Personal approach key to employee experience: Star Women winners panel

Four of this year’s winners discussed the importance of feeling valued and heard during Canadian Grocer’s virtual celebration

It’s not personal, it’s business. It’s an adage we’ve all heard before. And yet, during the last 18 months of the pandemic, taking a personal approach with employees has been critical to the success of any business.

Human connection, relationship building and organic interactions—hellos in the hall and run-of-the-mill banter over morning coffee--among co-workers has been, to say the least, a challenge to maintain since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do you replicate those daily, in-person interactions in an online work world? How do you create a culture where everyone feels included? Communication, creativity and “being grounded in purpose,” said Katelin Mailer, vice-president, human resources, Lactalis Canada, and a 2021 Star Women in Grocery winner.

Mailer was joined by fellow winners Sarah Joyce, senior vice-president, ecommerce, Sobeys; Geraldine Huse, president, P&G Canada; Penney McTaggart Cowan, vice-president marketing & member experiences, chair, Calgary Co-op Foundation, Calgary Co-op for a panel discussion during the Star Women in Grocery Awards virtual awards ceremony held Oct. 20.

“You want every individual within your organization to understand how they contribute to that purpose and how the role that they do every day leads to the success of the organization,” said Mailer, adding that Lactalis ran its first-ever, all-employee event earlier this year to drive that message home.

Joyce said all members of Empire’s Voilà team understand the pivotal role they play in achieving its goal of being the No. 1 e-commerce business in Canada. And each week, every team member is invited to participate in a “30-minute huddle” to hear updates and to celebrate recent wins, she said.

“It doesn't matter which functional team you're on, it doesn't matter what level you are, you know that you are so critical to us being able to achieve our big, bold, ambitious dreams,” said Joyce.

Every team member needs to feel they have a voice, they need to feel heard and they need to feel part of a decision process, said McTaggart Cowan. “It isn't just a one-way discussion, it is a collaborative discussion and their perspectives are critically important,” she said.

Part of ensuring employees feel connected, understood and valued is creating a workplace culture of inclusivity. But this is about more than just numbers, said Huse. Measuring the percentage of women versus men in the workplace or the number of different ethnicities means nothing without actionable measures.

“It’s really training people to understand that it's not good enough to just have good intent,” said Huse. “You have to really understand different diverse groups and what they need, such that you can alter your behaviour to make sure you are fully inclusive and make everybody feel they've got equal opportunities so that they can take those equal opportunities.”

Improving equality and inclusion in the workforce not only helps employees feel more valued, but it also yields a wider breadth of ideas, said Huse. “We get better business actions, business plans, business solutions,” she said. “I truly believe it’s best for the business as well as being right.”

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