Sustainability roles: a work in progress

Many companies use job frameworks to provide a consistent way to describe roles, responsibilities, and increase transparency about career paths. Job repositories consist of job functions, job families and job descriptions. According to Harvard HR policy, professional functions refer to broad “areas of recognized professional expertise and practice” such as sustainability. Each job function typically includes several job families which are sub-specialties of “similar and related jobs within a job function” with varying levels of skill, responsibility, and seniority. Examples of sustainability job families might include sustainability strategy, project management, reporting, and procurement.

Creating a clear work framework provides a consistent language for evaluating positions and job levels, enables workforce planning and career development, and ensures the right assignments and opportunities for employees. The interdisciplinary nature of sustainability and the recent professionalization of corporate sustainability would benefit immensely from this common HR practice.

From a career development perspective, not having job family profiles results in a lack of a clear career path and ambiguous promotion and compensation expectations for sustainability professionals working in the field. today. Without solving these fundamental problems, the talents of sustainable development will look outside for opportunities for growth and development.

As sustainability continues to grow in importance and sustainability roles continue to evolve and multiply, HR teams need to think about how to grow and develop these employees and create the long-term talent pipeline. From a pragmatic perspective, there are plenty of reasons why this should be an HR priority. Here are a few:

1. Sustainability professionals are highly specialized

The new generation of sustainability professionals are entering their roles with advanced degrees in sustainability and have already invested heavily in their education and specialized training to work in sustainability. Unlike previous generations, most will not have the same level of flexibility and willingness to move laterally between departments in hopes of progressing higher in the organization.

GreenBiz’s 2022 State of the Profession Report continues to see a consistent trend over the past six years that more than two-thirds of sustainability professions are hired from outside. This shows that the sophistication of sustainability is growing and companies are recognizing that the unique skills needed for these roles may not exist internally. Over time, it will become increasingly rare to find sustainability professions that have moved laterally into corporate sustainability roles and the days of meandering career paths internally are numbered.

2. Strong demand for sustainability talent

The State of the Profession 2022 report also found that green jobs are the fastest growing hiring category in the United States and that, based on the current trajectory, the demand for green skills exceeds the human capital needed to achieve our climate goals. The trajectory is only set to accelerate – the Cut Inflation Act, the SEC proposal on ESG disclosures, more than a third of S&P Global 1200 companies with science-based targets, and the growing general urgency of sustainability all guarantee this continued demand for talent. Combine that with the tight job market and over 47 million people leaving their jobs in 2021 and you arrive today at the current battle for sustainability talent. This model also extends beyond the borders of the United States. According to a recent CNBC article, ESG and sustainability job postings on Indeed have increased 468% in India, 986% in Malaysia, 257% in Singapore and 442% in Hong Kong since the start of 2019.

3. Changing preferences and standardizing “job hopping”

Young professionals entering the field today spend less time in a job than previous generations. In 2021, CareerBuilder analyzed resume data and found that millennials tend to stay on the job for an average of two years and nine months and Gen Zers average two years and three months. Baby boomers and Gen X have much longer tenures, averaging just over eight years and five years respectively. This shift in generational preference and the demand for constant learning will create pressure to have clearly defined options for career progression or risk losing the enduring talent you’ve worked so hard to find and recruit.

4. Dollars and Common Sense

HR Digest found that the average cost of employee turnover was 1.5 to 2 times their annual salary. This represents a cost of 160 billion dollars for American companies each year. Given the specialized skills and high demand, we can expect this cost to be even higher for durability. This is particularly true in priority areas such as ESG, reporting and decarbonization. Ellen Weinreb, CEO of Weinreb Group, a leading sustainability executive search firm, shared her observation in a recent article that “candidates receive offers at twice what they earn” as opposed to to the 5-10% typically seen with changing roles.

Creating a Better Hiring Model for Sustainability

Without a clear framework, sustainability roles will continue to be assigned to adjacent departments ranging from marketing, communications, philanthropy, research and development, operations, health and environmental safety, engineering, investor relations, government affairs, supply chain, etc.

The value of many years of experience in mature professions such as marketing or product development does not translate in the same way to a rapidly changing profession such as sustainability.

Because sustainable job functions and families often do not exist, sustainable jobs are created on the basis of other job profiles that do not always match perfectly. Default goals and responsibilities and even compensation and growth trajectories cannot simply be cut and glued to a sustainability role. Here are three things to keep in mind when hiring for a sustainability role.

1. Focus on the good experience

Durability today is very different from that of a few years ago. The value of many years of experience in mature professions such as marketing or product development does not translate in the same way to a rapidly changing profession such as sustainability.

Thus, if an ESG-focused sustainability leadership role is mapped to an adjacent, more developed department such as marketing, there is a risk of not meeting the same accepted experience requirements as those used for leadership roles in traditional marketing roles. So while more than 10 years of experience may be a realistic expectation for a CMO, these criteria applied to ESG or the company’s sustainability role leave a very small pool of candidates because sustainability does not only recently accelerated into the mainstream. And those with 10 years of experience might not have the specialized skills that have only recently developed. It is critical that we recognize this context and focus on hiring the right experience rather than the greatest experience.

2. Create effective and empowered roles

The lack of a sustainable employment framework and job family profile can also be problematic by creating skewed priorities and preventing the development of holistic sustainability programs.

For example, an operations-based sustainability role may focus disproportionately on energy efficiency improvements and find these initiatives easier to prioritize with their leadership, as opposed to product innovation or innovation initiatives. Supply Chain. It can also create unrealistic expectations for the sustainability role to focus heavily on tactical initiatives prioritized by the department to which the role is mapped.

Instead, corporate sustainability roles should increasingly focus on driving an overall sustainability strategy for the entire organization. Similarly, continuing to map sustainability in other functional departments also affects hiring criteria and can lead to a bias in talent recruitment strategy by emphasizing a particular area.

3. Identify new avenues for growth, development opportunities and fair compensation

When the sustainability career track is mapped to a different department, the growth and compensation tracks follow that department’s trends instead of creating tracks that are better suited to the unique sustainability career. The core competencies and measures identified for career advancement in traditional roles are very different from those essential in a sustainability role, which is increasingly focused on managing change and integrating sustainability into business strategy. This requires a very specific skill set and should have distinct advancement criteria that cannot be easily mapped to adjacent departments. There is also a lack of consistent sustainability compensation, as each company associates sustainability with a different department and uses that department’s pay scale as a model. It is therefore difficult to know if your company is competitive in attracting talent.

As sustainability continues to develop, it is important to recognize its distinct differences and context as a newly professionalized field with exponentially increasing demand. Due to these unique circumstances, sustainability roles should not be mapped to an adjacent department and require a dedicated job family profile, career paths, and separate consideration. Management consulting group McKinsey & Company found that two of the top four reasons given for leaving a job include unsustainable expectations and lack of career development and advancement potential, all issues that plague today’s field of management. sustainability today. Without having job family profiles and career development paths, sustainability professionals will continue to look outward due to the lack of clearly defined expectations, opportunities for growth and advancement and of remuneration.

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