GIANT TIGER PANDEMIC TEAM SHOWS ADAPTABILITY OF FEMALE LEADERSHIP
In the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic’s unprecedented hardships, Giant Tiger Stores Limited, as an essential retailer, needed their response to be quick, well planned, and agile enough to adapt to the changing situation. Here is how five women in key positions helped lead Canada’s leading discount retailer’s pandemic response, resulting in the company’s continued success and ability to meet the needs of their customers, employees and communities.
Isabelle Messier, senior manager of health and safety, is Giant Tiger’s pandemic lead, with responsibility for managing the company’s Pandemic Committee. This committee meets several times a week to review the impact of new legislation, provincial restrictions, and internal policies and procedures.
Under Messier’s leadership, Giant Tiger stores across Canada have enacted a comprehensive list of measures to protect the safety of their customers and staff. These measures cover the active and passive screening of employees and customers, physical distancing, personal protective equipment, hand hygiene, as well as enhanced cleaning and sanitization.
“Giant Tiger works closely with municipal, provincial, and federal regulatory bodies,” explains Messier. With 260 stores across Canada, knowing the intricacies of each region is a tall order but having local franchisees in each community means that there are direct lines of communication between each region and home office.
“The work I do has helped Giant Tiger create the policies and procedures that ensure a safe shopping environment for our customers as well as a safe working environment for employees. As an essential retailer, we take this responsibility to heart; it is core to who we are,” says Messier.
Amber Banford, director of store merchandising, says the pandemic has greatly expanded her team’s traditional role beyond supplying Giant Tiger’s stores, distribution centres and home office with the fixtures and supplies needed for everyday business. Now merchandising decisions must also consider acquisition of supplies to protect everybody’s health.
“In response to the pandemic, we’ve worked collectively to help make sure we’re supplying our teams with all of the personal protective equipment necessary for them to conduct their jobs in a safe and comfortable manner,” Banford elaborates.
Having to respond quickly to unfolding events has posed unprecedented merchandising-related challenges. But “I’m extremely proud to say that our team has been quite successful at being nimble and moving forward to meet all the needs of the business in this everchanging environment,” she says.
Laura Lachapelle, senior manager of loss prevention, has watched her team’s traditional role in dealing with risk mitigation greatly expand as a result of COVID-19. “We’re still focusing on critical aspects related to financial loss and risk mitigation but the pandemic has necessitated the team shifting into doing a frontline health and safety role,” she elaborates.
A key part of Lachapelle’s team’s role is emergency response. Working under constant pressure in response to the pandemic emergency has forged an even stronger working bond.
“Everyone has been there for each other. People have been very resilient,” she says.
Lachapelle’s team has also had to work closely with the Pandemic Committee, which includes senior members from Giant Tiger’s Health and Safety team. “They are very supportive in helping us guide our store teams through these difficult times. It’s a good partnership on both sides,” she says.
“We have a robust proactive communication cadence in place to ensure that all stakeholders have access to timely internal and external communications. My role is overseeing that,” says Alison Scarlett, associate vice-president of public relations and communications.
The constant challenges presented by the pandemic necessitated urgent communications to all levels of the organization and across the country.
“We came out of the gate strong when the pandemic hit. We did everything from webinars to daily e-mails to video broadcasts,” recalls Scarlett. In times of crisis and uncertainty having access to information and knowing who to reach out to with questions is incredibly important, she notes.
“This enhanced communications strategy will remain in place after the threat of COVID-19 has receded as part of a robust communications tool kit catered to the needs of the end-user,” she says.
With speed being of the essence, Giant Tiger’s quick and adaptive response to COVID-19 has been a major priority for the company, says Gabrielle Hargrove, the company’s associate vice-president of business transformation.
Hargrove’s job, as leader of the team responsible for process improvements and program management, was to quickly focus on how to improve the employee and customer experience, given the dangerous health risks posed by the pandemic.
And Giant Tiger responded. For example, “we were one of the first companies to mandate face mask coverings for all of our employees pre the government mandating it,” says Hargrove.
Throughout the pandemic, Hargrove says her team and others have been squarely focused on the health and safety of their staff and communities, and on supporting each other – a legacy she expects will “forever be part of our culture.”