Canada’s Fastest-Growing Company: How To Build a Better Culture

Caroline Schein

Caroline Schein recently joined Article, the company that has grown over 24,182% during the past 5 years as the VP People & Culture. As Canada’s Fastest-Growing Company, the executive team has its work cut out from them. Specifically, Caroline is responsible for building Article’s people and culture practices across North America. With more than 20 years of senior leadership experience in the hospitality and retail industry with brands such as Best Buy, a multinational consumer electronics retailer, and Boston Pizza, a North American restaurant chain, Caroline has an MBA specializing in leadership from Royal Roads University, and a MA & PhD in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University. She shares wonderful insights about the future of work & how to build a better company culture.

Some questions I ask:

  • 4:30 What is it going to look like for Article to be taken to the next level?
  • 6:00 As a new executive, how do you approach your first season at the company (e.g. your first 100 days)?
  • 7:18 How do you ensure the culture stays consistent as you onboard so many people?
  • 9:27 What is Article’s onboarding process?
  • 11:30 What does it look like to “own” the culture internally? Is it the role of the VP People & Culture or is it a shared responsibility across the entire executive team?
  • 14:30 How do we ensure we live & breathe our culture moonshot & values? Many leaders shout from the rooftops about having a great place to work, yet it doesn’t look like that internally.
  • 19:00 How do we ensure our organizations have two-way feedback, not just the lower-level employees receiving feedback, but also for managers from those they lead.
  • 26:15 What do you believe the future of HR is? What are you expecting from the HR professionals you will be hiring in the future? What is the HR skillset of the future?
  • 28:38 How do ensure there is a harmonious culture between the office environment of Article as well as your manufacturing facilities?
  • 31:55 What is your advice to job seekers? Beyond the online application, what should qualified candidates be doing differently to get a job at Article, or just to any organization? 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • 4:55 The culture now is not broken, it truly has been remarkable what the team has accomplished. Article’s has 5 core values – be good, be direct, be better, be adventurous, & be genuine – which ground everything Article does from their strategy to their operations. When addressing culture, in their case, it was more a matter of how to build from where Article is at now, and then becoming open and honest about what is it going to take, where do we need to be and how do we get there. 
  • 6:24 When joining a new organization as an executive, how can you make the transition as successful as possible & learn from the organization about what needs to happen. Here’s a hint, it’s all about starting from a place of listening and learning, while beginning to understand the business well.
  • 7:50 The best people & culture systems that can be put in place to ensure that culture stays strong during intense periods of scale.
  • 9:05 What success looks like when it comes to building a killer workplace environment where people (or Particles!) thrive.
  • 9:50 How onboard makes a big deal out of a new Particle joining the team. Onboarding is very serious to them and they do it well!
  • 12:30 The key to being customer obsessed, and sharing that heart for customers across the entire company, especially the executive team.
  • 19:30 How Article is still refining its performance management processes and figuring out a way to provide feedback to leaders, not just the other way around.
  • 22:37 The fact that accolades and awards are always a secondary priority to employees being happy with where they work.
  • 26:40 Caroline’s charge to any new employee, the great new hire, is someone who’s focused on knowing the business. HR professionals specifically need to truly be a partner, making sure that you understand what problems the business is trying to solve, and how to do that through the people & the culture.
  • 28:18 How the future is looking both at employee engagement, but even further to the employee’s health & wellbeing
  • 33:00 A look at Article’s recruitment process and candidate screening. 

Learn More

Connect with Caroline:

More about Article:

Article is the easiest way to make your space look beautiful.

Right now, Article is all about no fuss entertaining. From lounge-able poufs and sectionals to stackable chairs in the event of extra guests, Article is here to help you make this entertaining season stress free and beautiful.

Furniture shopping is famously terrible. Overeager sales people, poor quality pieces, interminable shipping periods… the works. That’s why Article decided to change the way that people shop for furniture. Instead of schlepping to a warehouse to shop for particle board, Article’s online catalogue features high quality pieces that you can browse right at home. Article’s team of designers have an eye to today’s trends, but focus on timeless design and great quality. Plus: in-stock items ship in two-weeks or less.

