5 Steps to Creating an Employee Awareness Program

Mon, May 24, 2010

Energy Saving

The nation’s small businesses spend more than $60 billion on energy each year, according to Small Business Review. It would seem to make good business sense to develop an employee awareness plan (EAP) for energy savings. But if creating an awareness program quickly and at a low cost has you bothered, not to worry. Your company can save money on energy costs by implementing this program in five easy steps. After all, EAPs are valuable’”they can cut costs for your company and improve employee morale, all at the same time.

Why Your Company Needs An EAP

1. You can save money. When you get your employees to turn off their computers and office lights at night, you could end up slashing your electric bill. The money you would be spending on energy waste could go towards something your business can actually use.

2. You can save resources. In ‘paper heavy’ offices, this is the most important saver in an employee energy plan. One of the top components of landfill waste is paper, which can be reduced by simply recycling. By putting special recycle bins by copy machines and printers, you can encourage your employees to keep paper from just being tossed away. ‘Every office has one person who insists on printing all their emails. Make it stop. Then tackle the rest of your team’s print habits by adding a green email signature that reminds your friends not to print your note, and installing printing programs that check for extra pages and wasted space.’ suggests Treehugger.com

3. EAPs increase team morale. When your business is saving money, you can use that money to increase salaries or to sponsor events for your employees. By having motivational events for your workers, you can keep them happy and content with their jobs.

4. Your employees will become healthier. If your company is ‘green,’ your employees might start living more sustainable lifestyles at home, which means they could start biking to work. More exercise than usual will typically lead to a leaner and happier staff for your organization. Plus, you might cut down on insurance premiums with your new healthier employees.

5. Your business will be modern. Let’s face it’”businesses are going sustainable. You don’t want to be left behind with the other companies who aren’t progressing with The Green Revolution, do you? Going eco-friendly means your business is heading into a better future.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Inexpensive Plan

Step One: Getting your employees on board

Getting your employees to turn off their computers at night may be easier said than done. Some staff members are just accustomed to arriving at the office in the morning with their computers turned on and ready to go. While changing their routine may be unsettling for some, the key to getting your employees to understand how the changes will be positive relies on an incentive.

The incentive can also be a team-building activity, such as a contest. For example, the department that uses the least energy in one month gets a special lunch or dinner. Or, bring back ‘Casual Friday’ for the employees who are willing to jump on board and test out the new energy saving guidelines.

Ask your employees for their opinions

Most importantly, include your staff in your plans to implement new energy goals. Brainstorm with your employees and listen to their ideas about what they think the office should do to create a plan. Conduct surveys and focus groups to get a better handle on what the office is thinking about the project.

Incentives and staff-based competition are important at this stage of the program. Setting up a contest may work as a successful program ‘launch party.’ Some companies even have ‘Energy Awareness Weeks’ to start off their plans.
You can also distribute surveys at this stage, to see what your employees know about energy awareness. Here is a sample from Awareness Ideas.

Propose goals

How much energy do you want to save? Do you want to cut your electricity bill by 5 percent? You may simply want to decrease your carbon output, as Sun Microsystems proposed to do. Make realistic goals that you plan to evaluate at regular intervals.

Step Two: Make it Easy for Employees

Your company’s plan is only as strong as those who work together to follow it.

So make it easy for your workers by doing half of the work:

‘¢ Put recycling bins next to copy machines and printers, so paper waste doesn’t land in the regular trash
‘¢ Post signs around the office, asking people to turn off the lights when no one is using a room
‘¢ Install hand dryers in restrooms instead of paper towels
‘¢ Educate employees about sustainability
‘¢ Offer incentives for following the new office energy policy
‘¢ Have posters made to raise awareness
‘¢ Encourage employees who live close to each other to carpool. Designate special parking spaces for those who rideshare
‘¢ Consider letting some staff members work from home occasionally
‘¢ Install a water cooler or a drinking fountain so employees don’t bring bottled water

Posters and other media

Print out a selection of  Employee Awareness posters to hang up in the break room or in the hallways. Use them to advertise for your sustainable events.

