The Rink Leader

Using all the hallmarks of a great ice hockey general, VP of HR Scott Goodman is improving culture at Parmalat Canada

When you think of exceptional leaders who comes to mind? Someone who inspires and motivates others? Someone who builds relationships? A person who exhibits strategic perspective? Does that person sound like an experienced hockey coach?

For Scott Goodman it does, and it’s those same skills that make Goodman a successful vice president of human resources at Parmalat Canada. “I ensure we have the right players on the ice,” Goodman says. “That means understanding our people and their impact today, as well as ensuring we acquire and develop the people we need to get us where we want to be as a company.”

With $2 billion in revenue and more than 120 years of brand heritage in the Canadian dairy industry, Parmalat is committed to the health and wellness of Canadians. Parmalat markets a variety of high-quality food products that help Canadians keep their lives balanced. While the company is eager to promote the wellness of Canadians everywhere, they are also keenly focused on improving the culture and employee engagement within the company itself—and that’s where Goodman comes in. Goodman’s role also involves promoting and fostering a company culture where people can flourish. “Our vision is to build awesome culture and a bold growth,” Goodman says.

Goodman recently introduced Idea Factory, an online suggestion box where employees can be heard and discuss company-improving ideas

Back in 2007, Goodman joined Parmalat as the director of labour relations and was responsible for directing collective bargaining and affairs with the company’s unionized employees. At the same time, Goodman held a human resources generalist role, where he worked directly with the company’s three Manitoba plants and its corporate office in Toronto.

Now, in his role as vice president of HR, Goodman’s focus is on improving employee engagement. Parmalat wants to grow as a company, so for Goodman that means finding creative and resourceful people who are able to find the best-suited strategies and then execute them. “For such people to flourish in a sustained way we need the right culture—that does not just happen on its own,” Goodman says. “It requires leaders—or arguably everyone—to take deliberate action to foster and promote that culture. At Parmalat, we want people to work and grow together, build off the work and ideas of others, and contribute to the success of colleagues. We cannot have that sort of culture unless people are engaged in their work and the goals of the enterprise.”

In evaluating company culture, Goodman asks the key question: Is it possible to imagine a positive organizational culture where employees are disengaged? Not easily. That’s why engagement is such a necessity for a thriving culture. “I think of engagement as more than the willingness to apply discretionary effort,” Goodman says. “The right kind of engagement is having the right mindset and energy. That mindset is one that finds and seizes opportunity, seeks new and better ways to do things, adapts to change, and makes the people around them better.”

Goodman and his team at Parmalat have employed several initiatives to increase employee engagement. First, the team revitalized and improved Parmalat’s internal communication tools, such as its quarterly company newsletter to make information more accessible and digestible. The team also launched an internal social media application that allows employees to post ideas to improve Parmalat for employees and customers. If enough people in the organization like a posted idea, management must take action.

“This is like the old employee suggestion box, except that everyone can see the idea and support or comment on the idea,” Goodman says. “The system was created by a young Canadian start-up called SoapBox. We have branded it internally as Idea Factory and it has been enthusiastically embraced.”

Department-hosted themed breakfasts and lunches have also proven successful as ways to engage employees. “Our HR team held a lunch session for employees interested in learning more about personal wealth management,” Goodman says. “Another recent session was for office employees interested in learning more about ergonomics and how to ensure they are working in a healthy and safe way.”

In the coming months, Goodman will launch a peer-to-peer recognition program that will allow employees to publicly recognize and reward colleagues. Additionally, Goodman plans to launch an internal women’s network that will host events as well as opening up manufacturing facilities for family day tours.

Continuing to offer current employees benefits as well as celebrating employee retention and longevity is key for Parmalat. Each quarter, the company hosts quarter-century club dinners with each site (17 manufacturing facilities plus distribution centres and a corporate office in Toronto) hosting a dinner event each year for employees who have been with the company for at least 25 years.

Each year a group of about 30 employees are selected as “Parmalat Champions” for their behavior and impact on the company and its goals. They are invited, along with a guest, to a dinner with the leadership team held in their honour. They and their guest are also treated to a weekend in whatever city the dinner is held.

“We have great ambitions as a company,” Goodman says. “We want to bring out the best in all employees for their work, their colleagues, and themselves.”