News

Engaging Employees in Sustainability: 4 Insights from Supporting the Government of Canada

Real Property Services (RPS), a branch of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), hired Prism to support their efforts to engage employees in embedding sustainability actions into operations across Canada.

A multi-year project from 2019-2021, we developed a Communication Plan and supporting employee engagement materials to help RPS employees understand what sustainability actions they need to integrate into their work. Based on our time working together, we’ve pulled together four reflections that we believe are important for any successful sustainability strategy and implementation project.

The 4 insights:

1. Change is a process, not an event. 

At its core, integrating sustainability commitments into organizational practice is a change management project. We know that change doesn’t happen overnight; individuals will move through change at their own pace.

For this project, RPS is asking employees across the country to make changes to current work processes that will take time, resources and require critical thinking and problem solving. We worked with RPS to develop communication materials and a plan that provide employees with the information and support they need to move from awareness to execution.

2. Customize communication to your target audience(s).

Successfully implementing a change management project depends on effective communication and engagement with the people involved in the change. In the case of RPS, we segmented the audience into three groups: senior leadership, middle management and teams.

Research and experience tell us that senior leaders provide the authority and credibility necessary for successful change. They must be active and visible sponsors. Middle management is the group most likely to resist change, but also best positioned to coach and influence their teams. Individual employees and teams are at the heart of organizational change and, ultimately, a project’s success is dependent on their ability to adopt new ways of working.

At RPS, we consulted and learned about each of these stakeholder groups to understand their motivators and barriers to support the integration of sustainability actions. Based on the results, we tailored communication and engagement initiatives to speak to the right person, with the right message, at the right time, in the right place.

3. Design with the end-user in mind.

We developed all of our communication and engagement materials for the project with the end-user in mind. Through consultation and collaboration with employee groups across the country, we asked questions to understand how departmental processes work, what challenges employees foresaw with the rollout, what support systems would be helpful, as well as perspectives and attitudes about the project and its impact. The result is a plan and suite of materials that employees already support and are practical for them to use.

4. Collaborate and iterate.

Working with RPS felt like a true team effort. Instead of delivering lengthy drafts based on assumptions about content and direction, we collaborated during weekly working meetings to iterate content and make decisions. And, as we describe throughout this article, we engaged with stakeholder groups across the country to ensure we made informed decisions that listened to our audiences’ needs. The result is a plan and suite of materials that we are proud to see implemented across the country.

Our commitment

Our experience with this project highlights what we see time and time again: people are at the heart of change. At Prism, we’re committed to working with organizations to develop and implement sustainability strategies that engage people every step of the way.

Working on a sustainability strategy or implementation project? Learn how we can help