Different tactics help boost engagement

We Care Home Health, National Leasing and Molson Coors make annual list
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/26/2011

At we care Home Health Services in Toronto, a recently hiredemployee received another job offer after she had been working for the company for about seven weeks. The new offer was better, and the other company could give her more hours, but she wasn’t interested in taking the position, said Barbara Toccacelli, director of human resources.

“She said, ‘But the president of the company knows my name. He comes down and asks me how my day is and you can’t find that at other companies,’” said Toccacelli, whose organization has 3,000 employees.

“Our managers really interact with employees and they think nothing of knocking on the president’s door and saying, ‘This is what I’m thinking.’”

This open and inclusive management style is one of the reasons We Care merited a place on the 50 Most Engaged Workplaces in Canada list compiled by I Love Rewards in Toronto. The list evaluates applicants on eight elements of employee engagement: communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values, and corporate social responsibility.

This year, there were “hundreds of applicants… up 50 per cent from last year,” said Razor Suleman, CEO and founder of I Love Rewards, so two lists were made — one for Canadian companies and another for American firms — that previously were combined into one list.

Staff appreciation days are another reason why We Care ranks high in employee engagement, said Toccacelli. Each location hosts a variety of different events throughout the year such as pizza lunches, on-site barbecues in the summer and holiday parties. We Care also recognizes individual staff members for their accomplishments, such as having cake and refreshments to celebrate an employee who attained his certified management accountant (CMA) designation.

“It comes back to employees so they feel what they do makes a difference,” she said. “It’s the public recognition and, hopefully, other people will be encouraged to follow.”

The next step in boosting engagement at We Care is to revamp the training program so all staff — not just senior management — have access to “exceptional training opportunities” that extend beyond clinical training to other areas employees are interested in, she said.

“We work really hard to make sure our employees are delivering exceptional service to our clients and we can only do that by making sure our employees are well-treated, engaged, we’re listening to what they have to say and putting programs in place that give them the satisfaction they’re looking for,” said Toccacelli.

National Leasing

The 260 employees at National Leasing in Winnipeg were highly involved in the design of the new head office, helping the organization place on the list of 50 Most Engaged Workplaces. The company launched a blog where employees could post their ideas for the new building, including huge skylights, a bigger gym, an employee lounge and an herb and vegetable garden — all of which made it into the new building, said Grant Shaw, vice-president of human resources, strategy and culture.

“We had employees basically design it. Employees contributed to what they wanted to see in the building, (such as) some very wide open spaces — none of our executives are in offices, it’s all open spaces, big windows and lots of light,” he said.

National Leasing’s performance management system is another initiative that contributes positively to engagement, said Shaw. It goes beyond the annual and semi-annual check-ins and offers monthly one-on-one coaching sessions that last about an hour-and-a-half.

“I think employees appreciate this more. If you wait for the six-month review you’re kind of anticipating, ‘What is my manager going to say about me?’ and this recognizes problems right off the hop,” said Shaw. “Then the manager and the employee can work together on goals and it’s more proactive.”

Making engagement a top priority has yielded many benefits for National Leasing, such as higher retention and productivity, but the biggest benefit is in building the business, he said.

“Being in financial services, we don’t have a product to sell so we’re relying heavily on people connecting with our clients and building relationships and them being engaged will help build strong, lasting relationships,” said Shaw. “If we didn’t have engaged people, we wouldn’t be very successful.”

Molson Coors Canada

The fact that every employee goes home with a 12-pack of beer every week and receives additional samples of new beer definitely can’t hurt engagement at the 3,000-employee Molson Coors Canada in Toronto. But the real driver putting the company on the 50Most EngagedWorkplaces list is its commitment to work-life balance, said FergDevins, chief public affairs officer.

“(One employee) just came back from mat leave, she was off for 10 months, and (now) she enjoys flexible work hours… so she can get in here after dropping off the kids, put in a day, she can get out of here to pick up the kids and if she has to turn on her laptop at home later on to catch up on work, she gets her work done.”

Molson Coors launched an initiative three years ago to develop an appropriate work-life balance module by asking employees what they wanted, said Devins. One of the items that came out of that was allowing employees to work from home one day every two weeks.

Managers are also encouraged to hold meetings between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to accommodate employees’ different schedules. And during the summer, the office closes at 1 p.m. on Fridays.

A desire for employee feedback is an integral component of the Molson Coors culture, said Devins, and the company seeks employee ideas on an ongoing basis on its internal social network through Yammer.

“We want to hear not just, ‘What’s good?’ but ‘What’s bothering you?’ too,” he said. “If you’re only talking about it at the water cooler, it doesn’t have any power.”

Dave Perkins, president and CEO of Molson Coors, also hosts “Dave’s Den” where he regularly meets with up to 20 employees across the country for a couple of hours to hear their thoughts, said Devins.

Since Molson Coors wants employees to be strong ambassadors for their products, it’s important to foster a culture where employee engagement is a top priority, he said.

“If people just went in and did their job in their function day in, day out and went home at night and forgot about the business, we’d have a certain kind of business,” said Devins. “But we’re all about creating employees that are brand champions… and an engaged workforce will bring momentum and loyalty to the business.”

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