Gretchen Digby is the Director of Global Sustainability Programs for the Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability (CEES) at Ingersoll Rand. In this role, she is focused on establishing world-class sustainability training programs as well as leading global engagement activities for the company’s more than 42,000 employees to further integrate sustainability into the company culture. Digby manages the annual DJSI response process by creating a culture of ownership among the focus area champions across the enterprise. She has achieved great success and external recognition for her efforts establishing Global Volunteer Green Teams that hold events and activities to increase awareness of employees on actions leading to more sustainable workplaces, homes and communities. Digby is focused on raising employee competencies and measuring the value of sustainability through unique partnerships and outside-the-box approaches.
Christopher P. Skroupa: How does one translate sustainability into mitigating talent risk?
Gretchen Digby: Today’s employees are looking for more, but looking for more in unusual places. The talent entering or staying in the workforce, when salary and benefits are equal, look to the values and reputation of the company they work for. Does the company have a reputation of being a leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship? Can the employee be proud of achievements and the recognition that is awarded to their company?
Over the past several years, sustainability programs have emerged and companies understand that focusing on Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) issues provides value. Companies today no longer question the overall value of sustainability. What smart companies now do is communicate the value of sustainability in talent acquisition and retention (people choosing to come to work for a company and staying with them). There is an emerging global talent crisis. To attract and retain the best people in the world takes more than just good benefits, it takes reputational leadership and the need to align an employee’s values to the values of the company. Truly sustainable companies will be able to attract the best employees. If we look into engagement survey data from Ingersoll Rand, the evidence is there to translate sustainability into talent value, therefore mitigating risk. Ingersoll Rand sites that offer specific opportunities for employee participation in sustainability initiatives see an increase in favorability on questions related to employee loyalty, employee satisfaction in the workplace, and work-life balance. Enterprise-wide, we see YOY increasing scores in the general questions related to the company’s commitment to sustainability.
Skroupa: How would you describe its impact on company resilience?
Digby: Retaining the best talent is how a company maintains resilience in a world defined by variation and unpredictability. Nimbleness and the ability to accurately and quickly respond to a crisis comes from the best talent within the company. Companies need to examine internal trends as well external trends to better assess and combat global challenges. Tomorrow’s challenge may not be known today, so we must equip our talent with the skills and tools necessary to adapt and take on the next challenge. Our talent is the underlying key to our resilience.
Skroupa: How does mitigating talent risk impact company performance?
Digby: Turnover is expensive and also impacts performance. By settling for employees who are not the most creative, the best whole-system thinkers and problem solvers could create mediocre results. As I mentioned earlier, we have measured engagement scores that prove the positive influence of sustainability. When employees are more engaged, they are more productive. This translates into improved performance in a variety of areas. In addition, being able to show that we have increased our key talent retention rate has gained favorable recognition on external ESG ratings.