Thursday, September 17, 2009

With Employee Engagement, HP Lives Green

Applying Marketing 101 to Employee Engagement
Recently I spoke with HP's Debbie Ledbetter, who in her role as marketing manager increased employee engagement for HP's corporate initiative, "Live Green". Live Green is an active out-reach and education program on energy conservation and environmental impact reduction.
The Corporate Social and Environment Responsibility group was delivering environmental tips on an ad-hoc schedule, which were often lost in the plethora of other corporate communications. They also wondered just how effective the program was. Debbie Ledbetter, took on this challenge a few years ago when she was HP Marketing Manager for Environmental Responsibility. To establish easy recognition by employees, environmental communications are now branded with the Live Green logo. A consistent monthly schedule is followed with a few high level themes covered throughout the year. For each theme, a tag line is developed. For example, “Go reusable, Stop Disposable” was used on all related communications and activities to encourage reuse. All Live Green tips are carefully researched to provide best practices. Outside speakers are often engaged who are recognized experts on a particular topic.

Whenever possible, an appropriate tie-in to the current theme is created. When eliminating Styrofoam containers at the Palo Alto offices, hundreds of ceramic cups were given away. Debbie Ledbetter credits “the up-front education and gift for eliminating any grumbling from employees.”

A more significant tie-in was offered in late 2007 shortly after HP deployed 5,000 solar panels or 1 mega-watt system at its San Diego campus. The company extended to its employees and retirees easy access to HP’s solar supplier. To encourage participation, HP also offered an employee discount that was funded equally by HP and the solar provider. Debbie Ledbetter shared that “One lesson learned, since a commercial provider was used, they were slightly more expensive than some residential suppliers.” There was a rational reason: commercial buildings require greater efficiency in panels for roof space covered given that an office has much higher energy consumption compared to a home. HP resolved this cost issue by providing a second supplier who typically services the residential market.

Like any good marketing program, the final step in the Live Green process is to “close the deal.” In this case, closing the deal translates to an employee changing behavior. As Debbie Ledbetter explained, “To encourage employees, HP includes a “pledge” button at the end of the Live Green electronic communication. For other communications, we reference the pledge site.” The participation is approximately 56,000 pledges annually from an employee base of approximately 320,000. Now that’s a good sales job!

With marketing savvy, the efforts already being made on employee engagement programs can achieve even greater pay-back.

HP found that:
  • Branding its environmental program made messaging easy to spot and more frequently consumed
  • Aligning information and activities by broader themes reinforced the message
  • Sharing a gift creates an attitude of reciprocity that makes change easier
  • Providing a financial incentive can make a sale
  • Encouraging employees to pledge increases their commitment
Debbie Ledbetter is currently working in a supply chain role for HP, but continues in a volunteer capacity as Global Lead for HP’s employee led environmental efforts called the “Sustainability Network”.

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