Brand alignment at Canadian Tire creates a strong purpose to attract new hires

A well-defined and focused brand can not only present value to consumers, it can help guide staff as well. At the latest “Store” convention held by the Retail Council of Canada, Susan O’Brien, chief brand and customer officer for Canadian Tire Corp., talked about how far-reaching the effects of a good brand strategy can be.

“Even staff can take pride that’s fostered when they’re involved in your brand,” she told the audience of retail representatives from across the country.

Through COVID, Canadian Tire faced challenges along with the rest of the retail community, but its high profile among Canadians made it more vulnerable to criticism. For example, when its website crashed in the early days of the lockdowns, the news made the newspapers. But despite store closures and efforts to keep its people safe, Canadian Tire found money for COVID response and for investing in local communities.

As for the inward-facing benefits, a strong brand message makes what your company stands for clearer to potential new hires. “Sixty-seven percent of employees expect their company to have a higher purpose,” O’Brien said, citing the results of the “Edelman Trust Barometer.”

“Embracing our brand purpose will transform our entire organization.”

On Nov. 22, 2021, O’Brien and Canadian Tire CEO Greg Hicks presented the new branding to the entire staff: “We are here to make life in Canada better.” The statement requires melding a company’s purpose with the need to make money and grow sales, but together these ideas make a company better, said O’Brien.

“Being there for Canadians isn’t just part of our brand. It is our brand,” she stressed.

Mental health in the workplace: it’s okay to talk about it

A range of themes was explored at the latest “Store” convention held recently in Toronto by the Retail Council of Canada. Some of them covered the human side of the business. One in particular dealt directly with the taboos of mental health, and how to overcome those taboos in the workplace.

Henry’s Cameras is a well-known photography retailer based in Toronto, considered the go-to for any serious photographer. Gillian Henry is the CEO of this family-owned business. She shared the very personal story of her battle with mental illness, which started with a breakdown during her first year at university. It was eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder.

She urged companies to be willing to talk about mental health. That’s the best way to create awareness and acceptance, she said. Too many people are concerned that talking about their own difficulties will stigmatize them and cause them to lose their job. A company instead must be set up, not just to support staff with mental health challenges, but to demonstrate and communicate that. Henry stressed the importance of creating a safe space for everyone and setting a tone that allows people to open up about their situations.

“You have to show that it’s okay not to be okay.”

Henry offered some tips for getting started:

  • Don’t assume anything about your people or their conditions.
  • Focus on self-care, which can include a range of concepts from encouraging good diet to building in times for personal reflection.
  • Don’t be afraid to keep delivering the message. “Over-communicating what you have for support is number one—and an easy one.”

She talked about the notion of vulnerable leadership. “It’s hard to do, but really, really important.”

Expert Advice of the Month: Your staff deserves to be seen, heard, and valued

Sarah McVanel is the founder of Greatness Magnified, an organization that specializes in providing training programs and certifications for employees at large. She is a recognition expert, professional speaker, coach, author, and creator of F.R.O.G.—Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness. She invigorates companies to earn great people and to see their people as exceptional so that, together, they can create a thriving culture where everyone belongs.

In the Age of the Employee Experience, we need to tune in and turn up the appreciation.

Seeing, understanding, and valuing what our people need from us is essential if we’re going to attract and retain great people. We cannot simply throw money at the retention problem. Sure, it may get people in the door, but will it keep them? And considering it costs three times someone’s salary to replace them, it’s an expensive risk. And not a calculated one.

People who feel valued, seen, heard, and appreciated stay. They want to belong, do good work, and feel like their contributions would be missed if they were gone. It’s a psychological fact based on motivation theory and behavioural economics. However, we still doubt it, thinking it can’t be that simple. Now that business studies and surveys are proving this, we’re listening.

People cannot be treated like a number. Or a paycheque.

To be clear, we need to offer a desirable comp and benefits package. No one will work for us if we’re in the bottom quartile with inflation on the rise, not to mention the impression it gives that they’re not worth more. However, the package isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on (or email it’s attached to), if the core offer we have is money, full stop.

