Friday, December 24, 2010

CSR - Holiday Style!

Happy Christmas Eve to those of you celebrating in the States and merry Christmas to those that are a few hours ahead of us around the world! 

It's been a while since that last corporate social responsibility post, but now is the perfect time for a quick update.  One way that my property participated in CSR recently was by "adopting" two families in need for the holidays and hosting a drive for gifts and money.  The families were different -- one was a single dad with a young daughter and the other a young family with three children all under 10 years old. 

A few photos were hung in the employee break room along with a sign advertising what these families needed and wanted the most for the holidays.  Clothing and diapers were among the more popular items, but books and a bike also made the list.  Announcements were made at our monthly property-wide meeting in which employees who organized the drive spoke about the good that could come from donating.  (Note -- it was not management that organized this drive, but housekeeping staff!  Talk about engagement as a bonus to CSR!).

Adopting families in need is a pretty common CSR practice that many companies participate in during the holidays, but it is still a good one to share.  One way to find families in need is by contacting local organizations, such as the Salvation Army, YMCA or United Way.  Local homeless shelters may also provide contact information with individuals that need a little extra help. 

Here's to hoping that the holiday spirit of generosity continues throughout the rest of the year and 2011!  Happy holidays to you and your families!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tips for Managing Older Employees

As a Millennial entering into a workforce and property of employees that were mostly older than me (both in age and seniority at the property), I felt a lot of pressure.  Pressure to perform.  Pressure to fit in.  Pressure to prove that there was a reason I was there.  One of the biggest pressures I faced (and still do) was managing employees older than myself.  It's not the easiest task to take on, yet it's not impossible.  Age does tend to bring wisdom, and many companies still value seniority and longevity over expertise or compatibility for future goals.  There are pros and cons to both sides of that argument, but that's for another post.

Since more individuals are continuing to work well into their 50s and 60s, the trend of young employees (again, both in terms of age and years of service) is not going to go away.  Many Baby Boomers still work now, and some that retired may enter back into the workforce if they haven't already (thank you, recession!).

I think that I've grown since taking on my current role and have learned how to relate, communicate, and listen to employees from all different age groups (Millenials, X'ers, Boomers).  I still learn how to be better at this every day, but can think of two things that have helped me the most in being successful with this challenge.  Hopefully other individuals that are new to managing older employees will find them useful as well.

1.  Listen -- It is the best thing you can do for your employees and yourself (both professionally and personally).  Listen to their experiences.  Listen to their individual needs.  Listen to their complaints and concerns.  Listen to them talk about their kids or grandkids.  Don't interrupt -- just listen and think about what they have told you.  Each time employees reveal something to you about themselves, it is an opportunity for you to learn from them, understand what truly motivates them and how to inspire their best work.

2.  Do not be anyone other than yourself -- I've found that the longer an employee has worked for a company or property, the more skeptical they are of new blood.  I may be wrong, but it has been my experience that older employees will test you to see if you do know what you're doing and if you do it well.  So when you start managing more senior staff members, do not try to be something you're not.  They will see through you.  Chances are, they've seen a manager before you pretend to be someone he/she was not in order to win over employees.  Senior employees can and will spot a phony in two seconds. 

If you don't like the way a food is presented or a napkin is folded on a table, say it.  Have a reason for your preference and stand behind it.  If you can show that you are true to your ideas and explain why you feel a certain way, the more your employees will respect you and learn to follow you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

CR and Sustainability at Sundial Group’s UK Meeting Venues

Over here in the UK, corporate responsibility and social awareness among meeting venues continues to be a major talking point. As with all such topics, some ‘discuss’ in more depth than others while others just get on with it. The line between genuine concern for the environment or simply paying lip service to today’s latest trend is blurry. Our economy is, by nature, demand-led, therefore suppliers must respond to customers’ requirements or face an uncertain future. In the middle of the noughties, therefore, businesses up and down the country were clamouring to show us how warm and fluffy they all were. What happens when customers’ requirements change though?

This may seem controversial, and I may be wrong, but anecdotally the perception I have is that venues’ green credentials have not, over the last year, been as important to buyers as they once were. Sad as that may be, the economic climate, rather than the earth’s climate, has been the one whose change has preoccupied budget holders the most of late. Large tender documents, although still asking for extensive evidence of environmental policies and programmes, have given greater emphasis to price since the credit crunch. Beforehand, “green” was the new gold standard. In a recession, it seems, not so much.

Like many other businesses, we decided to document the things we do at our venues to be better citizens, so a few of us got together to produce not only a range of formal policies in line with our values, but also our detailed environmental action plans and we have published these on our website for over three years now, updating them periodically so that they remain current. In total, we identified 75 actions that we either do already, or aim to implement. Some were quick and easy to identify and implement – it didn’t take us long to implement a policy of switching off printers and computer monitors when not in use, and after a few months we had, by and large, replaced all our light bulbs with energy-efficient equivalents. We contacted local councils to ensure we were recycling all that we could and we reviewed the timer settings on exterior lighting and all thermostats so that we were reducing the amount of energy we were using. Some of the venue-based initiatives that we identified were things we were doing already – like making sure our fridges and freezers are defrosted regularly and waiting until a washing machine was full to run it.

Other items took a bit longer – for example we decided that we should network our photocopiers as scanners so that the amount of paper being passed our office was shifted onto the email server instead. However previously-agreed contracts meant we had to wait until early last year to be able to replace the equipment. Likewise our shift to ‘green’ electricity suppliers required existing contracts to expire. Some of our agreed actions have not yet been achievable for us – the investment that would be required to install new boilers, for example, has (if you’ll excuse the pun) been put onto the back burner.

At the corporate/policy level, we had always incentivised car-sharing amongst employees for business travel, but we decided to try and find a way to encourage our customers to join in, so we launched our Green Meeting Package, an optional, zero-additional-cost (we wanted to push against the profiteering we had seen on environmentally-friendly options) enhancement to a company’s Complete Meeting Package. Part of this includes an incentive to residential delegates to car-share or use public transport to get here; if they do so, they get a credit of £5 to spend in our bar.

The critical factor, however, to achieving success is employee engagement. To get this, we said that our CSR efforts should be spearheaded by our Managing Director but that our Green Teams should spread throughout the business and every department should be represented. Further to this, we integrated sustainability as a measure on our Balanced Scorecard, so that our performance and success in reducing our environmental impact will affect our employees directly through their evaluations and through the company-wide bonus scheme. This alignment of personal and corporate goals makes it all much more real for everyone at Sundial Venues, instead of it just being something that comes from head office but has little or no meaning on-site.

Written by:
James Bland
Marketing and Communications Manager

The Sundial Group
Highgate House