Step Three: Evaluate Your Goals and Original Plan

Start by following up with your program two to three weeks after you launch it. Consistently follow-up every two to three weeks. These don’t have to be long meetings, but it is key to the program’s success to maintain continual communication.

Ask the following questions:

  • How much energy have you saved?
  • Are your employees participating?
  • Are the recycling bins being utilized, are computers being turned off at night and lights being shut off when the room isn’t being used?
  • Are you continuing to raise awareness by educating your employees about energy efficiency?

If you aren’t seeing a change

If you do not even see a small reduction in your energy bills, or your employees’ interest in participating has been waning since month two, you may need to re-evaluate your original plans and tailor them into something more workable. Perhaps in the beginning, your goals were too lofty and simply, unattainable. Go back to focus groups and interview sessions with your employees and really listen to their feedback on how to make the program something everyone wants to be part of.

If you are seeing a change

It’s important to remember that energy awareness programs have to be sustained to be entirely effective. If you see a change at month three, continue on in your journey to make a more sustainable office environment.

Step Four: Keep Sustaining Your Program

The best part about establishing an energy awareness program and getting it off the ground successfully is the fact that you can keep adding to it. Maybe you were able to reduce your electric bill by 5 percent, or maybe you started noticing fewer cars in the parking lot and more bicycles on the bike rack. Regardless of the changes that are happening because of the plan, it is important to keep it up.

Ways to sustain your efforts:

  • Make a packet for employees that you can pass out that gives the details of the plan. Carbon Trust offers a few free promotional materials. Let everyone know how much has been saved.
  • Keep up the contests and the office competition.
  • Explore new ways to save energy (read books, go to cheap conferences and follow eco-news sources).
  • Make new goals.
  • Report the changes to your staff as you find out about them.
  • Publicize your ‘win.’

Let people know what you’re doing

You can get your company some free PR by contacting news sources and telling them what your business is doing to save money. Environmental journalists would be more than happy to write about the newest activities your company is participating in to save the planet and save a dollar at the same time. Send out press releases and make your efforts known to the community.

Informing staff

To keep in contact with your staff about energy goals and to send small tips about what they can do to cut down even more, send out a monthly informational email. Only send this monthly to make sure it does not crowd up inboxes with unnecessary and tedious information. In the mass emails, let them know how much is being saved and tell them where to send their ideas and questions. Most importantly, keep them involved.

Catalyst Paper uses an employee centered approach to company sustainability. ‘The essence of sustainability lies in finding a balance between environmental, social and economic concerns. Our employees are partners in achieving this balance; together we tackle challenges and find innovative ways to improve performance,’ the company said.

Step Five: Make a Commitment

Track savings

Continue to track your office’s savings monthly and check in for a big report every three months. Molson Coors uses a ‘scorecard’ system to track water usage at each brewery, ‘in an effort to identify strategic ways in which we can use less water in production areas, thus reducing our impact on the environment and ensuring sustainable water sources,’ the company sustainability plan said.

Stay Fun

Keeping your employees will maintain your program long after the initial incentives go away. By keeping the office changes supportive and fun, more employees will be willing to participate in the long run.

Organize a team

Mobilize a task force to carry on the sustainable legacy. Group together a few people who can lead what you have established and who will make sure the energy awareness program is being carried out and constantly updated to meet the standards you would like to see your business reach. The work of these dedicated employees will help the campaign last.

Employees of the Texas Ethics Commission established an awareness program because they wanted to conserve water and energy. To carry out the plans, an ‘efficiency plan coordinator’ title was implemented. This was a specific person workers could go to when they found water leaks or light fixture outages. Consider appointing an environmentally-focused employee to this role.

Commit to Fit

Now that your energy awareness program is in full swing and your employees are healthier because they have been riding their bikes to work, you can relax knowing you’re saving money, the planet and the lives of the dedicated people who work at your business daily.

By Kelly McLendon. Kelly is studying Environmental Policy and Journalism. She can be reached at mclendon.kelly@gmail.com.

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