EVP of People and Culture Kara MacKillop aligns the values of Canada Goose with its culture to drive engagement.
By Debbie Bolla
HRO Today: Please describe how the culture of Canada Goose is aligned to its values.
Kara MacKillop: As a company with a 60-year history, our culture continues to evolve as we grow and expand. It is rooted in our core values of:
- innovation; and
For example, entrepreneurship is value that got us here and it’s the one that keeps us trying new things, going against the grain, and thriving where others have failed. And authenticity is woven into every aspect of the business from how our products are designed to how we interact with our employees.
HROT: Why it is important for organizations to build and communicate culture?
MacKillop: Since it started, Canada Goose has been known for doing things that have never been done before: creating a new category of “performance luxury” outerwear and being a champion for Made in Canada manufacturing. And when you’re swimming upstream, inevitably the work is intense, the hours are long, and it’s not a linear path, so you need people who are aligned to achieving such goals and who want to have fun along the way.
Culture is such a priority that Canada Goose created a manifesto to help articulate it to prospective and existing employees. Using the “Cultural Manifesto” and values as a platform, the organization is able to authentically share what it means to be part of this company. Employees understand the manifesto because we share it during the recruitment process and include it in onboarding meetings. We also showcase it through a video during our Global Conference—it’s even our desktop screensavers!
By aligning culture with purpose, our employees are engaged and are driving to the same goals.
HROT: How is culture embedded in attraction, recruiting, hiring, and retention efforts?
MacKillop: For me, the biggest challenge is imparting 60 years of history and culture to a workforce that can be made up of 40 percent new employees in any given year. So it starts from the minute we start engaging with a potential employee. We talk about our values during interviews and we look for evidence of candidates demonstrating them organically through their experiences. We also share our manifesto and ask for feedback. It may sound easy, but it’s hard to fake a response to a question about the last time you had to make a decision at high velocity or how you’re going to write your own playbook in uncharted territory.
Employees are also measured against how they live out our values in their annual reviews. Each review has a section in which employees are rated by their manager on how they demonstrate each of our company values throughout the year. For us, it’s not just about performance; “how” the work gets done is equally important.
Working at this company is fun and invigorating, but it does come with challenges that require employees to be flexible, open to change, and to strive for more. We set clear expectations in recruitment, hiring, and retention efforts: Hard work is required, and it comes with amazing opportunities, benefits, and experiences many other organizations don’t have.
HROT: How do you align employee experience with culture?
MacKillop: Today’s workplace is very different from what it was 20 years ago, and now more than ever, people want to work for and buy from companies that communicate purpose. We tie our employee experiences of culture to our values.
- Entrepreneurship: Support the Inuit communities in the North, our birth place, by taking part in a cutting party for the “Resource Centers” program where we provide fabric to the original parka makers (Inuit sewers in Northern Canada).
- Passion: We promote when we see our brand on the big screen, sported by the likes of Daniel Craig or Amy Adams.
- Authenticity: Travel to Churchill, Manitoba to commune with polar bears in the best gear possible.
- Innovation: Gear test our latest designs to influence what hits the market.
- Relentlessness: Cheer on our amazing Goose People as they challenge preconceived notions of what is possible in sport, in adventure, and in activism.
Every year, we also bring together the entire company to our Toronto headquarters so employees from every office around the world get to interact and learn from each other and create new cultural milestones. At our fall conference, we celebrate employees who personify a value through our “Icon Awards.” All of these initiatives help employees understand who we are and why we exist. That leads to greater engagement and we believe enables employees to do their best work.
HROT: How do you encourage and then measure employee engagement?
MacKillop: Culture and employee engagement is not something we take lightly. We work closely with managers from all departments and provide a clear road map to success for their respective groups when it comes to engagement. We ask teams to communicate what’s going on in the company because connecting people directly with our greater purpose helps motivate and engage individuals.
We’ve been conducting an annual engagement survey for years now. Through our action planning process, we drill down to the issues impacting engagement on specific teams and then we set expectations for leaders around those issues. For example, if employees from a given department have said they want to know more about what’s happening in other areas of the business, part of the action plan might be to invite guest speakers from other departments into their town halls, and vice versa. It’s a great way to create champions for a given topic across the business.
We also use it as an opportunity to learn what is working well and how teams are driving their own engagement. This is the entrepreneurial spirit at its best—aligned with our values. And we consistently beat the benchmark as an organization. For global companies of similar size, our engagement levels are 15 percent greater overall, driven largely by a positive outlook for a future at Canada Goose and pride in the organization.
We also create informal opportunities for employees to share their thoughts on engagement. New employee breakfasts and lunches with the CEO have given us some great, actionable ideas.