Setting Your Workforce Up for Success

Originally in the April BPD and Merchant Magazines.

By Steven Rustja, Vice President,Trading, Weston Forest, and 2020 NAWLA Board of Directors

At Weston Forest, we have three corporate goals that guide everything we do: Culture, Commitment and Growth.

Our culture is to create opportunity for all our employees. We want to make sure that our customers, both internal and external, have a great customer experience, and that our staff enjoy coming to work.

We are committed to fostering a safe working environment for our employees, one where individuals are held accountable for their actions and are dedicated to continuous improvement.

We are also committed to growth: Personal, professional and sales.

These corporate goals drive all decisions the executive team makes when investing in our greatest asset, our people. 

It starts off the moment you are hired. Our full-time in-house trainer ensures that we have an extensive training plan in place for all new hires so they can be successful in their roles. Training is not always easy. Training takes time. Training takes a commitment from everyone in the organization to make sure that all new hires are proficient in their jobs. The time we spend onboarding ranges anywhere from a couple weeks to six months, depending on the complexity of the role. It is crucial to resist the urge to rush someone into a new position. If you take the time to train people properly, they are happier in their role and become better employees.

We don’t stop training our staff once they’ve learned their jobs. Weston Forest fosters a culture of opportunity. During our performance reviews, we ask every employee what his or her aspirations are. It then becomes incumbent upon us to give our staff the tools to progress throughout our organization.

This is one area where you will clearly see our commitment to continuous improvement. We have people at all levels in our company going through training programs to either make them better in their current roles or to prepare them for future ones. This includes labourers hoping to become team leads, salespeople wanting to improve their results, managers wanting to become executives, and even our president wanting to hone his skills. I, myself, am eagerly anticipating NAWLA’s revamped Executive Management Institute course at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in January 2021.

Many of our staff are also very active in associations like the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA).  We currently have several people volunteering on NAWLA committees. In addition, many of our sales managers also work on associations in the industries they serve.  We find that doing this volunteer work pays dividends in the growth of our employees. My personal experiences as Chair of the Leadership Summit Committee, 10 Group member, and a member of the NAWLA Board of Directors have given me invaluable knowledge, experience and connections that have developed me both personally and professionally. 

Training your staff for future roles means nothing if you can’t give them the opportunity to progress within the organization.  Succession planning is not for executives looking to retire, but rather, permeates the entire organization. If you want to move up, you need to find and train your successor. Our employees are not fearful of training their replacement; they are committed to doing so.

This is also where we involve a bit of science. Everyone who works for, or applies to, Weston Forest, completes a behavioral assessment called The Predictive Index. The Predictive Index measures a person’s motivating drivers and needs. In addition, every role at Weston has been profiled so that we can match the right candidates to the right role. We also use this tool to identify future career paths for our employees. If, for example, we hire a labourer that exhibits the traits that would make him a successful salesperson, and he is interested in the role, we then give him the roadmap to get into sales.

Communication is also very important to our company. Every manager communicates with each staff member daily, either one-on-one or with team meetings. Formal performance reviews are completed semi-annually. Additionally, we have weekly meetings with managers from all departments to review successes, challenges and metrics from the previous week. We also hold company town hall meetings for all our staff where we share the previous-quarter results, as well as present the goals for the next quarter.

Most people spend more time in the office than they do at home, so we want our staff to enjoy coming to work. Having a fun and safe working environment where people take pride in working is important to us.

Last year, we completed a renovation of our entire office area, giving our employees just that. We added features like new LED lighting, workstations, computer monitors, ergonomic chairs, gourmet coffee, an exercise room and even a game room. In addition, we have added over 30 TVs throughout the building that feature information such as birthdays, company announcements, important department dashboards, news stations and the occasional sporting event. 

We hold regular company events not only to thank our staff for their hard work, but also foster relationships and have fun. These include company barbeques, boat cruises, escape rooms, axe throwing and an annual holiday party where staff are encouraged to bring their significant others.

These initiatives, among others, have allowed us to be repeat winners of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Award. They take time, effort and money, but they have been critical to our past successes and are vital to our future ones.  Collectively they instill Weston Forest’s core values in all our employees. They are:

  • Entrepreneurial organization committed to continuous improvement
  • We do what we say
  • Inspiring personal and professional growth
  • Your success is our success
  • More than just a place to work
  • Results matter, but people matter more

Making sure that all our employees are properly trained for their roles, committed to the success of our company, willing to invest in themselves for future growth, aware of our results and corporate goals, and are happy and proud to come to work ensures that Weston Forest can live up to our tag line “You’ll love doing business with us.”

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