“Be connected and support your employees” — Penny Wise, President of 3M Canada

Published by Speaking of Business Podcast on

Transcript

Goldy Hyder:
Welcome to a special edition of Speaking of Business. I’m Goldy Hyder of the Business Council of Canada.

Goldy Hyder:
If you didn’t know what an N95 mask was four months ago, you sure know what one is now. It has become an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19 protecting healthcare and frontline workers. It’s also become a hot commodity as jurisdictions around the world scrambled to procure the protective equipment they need to keep people safe.

Goldy Hyder:
N95 masks are manufactured by 3M and the company has been working at light speed to distribute the equipment. For 3M Canada, that includes working with federal and provincial governments and other partners to get the masks to those who need it.

Goldy Hyder:
So, how is the company meeting the challenge? I’ve got Penny Wise, President of 3M Canada joining us on the podcast. Penny, great to have you here.

Penny Wise:
Thanks for the invitation, Goldy, glad to be here.

Goldy Hyder:
Penny, before I dive into the tougher questions, let me just ask, how are you doing? How’s your family?

Penny Wise:
Thanks for asking. It’s been a bit of a challenging time for me and my family as we’ve moved into the COVID-19 crisis period. We moved back to Canada at the beginning of March and my husband was here for the two days that we moved into the house and then went back to the U.S. in order to take care of a few last items of our home and our cars in the United States. He is in the U.S. and unable to cross the border to come to Canada and I can’t cross the border to go to the U.S.

Goldy Hyder:
Oh boy.

Penny Wise:
So we’ve spent the last eight weeks having, we call it, extreme social distancing right now.

Goldy Hyder:
Movie to follow.

Penny Wise:
Yes, exactly.

Goldy Hyder:
Well, thanks for sharing that with us and good luck with the extreme distancing. Let’s talk about the company and how it’s coping. What can you tell us?

Penny Wise:
Well, as you talked about, the nature of 3M business and N95s mean that 3M is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic from a lot of different angles and across many different stakeholders. Obviously, we manufacture N95 respirators in our personal safety division. The division that manufacturers those products has been working around the clock in many corners of the world to produce the lifesaving PPE required during the crisis.

Penny Wise:
At the same time as we’re thinking about that PPE and how we keep people safe, we’re also thinking about the safety of our employees and the public including those healthcare workers and making sure our first responders and all of those individuals are protected.

Goldy Hyder:
You mentioned the employees, I want to know more because, in this case, I suspect that while your operations folks may be working from home, I know you mentioned that to me when we spoke earlier, but these are workers who need to go to the office, if you will, in terms of manufacturing the equipment. How are you keeping them safe?

Penny Wise:
Right. So 3M Canada has, like you said, both non-production workers and a lot of people who are working from the office or working remotely as our sales team but we also have manufacturing facilities across the country as well. Like you mentioned, for our office people and our office teams, they have moved to working remotely and they’ve been working from home since March 9th. As a leader, it was really important to make that decision to work from home early and in line with federal and provincial guidelines, and our Canadian employees have responded to that really well.

Penny Wise:
But like you said, at the same time, we have manufacturing employees who we also need to keep safe and we’ve quickly put safety guidelines into place for our manufacturing and our distribution facilities across the country for those who had to remain. Our facilities are running because beyond PPE or our personal protective equipment, there are other 3M products essential to fighting COVID-19 directly, or they’re also part of making sure global supply chains continue to operate.

Penny Wise:
So that’s why our facilities are essential services and that’s why we’ve implemented a number of measures to protect and support those employees, including things like making sure in specific areas or specific activities where people may have to be within a certain distance of each other, we’ve got personal protective equipment for them.

Penny Wise:
There are stringent cleaning protocols going on in our facilities. We have medical screening. We’ve started staggering shifts. We’ve started changing processes and we’ve reorganized how we work to make sure that we’re increasing that social distancing as well. So a lot of different tactics being employed to keep all of our employees safe regardless of where they’re working from.

Goldy Hyder:
Now, 3M’s been in the news. We’ve heard all the stories about concerns over the supply of N95 masks here in Canada. We’ve obviously seen the U.S. president make some public statements about the issue and the good news is all of that has been resolved. I don’t want to ask about that but obviously Canadians have heard about it and will be curious. What comes out of this from a supply chain perspective as we go forward? Do you think that post-virus things change the way PPEs are produced and manufactured here in North America, for example?

Penny Wise:
I think that is a question on the minds of many business, leaders not just in the personal protective equipment area, but in all sorts of areas around medical supplies. We are a global company and we have manufacturing operations around the world to make sure we can serve local and regional markets. We’ve worked with governments at all levels to make sure we break down those trade barriers and we make sure respirators and other products get to where they need to get to.

Penny Wise:
In regards to N95, supply of PPEs isn’t just a 3M challenge, it’s for the entire industry. Even with acceleration from all manufacturers, there just is not enough product to reach the demand that is going on. I think that as we come out of this and people start to look at supply chains, I think within those individual regions and countries we’ll still continue to work with governments, we’ll still continue to make sure that we break down those trade barriers and we can make sure that product gets into Canada, other countries and make sure that we meet the humanitarian needs around the world. So it’s a big effort in partnership with governments and 3M around the world.

Goldy Hyder:
Well, that’s the advantage of being in a global supply chain, right? You can learn from your colleagues and I’m sure you’re having some pretty good discussions and we look forward to seeing how all that unfolds.

Goldy Hyder:
One area that I’d love to explore, because I know this is really important to you personally and to the company, this is a very challenging time, obviously, for Canadians, how are you as the company helping the community?

