Shoppers goes mobile, boosts engagement

‘Going Mobile’ projects lifted key employee engagement score by 21 points – and productivity, cost-savings metrics are next on the list
By Tammy Van Eck
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/20/2014

Top employers understand the importance of engagement — including its direct link to the bottom line. That’s why Shoppers Drug Mart has been on a journey over the past several years to better understand how we can continue to improve our engagement levels.

Opportunity knocked when employees told us they were unhappy with the tools and resources we offered and, more specifically, that the tools and resources weren’t helping them to be as productive as possible.

Market research was a great reality check that told us it was time to untether our deskbound employees. We responded by making it easier for them to tap into teams and colleagues across different locations, access information from the field and “officially” leverage their own devices.

Several compelling studies indicate mobile devices make employees more efficient. And the proof was in the making when Intel announced savings of about 57 minutes per employee — or five-million hours in 2012 — with its bring your own device (BYOD) program.

The idea of going mobile was not a hard sell to our initiative management committee as they — like others — were already finding workarounds to more effectively access information during meetings and on the fly. So without much hesitation, the Going Mobile project was brought to life, sponsored by Mary-Alice Vuicic, chief administrative officer and executive vice-president of human resources at Shoppers Drug Mart.

4 key pillars

Going Mobile was built on four key pillars: wireless, BYOD, Google and SDMi (our cloud- based intranet).

Wireless: Wireless was the foundational element underpinning the success of many other program offerings. Providing wireless connectivity across our network of offices was a productivity win unto itself. Employees can now effortlessly access the network anywhere in the office without cables, and visitors can have virtually instant guest Internet access upon arrival.

BYOD: Add BYOD to the mix and we now have countless tablets, notebooks and phones that can be used to facilitate secure and instant access to information, anywhere and anytime. Security governance is key here and technology solutions coupled with sound policy ensure corporate information is protected at all times.

Google: Google has provided a whole new dimension to our email, calendaring and general information-sharing and storage system. Using Google, employees can instantaneously access work information from their personal devices — including their files which can now be stored in the cloud.

This is a huge win for field employees who previously battled with remote network access.

The extra storage was also a big plus for the broader employee population who were previously hampered by email inbox quotas — frequently getting stuck in “mail jail” where they could not send or receive information. That’s a productivity killer.

The ability to collaborate on shared documents in real-time across multiple locations, instant messaging and the use of sites and groups to exchange information are other invaluable advantages realized through the new system.

SDMi: SDMi, our central company communication hub, was the mechanism used to bring the Going Mobile project to life, delivering important training, and operational and change management information. It’s here that employees could share tips and tricks, find fun contest information and celebrate project successes. SDMi is now our real-time, national, one-stop source of information for employees.

While each pillar was a workstream unto itself, the success was really in bringing together a core team comprised of IT, HR, communications and change management to deliver a seamless offering to end users. In-depth stakeholder analysis, policy readiness and a change network of “Google Guides” were key building blocks to ensuring a successful rollout, as was a collaborative, cross-functional team, ready to work across boundaries and find innovative solutions when barriers arose — and there were definitely barriers.

Projects of this magnitude include key success metrics upon which a business case is built. While engagement is not the only metric of success, it is a key metric and preliminary results show we have raised the bar significantly.

A “post-happiness” survey four months after the rollout showed a 21 percentage point lift in response to our standard engagement question around tools and resources helping employees to be productive. Employees have told us it is now easier to do their work.

Improved talent acquisition and retention are other benefits we are counting on as employees become more techsavvy. We know many gen-X and millennial workers prefer instant messaging and social networks to email. Also, the average employee already has multiple devices of his own and the ability to use devices familiar to him is appealing.

While additional metrics around productivity and other possible savings have yet to be analyzed and reported on, the results were compelling enough for us to launch phase two of the project which includes a deployment to our store network in 2014.

Going Mobile has been a phenomenal success for Shoppers Drug Mart and helped us validate we are on the right path in our engagement journey.

Tammy Van Eck is director of HR business partnering at Shoppers Drug Mart in Toronto. She can be reached at or (416) 493-1220 ext. 2935.

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