IoT devices, lighting retrofits and energy management systems get a lot of the airtime when it comes to how to slash energy bills. However, there’s a high likelihood that you can also cut energy immediately with no outlay of cash or equipment installation. In fact, one of your biggest opportunities to curtail energy usage may not be replacing that old furnace or even changing out those fluorescent lights for LEDs; it might be the staff in the building that can lead to major cost savings just by making changes to their behavior.
One of the lowest-cost ways to cut energy bills is to get staff focused on energy conservation measures in their daily routines. It’s certainly not simple to bring energy issues to the forefront of the consciousness of your business’ employees, but when well-implemented and consistently followed through on, doing so can be incredibly effective.
How do you get started? Follow our seven-step plan for implementing an employee-behavior modification program to reduce energy expenses.
- Review current energy bills. Shortcutting the analysis phase of encouraging employee conservation can undercut the effectiveness of any program before it starts. To fully grasp the impact of energy savings to your business and adequately communicate it to colleagues and management, you’ll need to be prepared with the data. This means tracking down all energy bills. A year’s worth of bills per location is best to get a view on how energy use changes seasonally, as well as total annual usage and expenditures in each location. You can usually find this information in downloadable form from your utilities’ websites, preventing the need to sift through paper bills.
- Set location goals. Once you know how much energy you are using at each location, you can set realistic goals to reduce it. Take care to ensure that the goals that you set are reasonable, as those that seem unattainable will quickly be ignored by those responsible for meeting them. Remember that each of your facilities may be different, and take into consideration use, hours and practicality of implementation when setting goals. Additionally, bringing local site management into the goal-setting process, or allowing managers to create their own goals based on their knowledge of energy use in the building can allow for greater ownership over goal achievement.
- Set organization-wide goals to share impact. From your location goals, you can come up with both an overall target of energy usage reduction (e.g., 500,000 kWh organization-wide), as well as a targeted cost savings (e.g. $150,000 this year). Work with your Finance team to gather impact statements about the effect of energy costs on your business. Many employees don’t think about the bottom-line impact of turning on lights or forgetting to turn off the air conditioning. However, impactful statements about energy usage in your business are more easily recalled during day-to-day situations. Statements such as, “Energy is our fourth largest cost”, or “Cutting energy usage by 20% is like increasing overall revenue by 5%” can be incredibly impactful when tailored to your business, and can help to ingrain the importance of organization-wide energy conservation goals.
- Communicate the plan and the vision. Armed with your data, your goals, and your impact statements, it’s time to communicate the plan! Communicating once and by one medium isn’t likely going to be enough. Consider a web conference, conference call, email, posted memo and other means of getting the message out to really drive home the importance of energy conservation. Additionally, recruiting members of your leadership team to help reinforce the message is always helpful when trying to ensure the plan details cut through the clutter of other communication.
- Equip your teams with the information that they need. So you’ve got a bulletproof plan, but your colleagues need to know what actionable measures to take in their daily work lives to be able to cut energy. Even if they have the best of intentions, if they don’t know what to do to decrease energy usage, then it won’t get done! Prepare a list of tips and tricks to help employees identify areas of opportunity for conservation and then to independently implement changes. Your local utility’s website is a wealth of information about conservation methods and can assist you with preparing specific actions that you’d like employees to take to cut usage.
- Appoint local ambassadors. Local ambassadors fulfill many duties in an energy conservation plan, such as providing staff with updates and reminders, policing implementation of recommendations, and helping to keep enthusiasm high for meeting local goals. The importance of identifying the right individuals to help support your energy conservation plan can’t be overstated; ambassadors need to be excited about helping to support the program, as they are your eyes and ears when you’re not there to police compliance with energy-saving policies. How do you choose these individuals and get it right? Volunteers are best, as people with a high level of support for your plan will self-identify if asked!
- Provide progress reports. Don’t be forgotten! The receipt of the monthly utility bill is a great time to update your original report on energy usage and communicate progress towards goals to both management and employees. Congratulate those making progress, and provide additional areas of opportunity for even more savings. Give kudos to local ambassadors who contribute creative suggestions for saving more. Consider setting up a contest between locations in similar regions. Facilitate the sharing of best practices between teams. But no matter what you do, don’t let off the gas! Consistent reinforcement of progress is imperative to keeping excitement high. As locations experience success with conservation, it will generate increasing enthusiasm, but only if you work to communicate those successes regularly and broadly.
Change management can be challenging, and asking employees to adopt energy-wise habits is an ongoing process. It won’t happen overnight, but with great planning, the right team members, and consistent follow up, it’s possible to effect real change in energy usage at your locations.
What have you done to help your employees be more energy-responsible?