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Looking for Patterns: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning

This is the fourth in a series of eight blog posts that focus on Strategic Workforce Planning.

Last week I came home to find the old school game “Battleship” on our dining room table. My husband was snapping a photo of the box, getting a listing ready for FreeCycle in order to give the game away to a local family. Did you ever play Battleship as a kid? It was one of my favorite games, just like checkers and dominos.

With all three games, you are competing to win and you are starting to identify patterns in behavior. With Battleship, did your little sister or older brother call out certain coordinates consistently, or select coordinates at random? These kinds of observations lay the groundwork for figuring out how you can score points. (Who doesn’t remember calling out, “You sunk my Battleship!” from this game?)

This also is a beginning stage for strategy development. Where might my fellow game player least expect me to place my Battleship? In what ways can I capitalize on the patterns I’m identifying about how my competitor plays the game?

There are several parallels with Green Strategic Workforce Planning in order to keep your organizational ship afloat in the years to come. The good news is, there are several standard categories (or patterns) that you can look for, which make it easier to identify what is happening on the other side of the metaphorical game table.

The five categories, known as STEEP, are:

  1. Societal: This category involves measures oriented around people and factors of their daily life (who they are, how they live their lives, the kinds of work and leisure activities they pursue, etc.). Example: “Health threats, indoor meeting and mobility restrictions and the rise of remote working results in consumers turning to an Outdoor Oasis for leisure and recreation. Some are even considering moving from densely populated cities to rural areas. Businesses incorporated advanced health measures and moved events outside, allowing consumers to reconnect out of the home more safely. Companies should pivot their product development strategy to encompass the tranquillity of rural living in urban environments to better satisfy city-scapers.” Source: Research World

  2. Technological: Industrial advances, including gadgets, artificial intelligence, computers, apps, tablets, social media, digital tech, and more are covered in this category. Example: A recent Frost & Sullivan report notes: “Digital sustainability is driving much-needed operational efficiency improvements in key sectors such as water services, waste management, and recycling….[A range of]...projects highlight the value of digital twins in enhancing the resilience of water utilities while offering an attractive return on investment. By driving operational efficiency, they are also supporting carbon emission reduction. Digital transformation in waste recycling is also witnessing rapid growth, driven by the deployment of monitoring and metering solutions as well as advanced sensors coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) for better sorting and waste segregation. Cloud-based data platforms for better decision support facilitate a truly circular approach.”

  3. Economic: The status of the money in the pockets of people and organizations that comprise our local, regional, state, national, and international economies. Example: The June 2021 Deloitte Insights report states: “The positive picture of the economy comes with structural changes that will challenge some sectors. Although we expect business spending to be reasonably strong, investment in structures—especially office and retail buildings—is likely to lag. Instead, in our forecast, businesses double down on technology investment, buying equipment and software to support more virtual work. And growing e-commerce will mean growing demand for light vehicles and medium-weight trucks for delivery services along with a demand for drivers, gasoline, and related products.”

  4. Environmental: The state of the natural world around us, how it responds to us, and how we respond to and manage it. Example: Engie Impact reports in its 2021 Trends blog post, “In 2020, poor social and environmental performance led the CEO of the world’s largest mining company to resign; three chemical giants saw stocks plummet; and corporations were publicly smeared for poorly designed offset programs, revealing the rising stakes of corporate climate action today and into the future. As corporations announce new ambitious plans, they should expect all climate claims to be carefully inspected by shareholders, customers and the press alike.”

  5. Political: This category represents changes in political participation and ideology that occur on the local, regional, national, and international levels. Example: PWC’s Top Policy Trends 2021 report states: “Diversity and inclusion (D&I) and climate-risk data is not yet standardized and investment grade in most companies. In 2019, 90% of the companies in the S&P 500 index issued sustainability reports, up from about 20% in 2011. But so far there has been no mandatory US standard governing such disclosures. Meanwhile, companies face evolving global reporting expectations such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) or the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, with multiple reporting standards and frameworks (e.g., the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) or the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)). With the SEC now expected to move toward more standardized disclosures, companies need to consider just how much of their D&I and climate-risk information lies outside of the mainstream regulatory reporting ecosystem.”

These are just a few examples of how you can pull together many strands of data in order to gain a more comprehensive view of trends that are likely to shape the future of your workforce and your organization. Of course, these are all external trends and internal trends are equally as important to include.

Perhaps most notably, take a step back to notice the connections or possible overlaps between the categories. And, go beneath these trends to explore them further.

The movement towards remote workplaces (a social and an economic trend), for example, has changed work hours and therefore transportation patterns during the pandemic (an environmental trend). What implication might these two intersecting trends have for your workplace? Such as….

Does it mean on days that your team meets in person (when that’s possible again) that you need to have staggered meeting times in order to ensure social distancing? If many of your team members drive to work, what implications could there be for parking capacity, now and next year, in 3 years, 5 years? Etc (You get the idea.)

As we build out your Green Strategic Workforce Plan in step 4 (next to come), you will begin to build in these kinds of considerations into your approach and game plan.

Some questions to consider:

  • Which of the five STEEP categories might have the most effect on your mission, vision, and functional work of the organization?

  • What unexpected and expected patterns can you see, as you begin to look across the data in the five STEEP categories?

ICYMI...Strategic Workforce Planning Series: 7 Steps for “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Frame Your Project: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Broaden Your Aperture: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning

Can we help with building the skills you need to advance greener outcomes?

Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, PhD, CPCC, ACC, at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Green Career, Executive/Leadership Coaching, Strategic Workforce Planning, Small Group Mentoring, Stakeholder Engagement, or Learning & Development services are right for you.

We work with professionals and organizations that have a sustainability focus in their work. All services are customized to your needs.

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