Top talent director reveals how COVID-19 brought us closer

In times of unprecedented disruption, the true metal of a leader shines through

Top talent director reveals how COVID-19 brought us closer

In times of unprecedented disruption, the true metal of a leader shines through.

For Lana Burton, Director of Talent Acquisition at Maple Leaf Foods, COVID-19 only served to enhance communication.

“I actually think the pandemic has brought us closer to our culture,” Burton told HRD.

“In moments of crisis, we can either pull together or pull apart. Overall, as a society, we seem to have pulled together – and it’s the same over at Maple Leaf Foods.

“The COVID-19 crisis has made us perform better as a group and has inspired us to focus on what really matters.”

Read more: How do you encourage gratitude in the workplace?

This sense of ‘doing the right thing’ runs through the culture at Maple Leaf Foods. Employing over 13,000 people, the consumer protein company has invested heavily in sustainability - transforming the food industry so it can “survive, and thrive, for generations to come”.

As Burton told HRD, it’s not just a case of doing what’s best for the company itself – but also trying to help society at large through community work and initiatives.

“As an organization, our CEO has always been very dedicated to mental health. And while there were always these wellbeing initiatives in place, the current crisis made us realise just how important they are.

“Isolation is causing a global mental health crisis – and as such we decided to put a concerted effort into supporting our employees remotely.

Read more: The benefits of ‘workplace gratitude’

“Each week, Maple Leaf holds townhalls and online forums looking at mental health concerns and advising employees how best to cope.”

Maple Leaf Foods is the world’s only carbon neutral food company – with Burton explaining that they set their standards incredibly high.

“We’re very proactive in animal rights and welfare causes,” she told HRD. “We want to supply super high quality, ethically sourced, foods to people – we believe everyone has that right.

“As such, in addition to our animal protein products, we also cultivate and sell plant protein under our Field Roast and Lightlife brands.

“A lot of the focus at Maple Leaf has always been on making sure we have real ingredients. We don't want people to read our package and see words you can’t pronounce – unnecessary additives. It’s all about authenticity – in our culture and our products.”

This all-encompassing value system is refreshing – and it’s been key to weathering the COVID-19 chaos. As we look ahead to 2021, HR will need to harness this sense of transparent, communicative leadership in order to get ahead.

“I think we're starting to move out of this ‘reactive’ mode and face the reality that there's going to be long term impacts and monumental changes to work,” added Burton.

“We had to adapt quickly in HR – both in terms of our own career changes and supporting our people.

“There's been a lot of adoption in a very short time. The most important thing to remember is that COVID-19 isn’t permanent – and we’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Burton will be speaking at HR Leaders Summit Toronto next month – reserve your place here.

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