Champion Tipping Point: Widespread Employee Engagement with Cortney Oliver

© LCBO

The Champion

Cortney Oliver, LCBO (Head Office in Toronto)


The Challenge

"With a company as big and diverse as the LCBO it is a challenge to carry out initiatives that are simple and far reaching. We’re a big organization with a diverse and complex employee base. There are different schedules, workplace cultures and engagement levels throughout the company. To get everyone involved in something on such a wide-scale is an ongoing challenge.”

The Initiative

“We decided to take on National Sweater Day as a company-wide initiative to rally thousands of our employees across Ontario in support of energy conservation and to grow awareness of our energy conservation efforts. We asked all 620 of our retail stores across the province to turn down their thermostats and wear their goofiest sweaters!"

The Result

“The response exceeded my expectations because more people took part than I had anticipated. We had stores from across the province participate as well as a number of our head office employees. All 70 stores with programmable thermostats reduced their heat by 3 degrees and the rest were instructed to do so manually. Soon after the campaign, dozens of photos of employees in funny sweaters streamed in via e-mail. At our head office in Toronto, we even hosted a Sweater Fashion Show over the lunch break, which had a great turnout. I was really happy with how many people this reached across our organization and how much fun they seemed to be having with it."

The Process

"After our Employee Engagement for Sustainability Committee decided that we were interested in participating in National Sweater Day, it took about a month and a half to organize.  I met with the Director of Facilities to see if it was logistically possible for all of our facilities to turn down the heat and if he would support it and when he said ‘absolutely,’ we began setting the wheels in motion to obtain other senior level support. We drafted a proposal to senior management- who immediately got behind it- and by the time our president saw it, he gave us the stamp of approval right away. The rest was just a matter of organizing our communications strategy.

"What I really like about a campaign like Sweater Day is that it is a simple and effective way to raise awareness and engage employees. The reasonably low input and great output is something all organizations can appreciate.”

The Breakthrough

"For me, it was seeing a video on our company Intranet site that had our senior VP of Retail Operations in a goofy sweater putting out the call to action. Having that kind of senior level support is so strong and important to any company-wide initiative. You always worry that people might not participate after so much energy has been put into something, especially because Sweater Day was our Employee Engagement Committee’s first attempt at implementing a company-wide initiative, but it really looked like people were having fun with it."

The Advice

  • "Try to manage expectations with what's reasonable within the different tiers of an organization
  • Think about how communication gets disseminated and how best to reach all employees across the organization.
  • Take baby steps and celebrate even the smallest victories. Change doesn’t happen overnight."

Cortney joined Living Planet @ Work to build on her green team's understanding of engagement, to share ideas, triumphs and challenges with other organizations with an aim to strengthen internal capacity.  If you're interested in joining Cortney and want to become your company's workplace green champion, visit atwork.wwf.ca.

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