Penny Wise:
One of the most amazing things about this crisis when we first started having dialogue with our employees and really spending the time communicating with them and hearing their concerns, what really touched me was probably one of the first questions I was asked was, “How are we going to make sure that the children in our community who rely on school breakfasts and lunches still continue to get food?” I thought that just really epitomizes or really emphasizes the core of the 3M spirit and the 3M heart. I’m incredibly proud of how employees are stepping up in this crisis.

Penny Wise:
A few weeks ago, our leadership team met and we made an immediate $50,000 donation to the United Way in Canada and had a really great dialogue with them because they were just trying to figure out where was the need most, how could we respond to the need the quickest? So, they are providing relief to local organizations who are helping out our communities across the country.

Penny Wise:
We’ve had a number of employees who’ve donated their own money to, whether it’s the Red Cross or a food bank or the United Way, and employees themselves have donated almost $20,000. We’ve given money directly to food banks. We’ve made a donation to London hospitals.

Penny Wise:
We’ve worked with Canadian partners across the country to facilitate donations of our respirators. So, if a company had a group of respirators or had stored respirators, we help facilitate the donations. We’ve donated about 100,000 respirators as of the end of March and the first delivery was actually made to the Toronto Fire Department. We’ve made some really great Canadian donations and really standing up to support our communities.

Penny Wise:
Globally, 3M’s given over $20 million dollars and invested in community health centres and United Way, in research. So again, not just in Canada, but around the world that need and that part of being the community is really important to 3M, so we’ve been making sure that we give back and support our communities in the best way possible.

Goldy Hyder:
Thank you both for doing that and sharing that. As we wrap, I want to ask you a couple of questions about leadership. Who do you look to for leadership? Obviously, you have a boss, but in terms of learning from people, where do you turn to?

Penny Wise:
Goldy, that is a really tough question to answer because I don’t think I necessarily have a single source of this is where I go to for inspiration as a leader, or who I look to.

Goldy Hyder:
Why? You don’t tune into the podcast for that?

Penny Wise:
I said I look at many sources for that.

Goldy Hyder:
All right.

Penny Wise:
The podcast being part of it. When you asked the question instantly what’s popped into my mind was there have been leaders at 3M that I’ve worked for over my career who I’ve really admired. There has been something from their leadership style that has really stuck with me or something I’ve really admired and wanted to emulate. I’ve gone back to that well.

Penny Wise:
As we’ve moved into the COVID-19 crisis, they’ve reached out to me to offer support. I really am inspired by that kind of servant leadership and helping people and supporting people and making sure we do what we can to make sure the people in our organizations are successful and that we can move the organization forward. I derive it from a lot of different sources.

Goldy Hyder:
Well, you, of course, are a leader yourself. What are you learning about yourself?

Penny Wise:
So, I started back as the President of 3M Canada on January 1st after 10 years of being in the U.S. I am a Canadian originally. It was wonderful to return to Canada. I was so excited to be coming back and leading 3M Canada, which is just a wonderful subsidiary in the 3M global network. Obviously, no idea the crisis that was looming and that would come so quickly into my tenure.

Penny Wise:
What it has done for me is reminded me of some of the keys and core tenets of leadership about being calm or being confident, positive, empathetic, resilient but, most importantly, is to be connected and to support your employees. I’ve been really focused with my team on communication, especially as everybody starts to work from home, work more remotely. We’re connected but we’re not connected because we don’t have that daily social interaction or seeing or engaging. We’ve been doing a lot of work to make sure we stay connected and drive communication.

Penny Wise:
We’ve been holding weekly calls with our people leaders to make sure they have the tools to support their teams. I’ve been holding weekly town hall meetings which get really great reception and a lot of people participate, which is encouraging that people want to hear what’s going on. People are anxious, people are concerned and they just want to hear the facts. It’s okay that I don’t know all the facts or I don’t have all the answers, they’re willing to wait. They’re willing to find the answers. But just that ongoing, candid and honest communication about what’s happening and transparency is really critical for leadership and that just has been so emphasized and reemphasized to me over the last eight, 10 weeks that we’ve been moving through this crisis.

Goldy Hyder:
Well said. Penny, I can’t thank you enough for doing this podcast. Thanks for making the time.

Penny Wise:
Thanks for the opportunity. I really enjoyed speaking with you today.

Goldy Hyder:
Penny Wise is the President of 3M Canada. If you would like to hear more of our conversations about the COVID-19 crisis, search for Speaking of Business wherever you get your podcasts or simply go to our website, SpeakingOfBiz.ca, that’s biz with a zed. Until next time, I’m Goldy Hyder. Thanks for joining us. Be safe.

In light of the COVID-19 emergency, we’ve temporarily suspended our regularly scheduled series of conversations with Canadian CEOs. But we’re not going away. Instead, we’re going to pivot to the health emergency itself. We’re going to explore the impact on companies and workers across the country. And we’re going to find out how business leaders are responding to crisis.

Penny Wise, President of 3M Canada, reflects on the challenges of leadership in the COVID-19 crisis as her company performs essential services, including distributing N95 masks to frontline workers.

Subscribe Now
Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Apple Podcasts
This episode, and all episodes of Speaking of Business with Goldy Hyder is available on Apple Podcasts. Click to listen and subscribe on your iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device.
Google Podcasts
This episode, and all episodes of Speaking of Business with Goldy Hyder is available on Google Podcasts. Click to listen and subscribe on your Android, or other Google device.
Spotify
This episode, and all episodes of Speaking of Business with Goldy Hyder is available on Spotify. Click to listen and subscribe on your phone, computer, or any other device with Spotify.
Other
  • Follow us on Twitter to get the latest images, audio, and more.
  • Join our mailing list
  • You can share a clip from this episode using this tool.
  • Copy and paste this URL into any other podcast app to listen and subscribe:  https://rss.simplecast.com/podcasts/8598/rss