How To Keep People First


By Jim Lightbody

Employees. Staff. Talent. Labour. Human resources. Colleagues. Coworkers. Team members. People.

Regardless of how you choose to describe the heart and soul of your organization, how you treat them will make all the difference in your quest for success. I am a firm believer that if you “Take care of your people, they will take care of your customers. Take care of your customers and they will take care of your business.”

How does one go about taking care of their people? Well, I believe you need to treat them like your customers. Listen. Seek to understand them. Inspire their loyalty. There is a lot of great thought leadership on this topic including the book Primed to Perform, which resonates with me because focussing on purpose, play and potential are top of mind for keeping people first at British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC).

We Give Our People a Purpose
On a regular basis, I like to personally reflect on ‘why’ we do what we do. I make it my mission to share these reflections in a weekly e-mail to our 900 staff and at frequent face-to-face employee meetings and town halls. There is nothing more meaningful to people than giving them a sense of purpose.

Jim Lightbody, president and CEO of BCLC, was the recipient of the 2017 CPHR BC & Yukon Keeping People First: CEO Award.

I like to share stories about how our business positively impacts the lives of our shareholders, the people of British Columbia—like the fact that $0.88 of every dollar spent on our products is invested back into health care, education, and community improvements and services.

I want people to see the big picture—the benefit of playing our games goes further than the win or the experience that a person gets with that purchase. When people play our games, they play it forward to every corner of our province. This is a good reminder of our purpose, why we do what we do at BCLC.

Focussing on the ‘why’ is also key when our people bring lots of great ideas forward. As an executive leadership group, we have to decide in which initiatives to invest. We can’t do them all, so we have to say ‘no’ to some good ideas. Helping people understand ‘why’ we chose a certain investment over another builds engagement. It’s also important for our people to understand why we are choosing to go down certain paths or investing in certain areas over others.

It takes time, consistency and ongoing commitment to lead with the ‘why’ and it pays off in spades. Our employees are proud to come to work because they know they are making a positive impact on others.

We Let Our People Play
Most people enjoy a good challenge as much as the next person, and this taps into our innate desire to learn, grow and ‘play’ in our roles. Well, BCLC is in the business of fun and entertainment. Our employees have the opportunity to play on a daily basis because we are always looking to keep our products new and interesting and this requires ongoing innovation and experimentation.

Globally, gambling companies are struggling to expand their customer base. Offering different types of games and experiences that will be exciting to more people is absolutely fundamental to our business moving forward. It’s for this very reason that we’ve identified content innovation as one of BCLC’s strategic priorities.

Keeping fun, fresh and on pace with player preferences requires everyday collaboration to select, source and integrate content based on new technology and trending TV shows, video games and music. We recognize that collaboration is so critical for business success that we’ve created open-concept and flexible work spaces and technology to facilitate it.

When I think of play, Southwest Airlines comes to mind. They’ve cleverly turned a dull safety announcement into a comedy hit for passengers. Letting your employees have some fun at work to stretch their creative muscles goes a long way to keeping them motivated and engaged— and it will benefit your customers and your business too.

We Harness Our People’s Potential
Having the right people and culture are critical to achieving our vision, so I have made it a corporate priority to focus on succession planning; I subscribe to the ‘build versus buy’ philosophy. Of course, there are times we have to find or ‘buy’ new talent to fill certain roles, but like a successful professional hockey franchise, you need to build from the draft and grow your talent pool.

We invest heavily in talent development and I’m proud of the resources we have to help people achieve their full potential. The vast majority of our employees (82 per cent) agree that their manager is committed to their development. By identifying and developing high potential employees, we have filled 73 per cent of job postings at the manager level and above with internal applicants this past fiscal year.

Diversity, Inclusion and Mentorship
Diversity and inclusion is another way to harness potential and differentiate our business. That’s why at BCLC we have adopted a Diversity and Inclusion Commitment. For me, diversity and inclusion is about gaining a wider perspective on our business, people, and culture so that we can make decisions that reflect the wants and needs of our customers and stakeholders. If you want to encourage innovation or solve a problem, inclusion is the way to get there.

I’m particularly proud of the fact four out of nine members of our Executive team and 54 per cent of senior managers are female. Now this wasn’t a ‘plan.’ Each and every one of these women earned and deserve their respective leadership positions in their own right. I am proud that we have a culture that has effectively eliminated the unconscious bias towards women in leadership, and it’s become natural for us to create opportunities for professional development for our employees. An example of this is AIM, a grassroots group formed by a group of young women in our organization, to inspire and mentor each other along the way (and men are also welcome).

Mentorship is another way to build from within and I encourage everyone to get a mentor or to be one. It doesn’t have to be a huge, scary commitment. I encourage our people to reach out to leaders in our company to invite each other for career or development advice—and it’s a two way street for development. Earlier this year, a university student shadowed me and I learned as much from her as she did from me. She gave me some real new insights into our business and culture and how we are showing up.

A Focus on Play and Potential
The moral of the story is: if you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers. And your customers will take care of your business. To do this, I place great value in leading with purpose, focusing on play and championing potential.

Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. Our people-first approach has led to record revenues year-over-year and an 87 per cent engagement score in our latest engagement survey. An engaged employee is a more productive and valuable member of the team. I’m really proud of the people I get to come to work with every day and how they make our company shine.

At the end of the day, putting people first is the right thing to do for your customers and your business.

Jim Lightbody is the president and CEO of BCLC, and the recipient of the 2017 CPHR BC & Yukon Keeping People First: CEO Award. You can follow him @BCLC_CEO.

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  1. Mary Roach July 17, 2017 at 10:24 am · · Reply

    Fabulous reminder to keep the focus on the employees. Nicely said.

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