Leadership 2021: At Best Buy Canada, Carol Graziani has seen remote working make employees happier and more productive


Credit: Best Buy Canada

Going virtual has only reinforced the retailer’s already strong diversity and inclusion efforts, according to Graziani

Not all businesses in British Columbia needed a pandemic to show them the benefits of remote working. Take Best Buy Canada, which was heading towards a virtual model for its corporate staff before COVID got things done.

“We were already starting to hear from our incumbents and candidates that people wanted more flexibility,” says Carol Graziani, the retailer’s new director of diversity and inclusion. “So we were going in a more conservative way anyway, and when the pandemic happened and we really saw the potential for real, total freedom and flexibility, we thought: Why would we want to we go back? “

Graziani says the change was successful in several ways, with more collaboration across departments and an overall increase in productivity. “Now when you’re online and tackle something together, it’s pretty focused and pretty determined. “

Remote working has also given many employees the flexibility to move out of the Lower Mainland for more affordable housing, as well as greater flexibility for personal matters like family, medical appointments, and exercise. “It’s just a lot more, I’ll say, human, even if it’s virtual,” Graziani says. “It leaves room for everyone’s humanity.”

Now that its corporate team of 1,200 people can primarily work from home, Best Buy continues to move from Burnaby to a new headquarters in Mount Pleasant. Scheduled to open next February, the building will provide the company with a brick-and-mortar space for complex collaboration, team building and supplier meetings.

While some staff may be happy to never return to the office, this is not one size fits all. “We also know that some people don’t thrive in isolation or may just need a change,” Graziani said. “We see the new office as the flexible combination of ‘me at work’ and ‘we work’, when that makes sense.”

Best Buy Canada

Credit: Best Buy Canada

After conquering the WFH, Best Buy will use its new Vancouver headquarters for in-person collaboration

Excluding exclusion

During her 15 years with Best Buy Human Resources (previously HR Director), Graziani has consistently advocated for inclusion through education and other initiatives, focusing on focus on the LGBTQIA + community. His new role was created to unify actions taken by various parts of the organization, efforts that going virtual has only helped.

“It opened doors for sharing that we had never really seen before,” says Graziani. “So because we have the technology, because we can organize this type of meeting across space and time, we were able to invite a lot more people to participate. “

One of the ways Best Buy fosters an inclusive environment is to keep the conversation going, which allows employees across the company to share and respond to personal stories. Recent sessions have focused on Indigenous History Month and Pride Month. Another program is Inspire Talks, which allows one person to choose a topic for the group to explore.

But the company has always been an ally. “No one celebrates pride like we do,” says Graziani. “Our work to help LGBTQ employees feel accepted is long-standing and ongoing. “

Over the past few years, Best Buy has found different ways to step up efforts for LGBTQIA + employees, such as providing pronoun options on name tags to support non-binary staff, financial benefits for people in gender transition and toolkits that help managers and employees support their colleagues through the process.

Loud and clear

Although Best Buy was already moving towards remote working, no one was ready to make an online transfer when the pandemic started. Graziani says it challenged her to grow as a leader and adjust to a new normal. “The best leaders know they don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but they have to be the best listener,” she observes. “I always thought that was one of my strengths. And the experience during the pandemic served to amplify my belief in that. “

But Graziani says the digital shift has presented its own barriers for technologically challenged people, with some departments doubting it will work. “And that, I would say, is one of the best learnings of this process,” she notes. “When you go to people and say, How do we make this work, they escalate.”

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