METRO – Hiring for a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace

METRO is a company that is literally built on the power of partnership.  Starting as Magasins LaSalle Stores ltee back in 1947, the roots of what would become METRO were founded in the cooperation of a number of independent grocery retailers who decided to form a buying group that would enable them to offer its customers products at prices comparable to those of major food chains.  This cooperative first step proved the power of partnership, and it’s that spirit which has carried METRO forward through 70 years of growth and development to become the multifaceted company of today.   So as METRO sought to become an ever more inclusive employer, it made sense to once again draw on the power of partnership, and work with Ready, Willing and Able (RWA).

Ready, Willing & Able (RWA), is a program to support the hiring of people with autism or an intellectual disability. One of the primary objectives of RWA is to build bridges between the employer and candidates living with a spectrum disorder autism (ASD) or an intellectual disability. RWA ensures that the employer and the candidate are fully supported throughout the process, ranging from interview to hire, and for as long as the employee is employed in the company.

The METRO-RWA partnership began in October 2020 as a pilot project in eight retail stores located across the province of Quebec. At present, the Metro Plus locations included : Ste-Rose, Kirkland, Pie-IX/Jean-Talon, Dollard, Candiac, Saint-Augustin (L’Hêtrière), St-David and Montée-Paiement.

This collaboration between METRO and RWA resulted in several hires. Among these hires, are Vicky and Andreas, who hold the position of online trading clerk at Metro Plus Dollard. The responsibilities associated with their role include, among other things, the preparation of orders submitted and assisting customers with any questions. Rémi Arbour, the owner of the Metro Plus Dollard franchisee is very satisfied. He observed that the inclusion of the two employees went well within the team. As he says, “they [all employees] agree it went super well, employees love the two new employees.”

At another Metro Plus store, the team recently welcomed Mégane. She holds the position of production clerk in the deli department.  The employee’s duties are to cut the fruits and vegetables that are intended for snacks ‘ready to go fresh’ as well as to prepare the sandwiches. With the collaboration of Mégane’s employment counsellor, Metro’s human resources management team has adapted the position specifically for the employee’s needs and preferences. Given that the employment counsellor knows Mégane’s needs and challenges very well, this partnership has enabled METRO to find the right tools to facilitate her work as needed. For example, posters with recipes and the necessary ingredients have been designed and printed to remind her of the correct procedures to follow.

Prior to the implementation of this project, a training session was offered by RWA and METRO to operations managers as well as franchise owners of the eight stores involved. This training session was also provided to the eight managers of the online commerce departments of these same stores. The objective of the training session was to provide information about the mandate of RWA, explain the characteristics of autism and intellectual disability, and the benefits of including these workers in the workplace. METRO is also looking to share best practices for inclusion of new employees with autism or intellectual disability on their team.

METRO is very proud of the pilot project in the eight stores, and seeing the success, other METRO stores have expressed interest in participating in this project.   In the near future, this project will also be extended to the new online store, which will open in the summer of 2021. Metro will once again partner with RWA to hire a dozen employees. Located in the St. Lawrence neighborhood, and closed to the public the online store serves Montreal Island customers for online orders. Overall, the various components of this growing partnership will help METRO move towards a more fully diverse and inclusive workplace.