Whether you are just taking the first steps in creating a company-wide environmental management system (EMS) or have already successfully implemented several sustainability programs, your future successes are hinging on one vital enterprise resource: employee engagement.
Having a thorough environmental policy is fantastic, but it can only accomplish something if your employees actually follow through with it. And because environmental considerations often fall out of the typical workday concerns of many jobs, it isn’t always top of mind.
That’s why sustainability programs like ISO 14001 certification often call for you to instate an environmental champion, someone who has a contagious enthusiasm for environmental stewardship and can point out how every single person in your company can contribute.
It’s all about employee awareness.
But it’s not enough to just rely on the strength of an environmental champion to keep sustainability a priority. The most successful businesses always include environmental training as an essential element of their sustainability planning.
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Training is an important part of any sustainability program and your everyday environmental obligations. When you’re introducing a new sustainability plan, even if it is as simple as reducing staffroom waste, you’ll need to provide basic training to those affected, in addition to starting an awareness campaign (which could be as simple as a few posters to a full-scale employee recognition & reward program).
Poor training might also be responsible for some of the environmental compliance issues you experience.
For example, we’ve witnessed companies experience marked reductions in air emissions just from providing refresher courses to shop-floor employees about proper spray booth standard operating procedures.
Whether you have experienced employees or there is someone new applying paints, the data proves that employee performance improves after a training session.
But it can be difficult to know when a lack of training, or outdated training, is at the heart of your environmental compliance issues, unless you are properly tracking your environmental training. That’s why tracking training is essential to your success.
- Do you know when the last time you trained your employees the proper way to handle a certain material?
- Is there a specific area in your compliance that you struggle with?
- Could there be a connection between the two?
If it seems like you’re doing everything by the book, but still exceeding your limits, it usually boils down to one of two things: a faulty piece of equipment, or someone not following the proper procedure.
Consider this: training and refresher courses are the annual tune-ups for your human resources.
Training is a Resource - Track It!
It’s a fact that environmental management requires strict measuring and monitoring of all your environmental aspects. You probably already have file upon file of environmental records listing every emission down to the smallest detail. But do you treat your environmental training the same way?
Tracking training is equally important: the best way to keep your environmental training on track is to carefully document when it was delivered and which employees received environmental training. It’s where your Human Resources team and your EH&S team come together.
If your HR department already uses some sort of employee training tracking software, it just might be time to integrate it with your environmental management system. Make environmental training a part of your basic employee training, and have a dedicated database used for tracking training.
Alternatively, some businesses are more comfortable letting each distinct department direct its own training. If that’s the case, it may fall on to the EH&S manager to deliver and track environmental training.
A good environmental management software system should have the capability to track not just your air emissions or hazardous waste, but also to be used as an environmental training tracker. If your EH&S team isn’t accustomed to managing training programs, training management software could be your new favorite tool.
About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+, LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog
(Image credit: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)