A Sustainable Workforce: Beginning with the North Star


In the past, the term sustainability was used to describe strategies for protecting and securing current business practices without compromising a company’s (or an individual’s) ability to advance.

In the May edition of Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Adam Werbach noted,
“In recent years, sustainability has been recast as a broader concept encompassing the social, economic, environmental, and cultural systems needed to sustain any organization. A sustainable organization, and similarly a sustainable person, is prepared to thrive today and tomorrow.”

This means that businesses are beginning to refocus on sustainable growth, including the growth and sustainability of their employees. As a part this sustainability trend, companies are being encouraged to create North Star goals for their organizations.

A North Star goal is an optimistic, aspirational objective that ties personal and business goals to a higher purpose. The North Star can become a guiding principle for both the company and its employees. Some North Star attributes include:

•    Relate to a global human need
•    They can be achieved within 5 to 15 years
•    They inspire people
•    They are aligned with core business strategies
•    Every employee can get involved in achieving them

These types of goal setting are not uncommon in areas like professional sports, and even education. Sports motivation is built upon setting big goals and striving to achieve them. In education, students are motivated and rewarded for setting up personal challenges for themselves as they determine “what they want to be when they grow up.” But in a business climate, where industry is less concerned about philanthropy and more concerned with its bottom line, the North Star concept may seem a bit too soft and esoteric for hardline corporations.

But let’s not be too hasty … Consider the vision statements of some of the largest corporations in the world:

Kraft Food — Helping people around the world eat and live better
Coca Cola — Be a responsible global citizen that makes a difference
Walt Disney — To make people happy

Are these stepping stones toward the North Star? Maybe in the near future, companies will create sustainability by aligning their vision and mission statements with North Star goals that make a positive impact with their employees, their communities, and their bottom line.
Now, wouldn’t that be something to see shining up in the sky one quiet, summer night?