Most people dread change in the workplace. Busy people hate having to spend precious time learning new ways of working.
On a production line, a poorly thought-through change can slow down processes and, in the worst cases, cause health and safety problems.
But staff engagement for a waste management programme has got to be one of the most positive forms of change it is possible to introduce. Our industry has not really grasped what a powerful force for good an innovative waste management programme, communicated through a staff engagement campaign, can be.
In my experience, it makes people very unhappy to see things going to waste, even if it is not technically their property. It may not be unhappiness that is actually vocalised or even acknowledged. But, as I have discovered through my work and proved through staff surveys and feedback forms, when waste is prevented or put to other uses, then people feel much happier.
Employing the best techniques
Like any corporate activity, waste management programmes need to be constructed in the right way. Has the waste management sector finally matured, and are we now employing the best techniques and approaches from across the corporate world to our sector now?
I like to think so. We speak at board level rather than just at procurement level, and have shown through the quality of our work and the changes delivered that we are a force for good.
The two key elements of a successful staff engagement programme in the waste sector are:
- understanding the motivations of different people
- communicating relevant information clearly and regularly.
To understand motivations, you have to look at the cultural and learning differences of a workforce and devise activities that will work across them all.
For example for WasteSolv’s ‘Ready, Steady, Green’ programme at food manufacturer Adelie, we incorporated different learning styles, including kinesthetic learning, where staff engage physically in activities. This means that the written or spoken forms of communication are not the only approach used.
We also incorporated ‘gamification’ - a concept pulled from the gaming world where rewards and targets are widely understood and enjoyed. Through universally understood themes such as racing and competing, we helped staff at five sites to feel part of single, positive mission to achieve zero landfill - a goal which the business achieved four months ahead of target.
When targets are achieved it is an opportunity to go further, rather than simply relaxing and accepting that a box has been ticked. This is where waste management can be positioned as a strategic service rather than a routine purchase, by helping a company’s board to prepare for the changes ahead.
How can we keep staff motivated to continue the high level of segregation and specialist storage we need to achieve the best resource management standards? How do we make sure new staff are as aware and engaged as existing staff?
Waste as a positive resource
At Adelie we introduced ‘Wow Weee!’, a campaign incorporating a host of activities that delivered change and involvement across the workforce but, most crucially, introduced the concept of treating waste as a positive resource that staff can help manage.
It is true that Government targets and landfill tax have driven change in the waste sector. But it is up to us in waste management to interpret this in imaginative ways, and to become a strategically important business partner to clients.
Staff engagement programmes are one of the most important levers we can use to become a positive force for change in the workplace.
Kate Cawley, creative director at consultancy WasteSolve