Recognized as one of BC's Top Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 6, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Overwaitea Food Group LP was selected as one of BC's Top Employers (2016):
- Overwaitea Food Group head office employees are encouraged to stay healthy with subsidized memberships to an onsite fitness facility along with healthy food selections from the onsite cafeteria
- Overwaitea Food Group supports ongoing employee development through online and in-house training programs, tuition subsidies for courses at outside institutions (to $200), subsidies for professional accreditation and financial bonuses for the completion of certain courses (up to $1,500)
- Overwaitea Food Group employees can take advantage of discounts on products and are encouraged to save for the future with contributions to defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans, varying with employee group
At Overwaitea Food Group, a grocery bagger can rise to the top
Brayden Poulton is like many supervisors in the Overwaitea Food Group (OFG). He has about 10 people reporting to him in a large Save-On-Foods supermarket in Kelowna, B.C. There he runs the meat department, oversees the department's budgeting and handles team member performance reviews.
But there's one big difference - Braydon Poulton is 18 years old. "My age does surprise a lot of people," he says.
He's getting used to odd looks from customers. Sometimes, he says, they ask to see the supervisor, "and when I come out, they say, 'oh, can the actual supervisor come out?' I just take it as a joke. I deal with the problem and they walk away happy."
At the 100-year-old Langley, B.C.-based company, many of the senior leaders started at the bottom, bagging groceries, and rose to the top, including current President Darrell Jones. Poulton is proof that the tradition is still alive. Along the way, employees get education and training within Overwaitea and can apply to get support for external post-secondary programs as well.
Poulton started working for Save-On-Foods as a meat clerk in Vernon, B.C., when he was 14 and still in high school. A strong student, he graduated six months early in 2015 and was accepted into the Retail Leadership Excellence management program within the Overwaitea Food Group.
Already familiar with store operations, Poulton did two weeks of in-class work and then a practicum of three months in the Kelowna store that took him through a variety of functions, such as inventory and financials, as well as meat department areas like frozen and seafood.
By December, he was a supervisor. His reports include people ranging up to their fifties, but he says he encounters no resentment. "I believe it all depends on your attitude and your approach," he says. "It's about being mature and level-headed. I could come in as a cocky 18-year-old who thinks he knows what's up. But I have a very humble approach. My point of view is, I don't know everything but they do, and I always like to hear their feedback." In fact, that humble approach is encouraged as part of the Overwaitea way.
In future, says Poulton, he may take advantage of OFG's support for higher education. Employees can apply to take MBAs, EMBAs and other programs through institutions such as Thompson Rivers University. "The promise that OFG offers is that you can move up within the company," he notes.
But it's the people aspect of OFG that keeps him engaged, he says. "We're a very caring company. We care about the people within it, whether it's our community, our customers or our staff. That attracts me, because I'm a people person."
Allen Bordeleau, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Development, notes that opportunities are growing as OFG expands further into Western Canada from its base in B.C. and Alberta, with three stores in Winnipeg and another opening soon in Regina. It is also building markets in multicultural communities with the opening of its first Save-On-Foods International store in Surrey, B.C., that includes both international and Canadian foods in a modern supermarket environment.
The Overwaitea Food Group, originally founded in 1915 in New Westminster, B.C. by an entrepreneur who offered 18 ounces of tea for the price of a pound, is part of the Jim Pattison Group, and operates under the banners of Save-On-Foods, Overwaitea, Urban Fare, Cooper's Foods, PriceSmart Foods and Bulkley Valley Wholesale.
Bordeleau says that stories like Poulton's, of managers who started bagging groceries and moved up, are "not only possible, but likely." While the company hires both at entry level and from universities, the key to success is in the individual.
"We love to hire people with a great attitude," says Bordeleau, "because for us it's all about serving the customer. That's our primary focus, so we hire for attitude and then train for skills."
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 23, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Overwaitea Food Group LP was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016):
- In partnership with one of the organization's union groups, Overwaitea Food Group created the Joint Diversity Training Trust to recognize and embrace diversity and inclusion -- and offers scholarships and awards as part of the initiative, for external applicants and employees (or their family members) who demonstrate involvement in diversity initiatives within the community
- Overwaitea Food Group offers a number of online courses to help employees increase their understanding of diversity in the workplace -- topics include communication in cross cultural relationships, valuing team diversity and respect in the workplace
- In 2014, Overwaitea Food Group launched the Inspire Network to help profile women in leadership roles at the organization -- the network is currently working on strategies to advance women in the workplace and to build connections and mentors within the organization