Expert Advice of the Month: How to keep staff plugged in to corporate values under COVID

This month we talk with Martina Pileggi, director of human resources for the Hillman Group Canada, a fastener producer for the hardware, automotive, plumbing, and electrical markets.

Martina Pileggi is a big believer in corporate values. Not just establishing them, but sharing them as well. As a human resources professional with over 15 years of experience in various industries that include pharmaceuticals, food and grocery, and most recently hardware, she knows the importance of maintaining awareness of what a company stands for. Those values, she says, have to be communicated on an ongoing basis.

Pileggi walks the walk. In 2019, she was on an airplane upwards of twice a month to meet with the various divisions of Hillman, which has seven facilities across Canada. During the pandemic, of course, all that has come to a halt.

But the commitment of her and her HR team to maintain and promote the company’s corporate values to the Hillman workforce (it employs 900 in Canada) is undiminished. “It’s a challenge,” she admits. “It was a challenge pre-pandemic and it will be a challenge post-pandemic.”Nowadays it’s an even greater challenge. But she has strategies for keeping the values of the company and the sense that workers are embraced by those values in the forefront.

Instead of being physically onsite at various workplaces, she has devised other ways to connect virtually. “You need to be present in your home location, as well as being seen travelling to all parts of the company.” Now she does a lot of stand-up meetings, or town halls, at Hillman’s head offices in Toronto. “We came up with a structure that could connect with every single person.” These monthly events, which cover everything from safety to the performance of the company under COVID, are broadcast to the entire workforce county-wide.

“The job of HR is often hard to quantify,” says Pileggi. “What’s really important is making sure the corporate vision is shared. People must understand and comprehend what we’re doing. We do that by being present.”

That, she says, means calling instead of emailing, making sure people understand and feel they are appreciated and supported. During challenges such as the current pandemic, these tools help her and her team stay connected across the company. “That’s how you cascade the culture.”