As people all over the world continue to deal with uncertainty, it's no surprise that we keep coming back to the things that ground us and make us feel secure. For organizations, a particular guiding light throughout the pandemic has been their corporate purpose. For instance, 56 percent of respondents to our 2020 CEO Outlook said their corporate purpose provides a clear framework for making quick and effective pandemic-related decisions. Meanwhile, 72 percent of Canadian CEOs say they feel a stronger emotional connection to their corporate purpose since the pandemic began.
The value of leading with this sense of purpose was nicely underscored by Kara MacKillop, EVP and Chief of Staff at Canada Goose, in an interview we conducted with her for our 2020 HR Pulse Survey, which provides insight into how HR leaders across the globe are navigating the complexities of our current environment. Here is a telling excerpt of our conversation, which has been condensed and edited for clarity:
KPMG: How have the priorities of the HR function at Canada Goose shifted since the COVID-19 crisis broke and what have you been focusing on over the last few months?
Kara MacKillop: One of the things that sets us apart from a lot of other companies is that we have built an iconic brand that has really been founded on five key values, which have helped guide us through the last six years of our history. And we celebrate these values—relentlessness, innovation, entrepreneurship, passion, and authenticity—every day. For us, our response to the pandemic has been based on and continues to be guided by those five values.
KPMG: Can you tell us about some specific things the company has done in response to the new challenges brought by the pandemic?
Kara MacKillop: When COVID-19 initially hit, we closed our factories, we closed our offices, we closed our stores. But we also quickly understood that many employees were not going to get immediate access to government programs. So, we created an employee assistance fund. In fact, it was started by our CEO, Dani Reiss, who has given up his salary indefinitely in order to support this personally and directly. And then other employees who were still working started contributing parts of their salary to the fund to help support colleagues that were impacted. It has been so heartwarming to be a part of that.
KPMG: How about those who are continuing to work, but now from home. How did you manage that transition?
Kara MacKillop: We are fortunate that our infrastructure was already set up that it was very easy for us to make this switch. Everybody has laptops, everybody has remote devices. And so, we were able to literally turn on a dime: we made the call on a Thursday that we are now working from home as of Friday. We also accelerated some programs that already were in the works.
But the easiest part was going back to our purpose and those core values and letting them inform our decisions. If you lead with that authenticity, for example, and you try to understand what somebody needs and how to make it better, the rest comes super easy.
KPMG: A key theme in our research is the extent to which HR is able to act as a strategic partner of the business in terms of looking to the future. Have you faced any challenges around resource planning and how are you managing that? How are you working with the business?
Kara MacKillop: I am very lucky that the HR function within Canada Goose has always been an invaluable resource to the business. We would not have been able to execute on our programs if HR had not had that strategic partnership with the business and their support. Our leaders are so close to the operations that any pivot that must happen, any change that needs to be made, we can see it, react to it, and address it quickly.
We lead by being empathetic change enablers. And so those deep relationships with the business, our ability to be there on the ground, enables us to assist with any change, lets us deal with operational issues as they come up, whether it's retooling, whether it's logistics in the facilities, or the emotional wellbeing of our team. No one has gone through this before, but like I said, our values have guided us through it all.
Clearly, organizations like Canada Goose understand the value of leading with purpose and allow those values to guide them when making crucial business decisions. As we continue to navigate our uncertain future, CEOs and their business partners must remain committed to courageously leading with purpose, which in turn, will generate long-term value for their stakeholders.
Has your organization taken the time to consider what its purpose is and the long-term impact of leading by it?
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More about Kara MacKillop, Chief of Staff and EVP, People & Culture at Canada Goose: An inspirational leader with a passion for employee engagement, developing great teams, and fostering the unique culture that defines Canada Goose, Kara joined Canada Goose in 2014 as the Vice President of Human Resources. In her current role, she oversees talent, employee experience, training and global policy, as well as Corporate Citizenship and strategic projects for the Office of the CEO. Prior to joining our team, Kara served as the Director of Human Resources for Red Bull Canada and Indigo Books and Music. She received an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Ontario and serves on community not-for-profit boards.