A paycheque is table stakes. A bonus cheque is temporary. A gift card is disposable. Do you know what’s irreplaceable? Recognition.

Everyone needs and deserves to be seen, heard, and valued. This is how we will keep great people. Appreciation is timeless. It’s teachable. It’s satisfying (more satisfying than retraining a constant revolving door of people, to be sure!).

Every single person in every industry at every “level” at any time can make work more delicious instantly. The secret weapon you’ve had at your disposal all along is recognition.

Ask the HR Department: Any tips for holding on to workers as inflation runs high?

By HR and health & safety consultancy Peninsula Canada

High inflation in a market hit by labour shortages only makes recruiting and retaining skilled workers tougher for small business owners. It becomes crucial then that employers implement cost-effective and innovative ways to improve employee experience. This would help you retain existing employees and make your workplace attractive for talented applicants.

What is employee experience? Employee experience is the relationship a business builds with its employees. Factors contributing to a positive employee experience include a healthy work culture, positive engagement, recognition, opportunities for growth, a sense of belonging, work-life balance, competitive compensation, benefits, and perks.

How do I improve employee experience and retention? Strategies to improve employee retention do not always have to be costly. Of course, there’s no substitute for good compensation, especially in a time of high inflation and rising food and gas prices. But there are other perks and benefits you could offer that may make your staff think twice before switching jobs simply for more money.

Offer competitive salary and benefits. A good compensation package makes employees feel appreciated and motivated. The top reason people change jobs is for better pay. So, make sure you are not underpaying your staff. Offer salary and benefits at par with industry standards. In the long term, it will be cheaper to offer a competitive pay package to retain talent than to keep recruiting and training new staff due to a high employee turnover.

Allow for remote/hybrid/flexible work. If the nature of your business allows it, offer your staff the option of remote or flexible work. In the past two-and-a-half years, people’s tolerance for long, crowded work commutes has declined. Remote work has also proved beneficial for staff with childcare or caregiving duties.

Remote or hybrid work or flexibility around work hours is now a perk most job seekers look for while changing jobs. According to the 2021 Hays Salary Guide, the option to work from home was cited as one of the “most desired benefits” by the employees surveyed.

Offering a hybrid or remote office also benefits employers. By doing so, you can recruit talented individuals from across the country and not just your province. You also save money on rent and overhead expenses that would come with a physical office running at full capacity.

Remote or hybrid work is also economical for your staff as they save time and money that would be spent commuting or eating out when working from the office. It’s a perk that’ll help your staff manage their finances better in a time of high inflation. When they work remotely, your employees can also move to cities with lower costs of living.

Peninsula is an HR and Health and Safety consulting firm serving over 80,000 small businesses worldwide, including dealers in home improvement. Clients are supported with ongoing updates to their workplace documentation and policies as legislation changes. Additionally, clients benefit from 24/7 employer HR advice and are protected by legal insurance.

B.C. association conducts study to understand the labour force better

A project to figure out how to make the home improvement industry more attractive to potential workers has become the focus of the Building Supply Industry Association (BSIA) of British Columbia. To do it, the group has plugged into provincial government funds from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, and has turned to R.A. Malatest and Associates to execute the study.

“It’s an 18-month deep dive into our industry,” says Thomas Foreman, president of the BSIA. Frustrated by the shortcomings of the industry in terms of recruitment and succession planning, Foreman wanted to build a blueprint for helping member companies, which include dealers and suppliers, to tap into the province’s workforce.

Like everywhere in North America, staffing in B.C. has become a huge issue. Yet at the same time, the industry is busier than it has been in two decades, preventing many companies from having the luxury to look ahead and plan new talent strategies. “All of us see what the challenges are,” Foreman adds. “We just don’t have the solutions.”

Take training, for example. Most of the focus in this area is on entry-level skills, important enough for any new employee. But, with some exceptions, there’s a lack of meaningful training for managers and other senior people that might be groomed for more long-term roles.

