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Industry NewsCRISIS LEADERSHIP: In Their Own Words – Mike Pilato, Jamieson Wellness Canada

CRISIS LEADERSHIP: In Their Own Words – Mike Pilato, Jamieson Wellness Canada


Since the pandemic began, the grocery industry has been at the forefront, rapidly adapting and implementing measures to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe food. “In Their Own Words”  brings the behind-the-scenes stories of retailers and suppliers to Grocery Business’ readers.

Mike Pilato, president, Jamieson Wellness

Crisis leadership initiatives

The way the grocery industry has come together to get through this unprecedented time has been so inspirational. Everyone has been laser focused on the safety and wellbeing of all people involved in our industry as their top priority, followed by the business side of things. It gives me immense pride to be part of such a values-driven industry, willing to collaborate on the fly in the best interest of people.

At Jamieson, our vision is “To Improve the World’s Health and Wellness,” and we recognize that we have a responsibility to our consumers to always provide them with the products they rely on for their daily health and wellness needs. To us, mental, physical and social wellbeing are the pillars of optimal health and wellness, and that has never held true more than right now, amid this global pandemic. To manage through this, we have focused both externally and internally on these three pillars. Our team has been motivated by the recent unparalleled demand for our products, and by the knowledge that everything we make helps consumers live their best lives, even during these times.

From the early days of the pandemic we have been focused on the physical health of our team members. We had our first safety briefing on the situation in January and have since developed and implemented a full “Confidence and Compliance plan” in all our Canadian manufacturing locations. As leaders, it is our responsibility to develop, implement and keep current on all global best practices around social distancing, sanitization, travel, remote work, and health monitoring.

Our commitment to our team is to stay in front of this with current information, and their commitment in turn is compliance at all times while communicating where they see opportunities to improve. To visit one of our sites and see this high level of compliance and commitment from the team is extremely encouraging as a leader. It shows a complete respect by everyone for their own safety, their team members’ safety, and the safety of those at home. I am very proud of this work and the reaction from the entire team.

We have also been focused on the mental health of our team members, and I believe this is an area that is rising in importance and that all organizations need to be focused on. We identified early that to be successful the mental health of the people in our organization needed to be a priority, as everyone’s lives changed rapidly and normal routines that brought comfort were flipped upside down. We implemented teamwork bonuses for our essential team members to help further reinforce how much we value them and their contribution. We created wellness challenges to encourage people to continue to take care of themselves and stay connected to their colleagues. We provided webinars on remote working and mental health, daily virtual exercise classes, weekly townhall meetings, regular team pulse surveys to monitor feelings, meeting free times, motivational speakers, and so many other great activities.

The formal programming has all been fantastic, but the informal side of things has been just as rewarding. From team members making thank you videos for other team members, to our Yammer “Attitude of Gratitude” page where people continually post positive messages, everyone is working together to ensure the mental health of all remains strong.

With social wellbeing being a key pillar in our definition of health and wellness, giving back is a responsibility we take seriously. Like so many others in our industry, we are in the fortunate position to be able to donate PPE and immune health, nutritional, and energy boosting products to front line workers and vulnerable communities. Through our regular pulse surveys, we identified that our team was highly interested in giving back. It has been extremely rewarding to make these donations on behalf of everyone at Jamieson and we will continue to look for opportunities to make a difference.

Impact on supply chain

For almost 100 years, Jamieson has been in the position to improve the health and wellness of Canadians, and people in the over 45 countries we currently supply vitamins, minerals, and supplements to. As the pandemic spread across the world, we saw an increase in demand across our very wide portfolio of products, with our market leading immune boosting segment seeing the most acute increase. This increase, like in so many other categories, has put tremendous demands on the supply chain and we continue to work around the clock to meet all consumer needs. It is important in unsettling times such as these that we help consumers do a couple things: the first is to meet their immune product needs and ensure that we have supply for both loyal and new consumers to the category. The second is to ensure we continue to provide all other products consumers rely on in their daily routines to stay healthy. In a world where so many things have been disrupted, consumers find comfort in being able to maintain their health routines, and we want to do everything in our power to support them with that.

With a strong presence in China, we had early indications of what we could be facing from a supply chain perspective. In early January we began securing incremental raw materials to account for a forecasted increase in demand. As the pandemic has lengthened, we continue to leverage our market leading position to ensure supply of raw materials. From a production capacity perspective, we have been working hard to improve efficiency, add capacity and leverage valued partners to maximize the amount of product we can get to the shelves. Our team is continually working to produce more, and we are leaving no stone unturned in our pursuit to improve the world’s health and wellness. We anticipate an increased demand for immunity boosting products for some time, and we are committed to increasing the output from our plants to ensure we can meet this demand. We could not be prouder of all our team members working in our manufacturing and distribution facilities for the hard work, commitment and dedication they have shown during this time. It is because of them that Canadians, and consumers around the world, continue to have access to the products they need.

Business takeaways from this experience

There are so many learnings that leaders can take from this experience and apply to their business for the future. The one thing that really stands out to me is that transparent, two-way communication throughout an organization is extremely important to organizational success. Listening, and seeking to understand, is paramount through a crisis such as this. It is important to operate in a way where decisions are quick, yet thoughtful. Ensuring there is a wide diversity of thought in the decision-making process is imperative, and as leaders we must listen, understand, and act quickly with the knowledge that things are going to change daily. What we decide today may need to change tomorrow as things evolve, and that is ok.

Another key takeaway is the ability of an amazing team to adapt quickly. I have been so inspired by our organization’s ability to adapt in so many ways, leveraging new technologies and communication methods without missing a beat. Everyone has some level of stress in their lives during this global pandemic, but to see the resolve and teamwork of people to persevere through it all has shown me that there is little a strong, empowered team cannot get through, together.

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