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“The future of a country is shaped by the way a country invests in the development of its human resources. As in the case of all countries, and especially as a developing country, Bhutan too has grand visions and aspirations. We have therefore, invested heavily in HRD from the early stages of our development process and continue to do so. In turn, we hope to become an IT enabled knowledge based society to build a wholly green and sustainable economy within which pursuit of happiness will be the conscious goal of every citizen.” – This was the opening speech of the Prime Minister of Bhutan at a recent human resources conference held in India.
Considering the above quote, there might be virtue in a green inspired HR practices model. I favour a business case for a green HR model rather than the pursuit of happiness of employees. Although this is important, a green approach to people practices is the core of good green governance and will contribute to valuing people for their contributions.
The followers of green practices from across the world take the subject of eco sustainability very seriously. It is the responsibility of HR leadership to be concerned with the wellness of people and beyond monetary rewards and incentives for business sustainability.
The focus of leaders and human resource managers should be to maintain and improve performance of people as well as adding value to the quality of work-life balance. The nature of organisations should value and promote an enabling environment where recognition for people is important. Organisations should also realise the limitless potential of individuals to become more productive, motivated and inspired by adding quality and meaning to products and the way in which such products are made. This is possible to attain through green HR practices where people are provided with a sense of security, pride and confidence to be productive and performing employees.
In determining the HR carbon footprint of the organisation is dependent on analysing all the processes in the performance system. Shifting the mindset and practices to a green model requires a total re-engineering the entire system, i.e. considering the end-to-end value chain that make up the entire HR strategy. If HR leadership is implementing a green HR model it is not only the output of each process steps in the value chain that needs special consideration but actually all the touch points should be re-visited. This will ensure the entire value chain informs a green HR strategy.
Is it time to do a green HR audit?
The design of a green HR audit should answer the following key questions:
- What should we be focusing on to change to a green HR model? What are the green elements that should be included in the HR strategy? The core business is to form strategic and operational relationships with management and ensuring co-responsibility for the green HR model. The results and performance should automatically improve. An example of such a green HR model is to eliminate mental, emotional, physical stressors in the work place.
- What do we need to deliver to operationalise the green HR model? How will a green HR model be aligned with the business strategy? The strategic business objective is twofold. Firstly, a performance-driven green audit should be conducted to determine the green gaps. Secondly recommendations and solutions should be implemented through all the role-players in the business. Such a green audit will focus on removing inhibitors to green performance such as flexible work hours and setting up virtual work spaces for employees where appropriate.
- Brick and mortar may no longer be green in the future. Work spaces will be designed from an eco-friendly perspective to allow individuals to re-charge energy and maintain all their life-balance elements.
Strategic business drivers
- What will ensure we stay focused on the green HR model? What changes in the eco environment will have an impact on our people and HR practices? What do we consider as possible green HR scenarios for the future? We will stay focused by ensuring we assist business to reduce the HR carbon footprint by reducing expenses and business travel, by retaining clients and engaging in community projects and by implementing good eco governance. An example of a green HR practice is from Total SA. According to Dr Jerry Gule, employees can nominate a community project of their choice and they are afforded time off (paid) to participate.
- How will the green HR model be delivered and integrated with the day-to-day business? The value chain of a green performance-driven HR model should be designed as follows:
- Determining the desired outcomes and expectations with management of a green HR model and people practices. What are the expectations of management? How does this align with our organisational green strategy? Is management still driven just by results or are they equipped to deal with the “total” person?
- Conducting a green HR carbon foot print audit by determining the total wellness of the organisation and by definition through its employees. Is it green for employees to be wasting time in traffic congestion during peak hours? This has a tremendous un-green knock-on effect.
- Making appropriate recommendations to address the green gaps and making allowances for the requirements and expectations of the new generation employees. In our experience first-wave economy managers are struggling with the new generation employees because these managers are usually incapable of dealing with change
- Sourcing, designing and/or developing the appropriate solutions from a green perspective. These solutions could be sourced from the immediate community.
- Project managing and/or implementing the appropriate green processes and interventions. This could mean literally greening the rooftops of buildings by planting trees, shrubs and organic vegetable and herb gardens. If all the rooftops of inner cities are greened it will have a major impact on neutralizing the carbon footprint.
- Evaluating the impact and measuring the final results against the green objectives and expectations. How do we reward employees who are mostly a generation of immediate gratification and where a 24/7 throw-away society is commonplace?
- Providing regular and continuous feedback during the implementation phase, especially to generation Y employees. Asking frequent input is also critical to the success of driving performance through a green people strategy.
Critical success indicators
- How will we know if we are achieving our green HR objectives? What will the measures be? The critical success indicators of the green HR model should be linked to a green organisational strategy and business objectives.
Green total performance system
When analysing all the processes in the green HR model it is important to adopt a systems approach to operationalise such a new mindset:
- Conditions and environments – The deliverables and the business objectives will be continuously monitored and evaluated against changes and conditions in the eco environment, i.e. scanning the environment, planning scenarios, as well as taking cognizance of legislation, technology, socio-political and economic factors directly impacting on the organisational green strategy.
- Outputs – The major deliverables of the green HR model should be to decrease the HR carbon footprint by streamlining all the processes in the HR value chain as well as continuously scanning the environment proactively for changes and opportunities that will affect green business objectives and results.
- Process steps – The deliverables should be achieved as set out in a business plan incorporating all the green processes and systems. Each process step should integrate its own sub-system of greenness which means that the entire value chain will reflect the new strategy as an end-to-end total green system.
- Inputs (Resources) – The value-adds and results to be achieved in the green HR model will depend on the availability of and access to resources which align with organisational green strategy and supply chain. Additionally, given the scope and vastness of such an initiative it is necessary to have access to appropriate resources to operationalise the green business objectives. HR leadership is co-responsible for achieving this model and to ensure its sustainability. It is also important that a green audit be carried out on the resource allocation regularly to assess the ongoing viability of the operational plan.
- Receiving systems (internal and external clients) – The sustainability of this green HR model is dependent on the value proposition to the business. Appropriate sign-off, commitment and responsibilities of each element in the receiving system are critical to the success of this model.