Organizational Change
Future-Fit Businesses Include Sustainability in Leadership Competencies

Over the past few weeks, several people have shared with me how they’re using my sustainability competencies research and guide to define the leadership skills and knowledge needed for long-term business and societal success. The feedback has been swift and promising. I am delighted (and encouraged!) to hear about the distinct and specific ways that these individuals are putting the competencies research to work for their organizations. In the words of one sustainability professional, the Sustainability Talent Management guide is valuable as “a systemic approach to the development of relevant competencies. It helps provide an understanding of what sustainability competencies can mean beyond sustainability literacy.”

Here are some of the ways that companies are using the research and guide to recruit leaders and build leadership capacity:

Updating leadership competency models and leadership recruitment programs to reflect the findings

“I love your competency article and report and have already had an initial conversation about it with HR. We are planning to use the sustainability competencies in a review of our core competency grids and update them to reflect these findings.” — Sustainability Manager

“We have incorporated the assessment of sustainability competencies into our most recent leadership recruitment assessment. We have just completed the first interviews for a Director position. As part of developing the first interview outline, we went through a process of matching our current interview questions to the behaviours described in the sustainable competencies research to consider how broadly we were/were not assessing these competencies. Where we identified gaps we introduced new questions to explore. As part of the next step in the process we will be asking candidates to prepare and present to a panel my intent is to weave the sustainability competencies into this exercise as well. This is work underway. This has been an invaluable resource.” — Human Resources VP

Integrating the results into leadership development programs and succession planning activities

“In the coming months we will look at our own internal leadership competency model in light of these competencies and will incorporate them into our leadership development program as well as our succession activities.” Human Resources VP

Using it as a guide for internal training, focusing on one competency a year

“I presented the framework at a meeting with our green team. They really liked it and thought it would be a great framework to use. We decided to focus on one of the competencies per year. We’ll be starting with Sustainability Literacy and will be developing training for Active Values for implementation next year. Our general approach is to start the training and testing with our green team, then roll it out to the whole organization.” — Sustainability Manager

Embedding competencies in executive compensation program

“Longer term, we will explore ways in which these competencies can be embedded in our executive compensation program.” — Human Resources VP

I’ve also heard from project managers who see the benefits of embedding sustainability competencies into the skillsets for their own profession (per this recent article in EarthPM). Combining the skills of project management with sustainability talent management creates a sweet spot for responsible and sustainable project outcomes. Other professional groups may want to do the same thing for their professional competency frameworks.

It’s a brave new world out there that requires brave new leadership. Companies that are intentional in defining the sustainability skills and knowledge to succeed in the future economy will realize a competitive advantage — while fostering conditions for society to flourish.

You can read the guide here.

This post first appeared on LinkedIn on June 25, 2015.

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