Investing in employees to build skills, engagement – and a top retail brand

Canadian Tire introduces two programs to track performance, accelerate learning
By Jane Nakamachi
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/30/2019
Canadian Tire
In the past year, CTC has taken steps to actively engage its employees and invest in them to ensure they have the right skills to drive this change and enjoy successful, rewarding careers. Credit: Sarah Dobson

Changes in retail are constant, and it is the responsibility of retailers to ensure employees are equipped for their current role, and for the future.

Canadian Tire Corporation (CTC) is one of Canada’s biggest and most recognized retailers and its employees are key stakeholders to achieving its vision to become the number 1 retail brand in Canada by 2022.

In the past year, CTC has taken steps to actively engage its employees and invest in them to ensure they have the right skills to drive this change and enjoy successful, rewarding careers.

To effectively meet CTC’s objectives and drive its performance, the company introduced two employee-based initiatives: eVoice, a survey platform that provides a deeper understanding of employees and produces metrics to help track employee performance against CTC’s vision; and Triangle Learning Academy (TLA), a company-wide program that offers employees curated content on subjects across the business to accelerate employee learning, based in part on the insights eVoice captures and analyzes.

The first year

Learning and employee engagement are two elements of CTC’s overall talent strategy and will enable the organization to attract, retain and develop employees throughout their careers, while ensuring the organization has the talent to execute its long-term strategy.

When CTC announced its vision to be the top retail brand, it re-evaluated its talent development platform and saw the opportunity to review learning and employee engagement practices.

Previously, CTC used a biennial survey to measure employee engagement. The company wanted to engage employees in a way that was more interactive and facilitated connections between leaders and their teams. From a learning perspective, the new platforms enable CTC to better understand the needs and wants of employees, and deliver learning experiences for every single employee, from coast-to-coast, to develop the skills required to succeed. 

Nearly 20,000 employees took part in eVoice surveys in the first year and provided more than 40,000 comments — a wildly successful response rate by any measure — that CTC was able to compile and analyze into themes that could be addressed through senior leaders.

In support of employee learning, TLA is focused on the development of skills for current roles and the development of soft skills that could be used in any role in any company. The programs are designed to be relevant and provide context for the retail environment, while resonating with employees who enjoy hearing from their leaders.

The material is tied to the business strategy to anchor the program and uses senior leaders from across the organization as “TLA Deans” who provide input, oversight and approval of courses and course content to ensure it is meeting the objectives of both CTC and employees.

Through a combination of online content, case studies, challenges and speaker series, TLA is delivering programs that will develop leaders for today and into the future.

TLA also launched programs in response to feedback from the first eVoice survey. Employees had indicated they wanted more insight into what was happening across the organization so TLA launched a program called Executive Office Hours — an opportunity for managers and individual contributors to get the scoop on where CTC is headed, how the company will get there and what that means for each role.

It has quickly become one of the most popular TLA programs. Leaders relish the opportunity to connect directly with employees on a variety of topics and 24 Executive Office Hour sessions were delivered in just four months to more than 2,500 registrants.

In addition, through programs offered by business schools — such as the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto — as well as online programming and in-house-developed content, courses focus on themes, such as communications, management and data and analytics, helping to provide the skills that prepare employees for the “jobs and joys of life” at CTC. 

In 2019, access will be enabled for store employees at CTC’s Mark’s and Sport Chek chains. CTC is committed to ensuring employees are challenged, engaged and equipped for success, and is investing heavily in its workforce as a demonstration of that commitment. In fact, plans are in progress to secure a dedicated site for TLA — to expand the facility and course offerings.

Today, CTC is offering employees every opportunity to advance their careers, and employees are taking advantage. In TLA’s first year, more than 50,000 individual learnings were delivered to employees, generating a net promoter score of 69 per cent.

eVoice and TLA are continually being refined as CTC tests what works and adjusts accordingly. As retail changes and CTC evolves, the company requires employees to evolve with it and to drive it forward. To do that, employees need a strong understanding of the journey the company is on and a context that exists beyond its walls.

TLA and eVoice are working hand-in-hand to deliver content that is relevant and responsive to make CTC home to Canada’s top talent — today and tomorrow.

Jane Nakamachi is senior vice-president of talent at Canadian Tire Corporation (CTC) in Toronto.

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