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Earning a Return on Energy

Innovative Ways to Incentivize Employees
In this article, I am doing something different by putting a “call to action” up front. Let’s start a discussion about innovative ways to incentivize building occupants to save energy! I am open to hearing your ideas as well as feedback to the ideas mentioned in this article. My goal is to create a list of actionable strategies that can work. Note that every idea won’t work in every facility, but energy managers could pick and choose what would work best in their facility. You can post your thoughts on my Facebook or LinkedIn Page.

Background on Incentives

For many years, companies, institutions and organizations have rewarded building occupants (employees, students, contractors, etc.) for their good ideas or good results in saving energy. The rewards in some organizations have ranged from acknowledgement, trophies, gift certificates, cash and even vacations. Surprisingly, giving cash does not always result in the greatest reaction and long-term appreciation, as most people use reward cash to pay their personal bills, and then the reward is forgotten. Gift certificates, trophies and things that allow the awardee to experience something special (create a memory) are usually worth more than simple cash. I can personally attest to this because I have a plaque in my office (probably cost them about $12 to make) that I treasure much more than the $12 or even $100.

Some additional barriers to granting incentives have been getting the budget approval to distribute such rewards. Sometimes, (especially in government facilities), there is a distinct difference between operational and capital budgets. For example, I know of a organization that had a “10% reward incentive”, however after an employee went “beyond the call of his normal duties” to help the company save $100,000 via innovative process improvements/energy reductions, management still had a hard time writing a “reward” check for $10,000.

The example just mentioned was a 1000% Return on Investment, yet many government facilities may have no real way to provide that type of incentive due to budgetary process. Unfortunately, with no reward, there often is no action, so who knows how many “untapped” energy saving ideas are floating around. Perhaps “Return on Investment” may not be the best way to think about this problem. Perhaps a new term is appropriate – “Return on Energy”. I will explain.

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