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How to create a deeply humane workplace culture

Safety first culture, expanding diversity and equity can create sense of belonging


Culture helps create empowerment, accountability and belonging so associates become change agents for the business. (Jacoblund/Getty Images)

Today’s workforce is rapidly changing. Most companies are building on age-old practices of health and safety models, while also adapting to new practices that ensure they offer a diverse and equitable workplace.

As we navigate the shift, one thing is certain: creating a deeply humane workplace is necessary. Safety is now in the public discourse and the connection between mental health and physical integrity are intertwined.

Leaders of today have an unwavering obligation to demonstrate respect, fairness, trust and care. They must listen to all sides and apply expectations and consequences consistently while presuming positive intent and respecting confidentiality.

Leaders at Bimbo Canada, a national bakery, aim to model this behaviour. We are genuinely interested in the well-being of our associates and help them celebrate successes and learn from their mistakes.

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Maintaining a workplace culture is the responsibility of all team members from those closest to the work to the most senior leaders in the organization.

Empowering employees

Culture helps create empowerment, accountability and belonging so associates become change agents for the business. It is more than just providing a safe place to work and fair wages. It requires active listening and evolving programs and policies to meet associate needs.

Two ways to achieve this include offering training in human rights, mental health, and safety hazard identification as well as investing in opportunities for associates to engage with, and give back to their community.

In 2020 we provided on average 12.7 hours of training per associate on a variety of topics including mental health, leadership, safety, diversity and inclusion. We expect to double this investment in 2021 to 25 hours per associate.

Part of this commitment includes ongoing resiliency training for all salaried associates. Training is led by Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe, a multiple award-winning psychologist who specializes in resiliency, navigating stress and change, leadership, and personal wellness in the workplace.

All people leaders are required to participate in a nine-hour safety leadership workshop. This workshop emphasizes how leading through personal commitment and engaging others contributes to the achievement of our safety vision of every associate going home safely every day.

As a result of this focus, we have successfully reduced injury rates by 25 per cent.

Culture is a gamechanger

Evolving training programs are also important to ensure we create a supportive space to have candid conversations about the issues affecting associate’s work and personal lives. Recently, Bimbo Canada rebranded our Diversity and Inclusion journey to Diversity, Equity and Belonging. Our diversity statement begins with ‘Be You’ as we strive to foster a diverse and equitable workplace so that each associate may fulfil their potential and know they belong here.

The benefits of transforming workplace culture are game-changing in terms of retention and productivity.

It will engage associates and enable them to grow and achieve their full potential. It will enrich their lives on a personal level as it creates a heightened sense of belonging at work, regardless of skill set, specialty or level in the organization.

Most importantly, it means associates go home safe and feel they can come to work as their “whole self” each and every day.

Leslee Wills is the vice-president of people and corporate affairs at Bimbo Canada in the Greater Toronto Area.

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