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How tech brings people sustainability closer to home

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When you see the word sustainability, the first thing that springs to mind is the environment. The term has a long association with protecting the planet and replenishing the resources we use.

But it’s not just confined to the environment. In the workplace, it describes an organisation’s ability to support all its stakeholders — from its workforce to its suppliers, customers, and investors too.

And just like environmental sustainability, people sustainability is all about nurturing and respecting human resources, treating people in an ethical and just way, and ultimately, reaping what you sow.

In fact, there’s a synergy between environmental and people sustainability. When you get people sustainability right in a corporate setting, its effects are positive and knock-on for the environment. After all, it’s people who make the decisions that ultimately affect the planet.

And there will be positive outcomes for the health of a business too. That’s why people sustainability — bringing together employee engagement, empowerment, and corporate responsibility in a single strategy — should be the cornerstone of any organisation.

It’s a win-win situation

A recent report, “Investments in People Sustainability Drive Positive Business Outcomes”, by IDC, a leading international provider of intelligence for tech and telecoms markets, has found that by strategically investing in people sustainability, organisations fare better on many different levels, from improved environmental sustainability to better results and economic outcomes.

There’s an enhanced ability to meet stakeholder expectations, improve KPIs, provide employee satisfaction, enhance retention and well-being levels, attract employees, increase productivity, and elevate brand reputation and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) performance.

This makes people sustainability a win-win situation for both employer and employee — and anyone else associated with the business.

More about people sustainability

Crystallising the concept of people sustainability as “conducting business in a manner that protects people, profits, and the planet,” the report identifies six key pillars of people sustainability:

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
  • Health and safety
  • Empowerment and growth
  • Trust and transparency
  • Well-being and balance
  • Organisation purpose/CSR

And what’s key to achieving people sustainability is applying a unified approach to these initiatives.

While many companies have programmes for diversity, health and well-being, and CSR, the very fact that they are implemented separately is a block to success.

The IDC found that the “Pioneers” of people sustainability — those who are carrying out the most best practices, as opposed to “Followers” who are implementing the fewest — incorporate all these issues into the day-to-day business of their organisation in a holistic way.

This means that people sustainability is seamlessly included across all their activities, becoming their organisation’s beating heart.

Why the time is now

The way we do things has changed irrevocably since the COVID-19 pandemic. If we can get any positives from that life-changing chapter in our history, it’s that it shone a light on business practices that were stale and in need of change.

There’s a shift to more people- and planet-focused business practices and a deeper understanding of corporate responsibility.

For example, many businesses had to adapt to home and remote working during the pandemic.

While some may have been initially reluctant to make the change, remote or hybrid working has paid for itself with reduced costs for businesses, better work-life balance, higher employee satisfaction, and reduced impact on the environment.

This change has been just one catalyst in this sea change in how organisations work. It’s part of the momentum of working smarter, in alignment with values that resonate with the human element of corporate life.

How to implement people sustainability

Now we understand the “why,” it’s time to know more about the “how.” As we’ve already seen, the starting point to success is to approach people sustainability in an integrated, holistic way — it’s something that’s relevant to every aspect of organisational life and, in turn, impacts every area positively when achieved.

Let’s start by looking at simple and proven actions for each pillar for inspiration:

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

Foster and enable connections to your product, brand, or service globally and without barriers.

That’s exactly what the NBA, the professional basketball league in the United States, has done by creating a statistical database available to fans all over the world, keeping them engaged wherever they are.

Health and Safety

Promote continuous learning for safe and legal practice.

This is essential for healthcare and related sectors. An example of success is the Al-Ahli Hospital, the biggest private general hospital in Qatar, which implemented a system of cloud-based learning with improved efficiency to fulfil this very goal.

Empowerment and growth

Support individual employees with targeted and personalised opportunities to grow.

Spanish telecoms company Telefónica SA implemented a reskilling app to allow employees to list their existing skills and identify new areas of growth, helping to futureproof their careers and the company’s offer.

Trust and transparency

Invest in IT systems that are secure, streamlined, and user-friendly and represent your organisation.

Bajaj Electricals, an electrical manufacturing company based in Mumbai, invested in HR software tools to create a single source of employee information with improved navigation for a seamless experience.

Well-being and balance

Understand how employee well-being impacts productivity, retention, and satisfaction and take proactive steps to keep levels elevated.

International professional services network Deloitte has addressed employee well-being through an assortment of actions. These include training managers to spot the warning signs of stress and burnout in their teams, supporting employees to set their own work-life balance boundaries, and making openness to and acceptance of emotional and mental health issues and well-being the norm.

Organisation purpose/CSR

Support the work of your employees to achieve organisational goals.

The Prince’s Trust, a well-respected charitable organisation set up by the then Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people, implemented a new and streamlined HR platform. This simple and convenient system directly translates into enhanced funding bids thanks to better data quality and faster reporting.

Tech brings it all together

Creating a seamless and integrated people sustainability strategy and delivering it with simple actions is something all companies, big and small, can aspire to.

The rewards of enhanced productivity, employee satisfaction, and achievement of corporate goals, including those related to the environment, speak for themselves.

And in the examples we’ve seen, it’s clear that technology is the glue that binds people sustainability together, allowing it to reach all corners of your organisation.

Bring people sustainability closer to home by investing in the ever-evolving digital tools, apps, and systems available today.

It’s the simplest way to bring it right to the heart of your organisation to benefit employees, customers, stakeholders — and ultimately, the planet.

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