local testing centres. They have an active community generating ideas around how to combat the detrimental environmental impacts associated with the more rigorous procedures involved in high-risk infections. By opening up the dialogue to a community of others, change is more likely to happen.

Time for CX teams to focus on the big picture

Perhaps uniquely among business functions, experience management has always been about making the world a better place – just one micro-interaction at a time. But now, there is an opportunity to make a difference at a planetary level. 

Executives, colleagues, customers, shareholders, and citizens alike all care deeply about ESG; Experience Management teams need to engage in the conversations because as a society, we can no longer afford to get ESG wrong.

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