The answer, Foreman says, is to get more data on who the future workforce represents, and what their values are. Malatest has been constructing and conducting surveys and focus groups to gather that data. The study is now in phase two, and Foreman expects the final report to be ready next spring. “It’s exciting to find out where the gaps are and come up with the solutions.

Pay attention to these trends in workplace wellness

Wellness Workdays, a provider of corporate wellness programs, completed its 2021 annual retrospective analysis and found several workplace wellness trends to watch in 2022. A certified woman-owned business enterprise, Wellness Workdays designs and delivers corporate wellness programs to promote employee health, productivity and a culture of well-being.

According to the analysis, here are four trends emerging in workplace wellness for 2022:

A focus on fitness. Wellness programs that include a focus on exercise, fitness, and ergonomic health became the leading topic in 2021. As many employees continue to work from home this year, the interest in ergonomic health, including back care and reducing sedentary time, continues to grow. Spending so much time at home in the last two years has led to an increased desire to be more active.

Mental health becomes a central pillar. Mental health is a popular part of wellness programs and has now become a central pillar of wellness rather than just one part. As the pandemic winds down, there will be a shift from crisis management in wellness to support, mindfulness, and a holistic view of wellness.

Sustainability in wellness. Along with caring for their bodies and minds, employees are looking to take care of our planet with more eco-friendly practices and policies. Wellness Workdays’ sustainability-focused wellness programs grew in popularity by more than 300 percent in 2021 and helped improve participants’ wellness and reduce their carbon footprint.

Investing in chronic condition management. In 2021, Wellness Workdays’ programs saw a 300 percent increase in interest in chronic condition prevention and management. People want to know the best ways to manage any existing chronic conditions and prevent future conditions from developing.

Expert Advice of the Month: It’s time for the role of the HR department to change

This month we talk with Walter Pranke, vice president, human resources at Lee Valley Tools, a chain of tool and gift stores based in Ottawa.

The job of the HR department certainly became front and centre during the pandemic. But as its importance has grown, so has the definition of the role an HR department must play to be an effective part of any growth-oriented company.

HR was once viewed as the “personnel department” through which managers could generate employee reviews and keep track of a staffer’s performance, both good and bad. But that model is outdated. Today, the importance of employee wellness has become crucial to the workings of a company.

“The HR department has become much more than a personnel department,” says Walter Pranke, VP of human resources at Lee Valley Tools. “An HR leader has to be very business savvy, with more than simply an HR mindset.”

Pranke says that HR should be an integral part of a management team’s planning. But it has to earn that spot by being focused on the overall success of a company. “You need to be able to provide solid ideas that will help grow the business.” He urges fellow HR leaders to “learn the business” so their input will add value in concrete ways and contribute to the overall performance of a company.

Pranke says it’s important to stay on top of technology that can help streamline and strengthen the HR role. He’s in the process of implementing a new platform that will help connect Lee Valley’s employees at 18 stores across Canada—and employees working remotely—with virtual, face-to-face access.

The process of pitching this technology, Pranke says, required him to have a good sense of the wider business advantages the platform could bring. “Now we will have a much more centralized and cohesive model for training.”

HR has moved well beyond its “personnel department” mindset. “Management needs to think of including HR in more conversations about the growth and future of the business,” Pranke concludes.

Ask the HR Department: Spring cleaning for your HR department

By HR and health & safety consultancy Peninsula Canada

Spring is the perfect time to get organized and get rid of clutter. But have you thought about spring cleaning the HR department? This time of year is the best time to ensure all HR functions are up to date.

Employee files. When was the last time employee files were looked at and updated? It’s important to check employee files periodically to ensure that all contact information, addresses and emergency contacts are there. If you are still using paper files, consider switching to digital ones.

Policy check. Are all company policies and employee handbooks up to date? Not only is it important to ensure employees are made aware of all changes, but handbooks must be current and compliant with any legislative changes.

Prepare for a surge of vacation requests. With everyone so eager to get away as pandemic restrictions end, how do you fairly manage vacation requests? To avoid any issues, employers should make sure they have a good system in place to prepare for the surge in vacation requests.

