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CommuteCon 2017

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Getting Your Employees to Pay Attention to Your Commuter Program

Phillip Kobernick
Sustainability Project Manager
County of Alameda

Session Description

Phillip Kobernick, a project manager for Southern California’s County of Alameda, helps manage a base of nearly 10,000 people as they commute to facilities and destinations throughout the region. Kobernick’s extensive experience has helped him develop some key insights into how to get employees to pay attention to a business’s commuter program.

Email campaigns don’t have much of an effect, according to metrics tracked by County of Alameda officials. After discovering the general ineffectiveness of email, the county moved towards an alternative model that prioritizes the following strategies:

  • Email was largely abandoned in favor of using existing networks within the business or organization’s structure to spread the word about commuter programs (i.e. departments, divisions, teams, etc.)
  • Outreach was decentralized, and information about the programs came from a person within the department, division, or team as opposed to an outsider
  • People with extensive local knowledge who want to get more involved in company-wide sustainability initiatives were recruited as partners and promoters
  • Community-based social marketing platforms were leveraged to expand visibility across multiple media channels

Specific social marketing tips and strategies that lead to tangible behavior change include:

  • “Social norming”: Normalizing the idea of using alternative transportation
  • “Social diffusion”: Leveraging the notion that people learn more from others in their direct social networks than they do from people outside it
  • “Public commitments”: Getting people to make a public commitment (on social media) to use commuting alternatives creates an additional level of accountability

From these insights, a general commuter program model emerges: adopt a decentralized approach, using assets within a specific network to promote employee commuter programs. Those who participate can help by normalizing alternative modes of commuting, making public commitments to take part in challenges, and post about them on social media so other people in the individual’s network can be inspired to participate themselves.