​More than just talk: engaging employees with better communication

by |
Jackie GoldmanJackie Goldman will be speaking at HRD’s Leaders Summit in November, outlining Canadian Tire’s employee engagement program and the positive outcomes it offers not only the corporation but others looking to adopt similar strategies. For more information, visit hrleaders.ca.

Internal communication is a major challenge for HR at any large organization, especially when your employees are mobile and spread across time zones. Canadian Tire’s Jackie Goldman explains how the organization overcame those obstacles to reap the rewards of an engaged, passionate workforce

Better internal communication is one of the top two ways to improve employee engagement, according to a 2013 Towers Watson study. But it’s not easy when you have different roles and business lines using differing forms of communication.

That was the challenge Canadian Tire faced when it implemented a new employee engagement program in 2013.

“We came to the conclusion that we needed to re-spark employees’ love of the Canadian Tire brand,” says the HR programs vice president, Jackie Goldman. “We really wanted employees to understand the purpose of our organization and their role in it.”

The campaign centred on the phrase “Life in Canada depends on us” and Goldman and her team wanted to reach everyone from corporate and call centre employees, to distribution and field staff.

The diverse roles and locations meant Canadian Tire had to be creative with how it conveyed the message. Not everyone had easy access to computers, and in some areas there were also language barriers.

The first wave was the company’s “Anthem Video,” released last year. It showcases real employees holding a board with images of Canadians using Canadian Tire products, whether it’s a family canoeing or a father and daughter baking.

“We wanted to bring that saying to life and show employees, through emotional and touching images, the impact we have on Canadians,” Goldman says.

The video was followed up by a series of posters using the same template as the video, which continues to be an important element of the campaign. A distribution worker might hold a picture of a family skating, with the statement “I make sure customers’ products get into the stores on time and in good shape, so father and son can skate on the pond.”

“Whatever the (employee’s) role is, we all exist for the same purpose,” says Goldman, adding that there were things they could have recognized at the start which might have improved the initiative’s roll-out.

“Each different business unit has its own distinct culture and way of communicating,” she says. “For corporate communications to resonate it has to hit the mark and we got better at that as we went along. At first there was a bit of resistance to some of the tactics because this is one of the first initiatives that was done across the corporation and touching all of our business units so we had to make sure our tactics spoke to them and that we were respectful.”

Forward planning was key to Canadian Tire’s successful program and communication strategy.

“You can have the best initiative in the world and if it’s not communicated well it can fall flat,” Goldman says. “We use the ‘Know Feel Do’ approach: what do you want people to know, how do you want them to feel, what do you want them to do? You have to take the time to really think through the answers to those questions.”

This feature is from HRM Canada's July issue. Download the issue to read more. 


HRM Online forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions