Bunnings managing director, Mike Schneider has spoken about leadership, culture and community at the recent Workplace from Facebook 2021 virtual summit on ‘Creating a Future of Work that Works for Everyone’.

“Coming into 2020, there was positive momentum in the business driven by great engagement with our customers and our team, as well as our medium to long-term strategic agenda of business evolution and improvement. However, when the pandemic reached Australia, the business was turned on its head,” Schneider told event attendees.

“In challenging times, you need to find the strength and resilience to support your team, care for the people around you and make sure that you’re making good business decisions.

“At Bunnings, I am fortunate to be surrounded by teammates who have so much experience in leadership, so we have pulled together to support our team and stay focused on keeping customers and team members safe, particularly in stores.”

He said the thing that’s stood out over the last 18 months is the need to be resilient and staying focused and committed to caring for the people around you.

“Bunnings has done a lot of live streams engaging and talking to our team about the ever-changing landscape that we face, one of our store managers put the challenge to me – presenting on camera, would I drop down and do 10 push-ups?” Schneider said.

“It got us thinking about ways we could create challenges within our business to engage our team but also to reward and recognise the team through monetary prizes and other gifts which could be used to donate to community groups to support them.”

Bunnings has undertaken a range of challenges and community activities, which has given the team an opportunity to be competitive but also do good for their own mental health and wellbeing by staying active and having fun, while providing much needed funds to community groups, according to Schneider.

“Bunnings has built a culture where people want to belong. When people join our business, we want to see them put down roots and grow. We recruit for culture and it’s about helpfulness and willingness to be a part of a team,” he said.

During 2020, Bunnings recruited close to 10,000 new team members growing its workforce by around 25%. Tools like Workplace from Facebook play an important role because they allow the leadership team to connect and engage with team members in the moment.

“We can share content that’s relevant and information that’s important particularly when it comes to government restrictions. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity to listen to our team members, hear from them and what’s on their mind to find ways we can support and assist them, while creating a caring culture,” Schneider said.

“Over time, although we haven’t been able to be together in person, we have stayed connected by using tools like Workplace to engage with our team.

“When I joined Bunnings 16 years ago, I was surprised by how much empowerment there was for every team member to make positive contributions to their team, their department, their store or their support office.

“This has continued to build over time so to me, it’s an existing norm for team members to feel empowered. With this more immediate flow of information, there is opportunities to lean in and support the team more or recognise and reward the right behaviours to highlight the benefits of a highly empowered workforce.”

Schneider acknowledged that some business leaders may feel nervous in applying this approach and risk losing a sense of coordination or control around the way a business works; but he believes Bunnings is a better organisation for it with its almost 50,000 team members pulling together rather than a small handful of executives setting the rules, the regulations and the tone.

“In doing that, we constantly renew and improve the engagement and connection of our team. I think it’s also been a significant contributor to our long-term strong financial performance and community engagement,” he said.

“Nothing replaces being able to sit down and talk with team members, but we have over 400 trading locations and distribution centres that are in every part of Australia and across New Zealand. The pace at which we can engage and connect with our team and keep them informed using tools like Workplace has been an important asset, particularly over the last 18 months.

“Through livestream we were able to record and post information with updates for the team based on government advice and give them our personal perspective on what the business would need to do, but also reassure them that we were here for them for the long haul.

“We gave them confidence that in coming to work for Bunnings, they were doing important work and doing it in a safe way, and they were secure in their employment, which during uncertain times, can be quite troubling for so many people.

“Pre-Covid, we thought we communicated with our team really well, but some of that was because we were out and about with the team, but we have learnt that we can do some of our store visits through mobile devices, as well as create and share content quickly.

“There will be a lot that continues on, including livestreams, but complementing that is being out in the field visiting our teams and rewarding them in new ways. We can now capture that information and share it in a way that helps team members across Australia and New Zealand.”