“I don’t believe in reference checks…”

Michel Falcon

Michel Falcon is an entrepreneur, international keynote speaker and author who leverages his People-First Culture™ philosophy to create customer experience, employee engagement and company culture strategies to grow businesses. Often he has an unconventional opinions like not using reference checks in his hiring process. He is the author of the best-selling book, “People-First Culture: Build a Lasting Business by Shifting Your Focus From Profits to People” and the creator of the Team Operating System online course. Michel also operates a portfolio of restaurants and venues in downtown Toronto. His venues have grown to earn tens of millions of dollars in revenue with more than one hundred and fifty employees in less than two years by using the same strategies he’s going to share with us today. He has been hired to advise companies like Subway, Verizon Wireless, Alfa Romeo, Electronic Arts, and many others globally recognized brands.

Some questions I ask:

  • What has been a triggering moment in your career that lead you to develop a passion for company culture?
  • What are some of the tools leaders and organizations can use to understand and create a better culture?
  • What will be the shift in how we hire based on trends and changes we are seeing in employee behavior and expectation?
  • How do we change our hiring practices to find the most aligned candidates? 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How Michel started his career working at McDonald’s.
  • What to do with the Gen Z workers coming into the workforce and why he thinks they are open and like the idea of entrepreneurship.
  • How to stop hiring toxic employees.
  • How to understand and create a better culture – the interview process, have the corporate courage to not hire the great candidate that doesn’t fit the culture.
  • The importance of our parents in our careers – Your parents gave you the DNA to be the leader.
  • He does a lot but it comes back to company culture, employee experience, customer experience.
  • Why Michel Falcon doesn’t like calling his team “staff”, or like it when they call him “boss”.
  • What leaders who have side-hustles should do to build a productive team… and how they can work with their team members who also have side-hustles.
  • Give a second look at reference checks. Recognize that you are relying on other people’s judge of character. You may benefit from trusting your own gut than someone else’s.

Learn More

The Future of Leadership Development & Creating Psychological Safety

Some questions I ask:

  • It’s almost taboo to encroach on people’s “personal lives,” so how do leaders go about knowing what their needs are without crossing a boundary? 
  • What’s the psychological effect of somebody not being understood at their company? 
  • What does the future of leadership development look like? 
  • What is a “conscious culture”? 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • We are hardwired for connection. If we can learn how to motivate, inspire and drive people from an intrinsic level, then we can release untapped potential in our people. 
  • We need a secure attachment with our leaders. This means providing emotional availability and responsivity to our people. Unlike what we often think, people bring their full selves to work; they don’t just turn off their human side when they walk in the front doors to our offices. 
  • We have a responsibility to set the emotional tone of our companies. 
  • At the foundation of a high-trust culture are people being heard, seen and valued. 
  • When we provide flexibility to our employees, they in-turn provide our companies with high-performance of their own choice, even going above-and-beyond during non-work-hours because they care. 
  • Relationship challenges at work are a direct reflection of a need not being met by the other person in the workplace. Enquiring of that need is crucial in resolving conflicts & maintaining healthy workplace relationships. 
  • Leaders have a responsibility to their own cleanup work. You can start by doing the following:
    • Recognizing the clean up emotional roadblocks 
    • Recognizing the pain & loss that is getting in the way of us truly showing up for others in an authentic way 
    • This is the future of leadership development
  • If we want others to do the work on themselves to improve & grow, we have to do do the work ourselves as leaders 
  • A conscious culture is a high-performance culture grounded in trust, psychological safety, and belonging. At the center of a conscious culture are secure attachments;  the leader creating a space for people to take healthy risks, to speak up, to make mistakes, to put their best foot forward, to go the extra mile for their teammates, and to know that they belong and that they matter. 
  • Leaders can benefit greatly by considering how they show up for their teams, how they light up for them and the energy they bring to space/work environment. 
  • When leaders step back and think, “what is the most generous assumption I can make about my employees,” the workplace environment totally shifts. 

Learn More

As Founder and Director of People and Culture at The Grief and Trauma Healing Centre Inc., Ashley has nearly a decade of clinical experience as a practicing psychologist, and it is this scientific background that forms the foundation of her signature training program—Conscious Culture Bootcamp.

Featuring in national publications and appearing on global news channels, Ashley is a frequent media contributor and renowned public speaker.

Ashley found her own ‘Why’ early in life following a difficult childhood punctuated by her father’s substance abuse and eventual suicide. From this, the darkest and most painful period of her life, she uncovered a deep and passionate desire to serve others and a natural ability to create a safe space in which to explore life’s most challenging questions—a skill that has been immeasurably valuable in her career both as a psychologist and trainer.

