The Connection between ESG and Workforce Resilience

Every day for the last eight months, I have walked by two restaurants right next door to each other in our neighborhood. Before the pandemic, both were bustling with patrons. One had a beloved cafe during the day, with small plates and live music at night. The other featured farm-to-table food and craft cocktails and kept their bar open significantly later—attracting other restaurant employees getting off work. When the pandemic hit, the one with the cafe shut down completely and then closed without ever reopening much to our neighborhood’s dismay. The other has opened a small grocery store, nailed take-out, and optimized outdoor seating. Most nights, every available table is booked.

If someone did a case study about these two places, I wonder what they would find. What made one succeed and one choose not to try? Was it their lease agreement? Their balance sheet or operating income prior to the pandemic? The strength of leadership or their operating team?

Organizations have Different Levels of Resilience

One notable difference was employee turnover. The place that closed couldn’t seem to keep a front of house team intact for more than a year. The other has had many of the same people in place for the eight plus years they’ve been open—quite a feat in the industry.

During the pandemic, we have been able to see clearly that organizations—not just individuals—have different levels of resilience. Aon recently released a tool this week to measure workforce resilience. I found the questions fascinating, and strikingly familiar. It starts by asking questions on holistic health and wellbeing. Then, it asks about the company mission and purpose, and whether employees volunteer, give, and do acts of kindness on company time. The next questions focus on whether it is an inclusive culture with opportunities to innovate, share ideas, and take part in Employee Resource Groups. It asks whether it is a transparent culture that shares financial results.

Once you complete the survey, you get a score against 10 factors of resilience. These factors range from encouraging health positive behaviors to embracing inclusivity to fostering adaptable skills.

WeSpire Drives Workforce Resilience

If a WeSpire customer using all four of our modules took this assessment, I am confident they would score very high. Yet, we haven’t positioned WeSpire as a tool to drive workforce resilience. We align more to help drive Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) outcomes. We know organizations with a strong purpose and ESG programs outperform those that don’t. We can prove employees who participate in ESG initiatives are more engaged, more likely to stay, and more likely progress into leadership roles. WeSpire can link their ESG-related employee engagement programs to stronger customer loyalty and revenue. But now AON, one of the leaders in the HR consulting space, is saying that ESG related initiatives are tightly connected to something incredibly critical right now: workforce resilience.

The MBA in me knows the financial factors matter. The most resilient team in the world can’t always overcome incalcitrant investors, being way too early into a market, or an unexpected disaster. Every entrepreneur will also tell you that success is not only the quality of their team, but also a lot of luck.

However, when we get to 2030 and look back, I know we will see just how important building resilient workforces was to navigate these challenging times. And how inextricably connected ESG and workforce resilience turned out to be.

Quote of the Week: “A few people are born resilient. The rest of us need to work consciously at developing our abilities.”

Al Siebert

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