Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Labour
Energizing your workplace


September 29, 2009
By Chris Hanlon

Topics

Technology can save energy dollars, and strong management – including staff awareness – can save energy dollars. But if you put the two together, you have a winning combination for maximizing your savings.

Technology can save energy dollars, and strong management – including
staff awareness – can save energy dollars. But if you put the two
together, you have a winning combination for maximizing your savings.

In some respects, implementing new technology can be a simpler task
than changing your business culture, but the latter is an essential
part of your overall energy plan. Today, we look at the top-end of
energy management – changing culture to involve employees.

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In case you haven’t noticed, the underlying theme of all of our
articles to date is, “Have a Plan.” The issue of changing culture fits
this approach.

Businesses often start out with great enthusiasm, asking employees for
suggestions, posting reminder notices and holding pep-rally-type
meetings only to fall short on the follow-through, resulting in the
momentum withering and eventually disappearing altogether. Ultimately
employee support actually turns against you … if you do not follow
through.

As with any plan, someone has to be the leader or champion. Your leader
– maybe it’s you – has to be empowered to make decisions and get things
done. Depending on the size of the facility, your champion may also
need to assemble a team of volunteers. This team will assist you and,
with luck, will be a resource you can draw on to facilitate a
multi-faceted approach that helps you lower energy costs. A key point
to remember is that employees have a wide range of talents, sometimes
unseen, and when you get them bought into your needs, they become that
valuable resource. You should expect no less from every person.

The first priority in culture change is to set an attainable energy
reduction target. If it’s too high, your staff, including yourself,
will feel defeated and lose interest if you do not hit that goal. To
set a realistic goal, you will need to look at your past energy
consumption over at least a two-year period and be aware of the
equipment and processes that are responsible for the majority of the
usage. Certainly in greenhouses, curtains, boilers, fans and many times
lighting are high on the list, but don’t underestimate the combined
effect of the rest of the operation on the total consumption.

Greenhouses often restrict their conservation efforts because of the
types of crops being grown but that doesn’t mean there aren’t
opportunities to be had. In these instances, it is extremely important
to look at processes as well as retrofitting equipment. We are all
guilty of doing something a certain way because that’s the way it has
always been done.

The next decision is how your team can start to engage the rest of the
staff. This will require excellent communication right from the start. 
Everyone MUST know the goals and understand the reasons behind them.
This communication helps to make employees’ goals the same as your
goals. You might consider starting off with a conservation
seminar/training session held by your champion or an outside
instructor. Alternatively, maybe a kickoff party and a lighter approach
is more your style. However you decide to begin, the key message should
be effectively communicated to everyone so that there is a good
understanding of where you are and what you are trying to achieve as
well as the expectation that all staff will become involved.

Usually the best conservation suggestions come from the people directly
involved in the day-to-day operations. So consider staging contests or
suggestion discussions with a reward and recognition component
attached. Try asking everyone to come up with one suggestion each week
to help reduce or save energy.

Speaking of suggestions, the “kiss of death” for this type of
initiative would be to ignore the ideas put forth. Not all suggestions
will necessarily have merit or be appropriate for your facility, but
every single suggestion should be acknowledged and the reasons to adopt
or not should be conveyed to the originator of the idea. Also, regular
progress reports should be communicated to the entire organization. It
really doesn’t matter whether you do this through a newsletter, via
e-mail or post a notice on the bulletin board as long as the
information gets out there.

Constant encouragement and praise for a job well done will go a long
way towards sustaining staff interest and, while you’re at it, don’t
forget to celebrate!

Spend the time to find out what motivates your employees and use that
to your benefit. You will be happy to know it is not always money!

On top of the energy dollars saved and the positive impact on the
environment, conservation is good for business. Customers appreciate
dealing with a responsible organization so don’t forget to spread the
word beyond your own walls.

There really is no downside to employee engagement, so get going!


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