The vacation policy should inform employees of how far in advance they must request their vacation. It should clarify the procedure for making the request.

Review projects. Looking over the status of current and future projects will help keep your team on track. Checking due dates, tasks, and responsibilities will not only ensure the project is done on time but also allow you to see if there are any gaps in the process and handle them ahead of time.

Job description updates. It is important to update job posting to ensure the requirements still fit the job position. Often, a job posting may be forgotten and become irrelevant. Factor in any office or responsibility changes to make sure you are targeting the right candidate.

Peninsula is an HR and Health and Safety consulting firm serving over 80,000 small businesses worldwide, including dealers in home improvement. Clients are supported with ongoing updates to their workplace documentation and policies as legislation changes. Additionally, clients benefit from 24/7 employer HR advice and are protected by legal insurance.

Your company’s brand is an important factor in attracting top employees

When it comes to hiring, it’s a buyer’s market out there. Where companies once called the shots on how and when a new hire was made, new realities brought on by COVID have left many people looking harder than ever at what a company stands for before choosing to join it.

That means companies need to pay more attention to the recruitment process than ever before. That includes ensuring one’s company is appealing to potential recruits in ways that go beyond salary and benefits. It comes down to how your company brands itself, says Stephen Borer, partner at DMC Recruitment Group. That brand, he notes, “is so heavily tied into what a company needs to work on when they’re attracting that talent.”

Matt Frost at Lock Search Group says that how a company brands itself is more important than ever—and not just for the sake of customers or shareholders. It’s something that must run through the very heart of a company. “In today’s environment, a company is not selecting a candidate. The candidate is selecting the company.”

Frost has seen instances of a company’s charitable or community involvement swaying good candidates who were otherwise on the fence about joining. It’s no longer a case of laying out salary, benefits and vacation, or workplace environment. “Another layer has been added,” he says. “Here’s what we’re doing for the environment; this is what we’re doing to give back to the community.” While salary is still the biggest piece, these “soft” issues can play an important role in a job candidate’s decision process.

Branding is not just about advertising. “It’s all very well to shout that you’ve got a great brand,” says Borer. “But the most efficient way to have a great employer brand is have your workforce be engaged and love coming to work, and they in turn tell their friends about it.”

That word-of-mouth impact can be especially valuable for dealers in smaller towns or communities. “You need people in the town to go, ‘Oh, that is a great place to work.’ And that comes down to your customer service and to every interaction anyone has with your brand. It comes down to how happy your employees are. It comes down to your compensation program, whether you’re paying people correctly.”

For Frost at Lock Search, a healthy company brand must reflect resiliency as the pandemic lingers. “Candidates are often looking for a hybrid work model,” Frost says. “Some companies have adapted, while others have not. This ability to adapt will no doubt have a direct impact on retaining top talent throughout 2022 and beyond.”

How to rebuild retail employee trust after The Great Resignation


It’s been called “The Great Resignation.” Over the past two years, COVID shook up the workplace so thoroughly that employee turnover reached epidemic proportions. Now, as we attempt to return to some form of “normal,” employers in the retail industry are looking for ways to retain their front-line employees.

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) held an online forum in March to discuss human resources best practices as we all try to put The Great Resignation behind us.

One of the biggest challenges right now is how to repair the damage that the pandemic did to morale, said Jackie Ross, principal, J. Ross Retail Recruitment. During the past two years, many employees saw some of their peers quit their jobs. “This has potentially eroded trust,” Ross said. “So, as things begin to normalize, how do we rebuild that trust?”

Vicki Bradley, another speaker at the RCC online forum, said that the simple act of senior managers listening to shop-floor employees is key. “Listening does not necessarily mean you agree with what is being said,” Bradley said. “But you need to hear it. And then recap those conversations to your employees, so that they know they have been heard. This is how you begin to rebuild trust.”

In retail, front-line employees are the lifeline that connects customers to management decisions. “So as an owner of a business, or a senior executive, you need to look at your communications style to make sure it’s effective,” Bradley said. “It’s not about dictating (to employees on the floor of the shop). It’s about getting curious about what they think, finding out from them.”