Outside of work, Ashley likes to keep active both on the basketball court and by running regularly, rewarding herself for all this hard work with coffee and poutine. Ashley is very active in her Christian faith community and enjoys volunteering when she can through her church. She also loves to travel with her husband and young son, particularly favouring Hawaii and Arizona, and seeks out quality time with close friends and family whenever she can.

 

Tackling the Touchy Subject of Masculinity in the Workplace

If you want vulnerable… you’ve come to the right place. If you want to listen to people who do not have it all figured out, are most definitely in process and are seeking to understand & learn… that’s here too.

This week’s episode features two of the co-founders of Kings of Hearts, Nuke Kombian and Andy Nguyen, whose mission is to create safe spaces for men, develop self-awareness & character skills while embracing vulnerability to live a life rooted in love & service. BOOM!

Without question, we are living in a world today where masculinity is almost a dirty word. It’s met with backlash, confusion and often a lot of hurt. And rightly so. And yet we are provoked to believe that we can change the narrative. This is a conversation about men being sometimes misunderstood, ways we can change & improve, and ways to switch the conversation from being all about gender to about humanity.

Some questions I ask: 

  • What caused you to start the journey of The Kings of Hearts? 
  • How do we shift our conversation from men vs. women to humanity united? 
  • What does masculinity in the workplace look like in 2019? 
  • When people have more privilege in the workplace, what can they do to speak up or change the status quo? 
  • Is building community in the workplace vs. showing up for a paycheck really the way to go? 
  • What is great about a goal-focused culture and perhaps how can we make them better (e.g. Lululemon)? 
  • After years of ignoring people’s mental health, what does it look like to create a mental wellness strategy? 
  • If people are not having conversations about mental health & gender roles in the workplace, how can they start? 

In this episode, you will learn:  

  • Insights on men in the workplace making room for women. 
  • The importance of prefacing your conversations about diversity and inclusion with the need to “not always be right,” directing people to listen & seek to understand. 
  • Trends of meta-cognition…. an increase in people challenging their thoughts & beliefs. 
  • How to speak up when you feel misunderstood. 
  • The power of admitting you don’t know everything! Our need in the corporate world to deconstruct the masculinity that perpetually positions men as ones who only gain respect or can rise in the corporate world if they have all the answers and are always confident. Respect is now built much more commonly through vulnerability. 
  • The concept of clearing: Leaving your challenges, issues, stresses on your mind at the door and making space to do great work at work. 
  • Setting goals is fantastic, but the destination is less important than focusing on enjoying the process & the people that you are on the journey with. 
  • Facilitating a workshop on mental health is a great place to start using outside support & facilitators.  
  • How to ask your team what they need to better their mental health, involve them and allow your employees to guide the way to creating a mental health strategy 

Also mentioned on this show: 

Connect with The Kings of Hearts: 

A Day-in-the-Life of a Culture Specialist

From varsity swimmer to one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, Talia Benson knows what it’s like to thrive in the fast lane. As the People & Culture Specialist at Inliv & Wello, two companies dedicated to pioneering a new frontier of healthcare & workplace wellbeing, Talia has a lot to share with us about building a strong workplace culture. We take an inside look at the day-in-the-life of a person whose sole job is to focus on the culture of an organization… you may be surprised how much is on her plate and how pivotal her role is in the growth of her companies! 

Some questions I ask: 

  • Contentious issue… should there be a difference between HR and the People/Culture function within your organization? 
  • What does the day-in-the-life of a culture specialist look like? 
  • How would you measure the success of a launch to a new performance management/development system? 
  • How can you bring innovative culture technology & ideas to the table with limited resources & budget? 
  • Why should employees and companies place a focus on healthy living? 
  • How do we effectively navigate transformation to our employee wellness programs? 
  • What are the major differences you’ve seen in your experience working in an established business versus a startup? 

In this episode, you will learn:  

  • There is a difference between HR and People/Culture. We see the administrative role being critical and necessary from HR, but with People/Culture, there is a dynamic that is also needed, projects focused on culture-specific elements of the business. 
  • Tips for how to begin building out your People & Culture team. 
  • What it looks like to redesign your internal performance development programs. 
  • An industry “secret” predictor of high-potential hires. 
  • How to connect vision, mission & values to truly enhance your wellness program. 
  • The way to ensure your employees are living out the values of your company besides just putting them up on the wall. 

Also mentioned on this show: 

Connect with Talia Benson: