When we consider the sustainability of an organization, future managers have to learn how to successfully balance three bottom lines — financial, environmental and social. One is not more important than the other.

Neil Boyd

To succeed as managers, today's students must understand social sustainability. It's part of triple bottom-line thinking and a key component of 21st-century management, says Professor Neil Boyd, management.

"When we consider the sustainability of an organization, future managers have to learn how to successfully balance three bottom lines — financial, environmental and social. One is not more important than the other," says Boyd, who teaches in the Managing for Sustainability program within Bucknell's School of Management. "They need to balance the pillars of sustainability everywhere in a company, from the supply chain to operations to downstream impacts on customers and society. It's also social entrepreneurship," he says. The students in Boyd's senior capstone course put this into practice when they consult with community groups and businesses.

Boyd, the C. Graydon and Mary E. Rogers Faculty Fellow for 2013-16, is currently researching the relationship between community experiences within organizations and employee engagement. "If I feel like I'm part of a community, and responsible for it, that helps my psychological well-being. And if I feel responsible for my community, it tends to drive my engagement at work. Community experiences help workers become leaders and help them exhibit organizational citizenship behaviors, meaning they give back to the organization and those around them."

Boyd says human resource departments and executive leadership of firms are primarily responsible for designing organizations that create community experiences. "Workers need to feel like they are a member, that they have shared emotional experiences and that their needs are met, and that requires HR intervention. It's the social sustainability agenda in organizations."

Some companies, such as those on the Forbes' 100 Best Places to Work list, do this very well. Employees receive good pay and benefits but are also frequently asked how they feel their organizations are operating. "Managers who frequently talk to their employees, ask their opinions and provide praise will have employees who feel like they are making a difference, and are part of a process of designing an organization that has positive community experiences. Managers should be good listeners and good communicators, and provide guidance as necessary but not get in the ways of creativity. The result will be the long-term sustainability of a really cohesive workforce."

Posted Sept. 30, 2015

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