When sustainability meets human resources

My last job was at a bank as an HR manager. I had rotated from corporate banking department. I changed the department with the passion to be part of a group that I had learnt in the academic books, developed the connection between the bank’s business goals, sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and employee engagement. What I found was what everyone else  in the bank thought of HRD: a stereotypical department mostly about paper work.  The concept of Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) was  missing. HR professionals from various other organizations that I met during the seminars and trainings had similar experiences to share. HR in Pakistan seemed a far cry from the notion of HR that is taught and mostly practiced in most of the developed countries that I have visited, studied or lived.

Fortunately my HR executive was (is) a man of vision who believed in HR as the link between the bank’s business, talent and sustainable strategies. A hard goal in the face of the siloed thinking that ran in the highest corridors of the bank’s management yet possible because he was eager to break down the conventional image of HR and trumpet the cause of strategic HR and  rally the workforce to it. I left the job during this transition. I am not sure how successful the transition was. Did the HR department managed to practice HRM or practice the obsolete Personnel Department activities? It is true that in most of the organizations in Pakistan especially owned by “seth” ones the human resource department remains a fad in quandary. This was the situation back in 2006 and I have not kept myself updated with what is going on in HR practices in Pakistan since then.

During this time, sustainability became a core strategy for employers, worldwide. Many corporations started talking about how HR could play an important role in incorporating sustainability, environmental protection, and employee engagement to gain the competitive edge.  Sustainability became the game changer for corporations and HR has the leverage to unleash that potential. The HR-sustainability nexus means that HR has to take the lead to engage employees to embed “green” throughout all business processes, making it part of the day to day culture. HR can incorporate environment into the recruitment, training, engagement, compensation activities and approach the employees according to their “initiative” level. TD Bank, the first North American bank to become carbon-neutral shares the following five lessons:

1)  Think big, but use short-term wins to build momentum.

2)Recruit well-respected senior leaders who will be your base of support and trumpet your cause.

3)Know your audiences and approach them in targeted ways to reach their hearts, and ask them to do a few specific green activities.

4) Define metrics to measure performance and stimulate friendly competition

5)Embed environment into the goals, processes and culture that make your organization tick

Employee engagement in the sustainability programs benefits corporations from increasing employee retention to better financial benefits. Excellent examples of involving employees in sustainability initiatives have been provided by Indian software houses like INFOSYS and WIPRO as well as from the sources like Global Sustainability Institute have demonstrated how A sustainable worker is satisfied worker and an asset for the organization. In the face of the climate change related disasters, energy crisis and a public that is taking the wrath of it all, an organization that is sustainable and environmental friendly means striking a chord with the employee, environment and core business goal of profit. Are HR departments in the corporate setup of Pakistan prepared to take on the ambitious role? I am afraid not.

This entry was posted in Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Resources, Pakistan and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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