Employee engagement an hoax? Shell Canada proves is not

Dolores Montavez Ruz    January 30, 2015


Posted on January 30, 2015 by: Dolores Montavez & Christian Ismodes

Organization Name: Shell Canada Limited.

Industry: Canada’s largest integrated oil & gas company

Name of contact: Lorraine Michelmore

Web References: www.shell.ca

Description of how social media is used for business performance:

To Lead or not to Lead:

If employee engagement is a hoax, then it’s one worth its fame in gold, because it has become a buzz word in the business world these days and everyone is talking about it, trying it out or desperately seeking ways to promote leadership and engagement within their workforce.

And why is that? 

Because seventy-eight percent of business leaders say it is both an urgent and important priority, according to Deloitte. There’s no secret why; after teetering on the edge of total meltdown, the global economy has recovered from years of stagnancy. Employers want growth and employees are the main drivers. Firms like Gallup have the statistics: All core business measures—profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, quality, retention, and sales—are significantly higher at companies with a concentration of engaged employees. In short, employee engagement has become the new currency in today’s economy (1)

Shell chose to be a leader and involved the union and their employees with a distributive and economic participatory approach that changed the business process, increased employees engagement,  plant’s productivity and overall workplace satisfaction.

The Case of the Sarnia Shell Plant

Shell Canada was one of the earliest organizations to undertake an employee involvement effort. In 1974, Shell decided to follow a “socio-technical” approach in their plants which integrates the technical and “human” side of the organization.

The Problem:

  • Excessive management controlFuture word cloud
  • Under-utilization of employees
  • Inadequate info flow
  • Poor management-labour relations
  • Slow response to problems
  • Considerable dissatisfaction


The Belief:turbine hall

  • Workers are responsible,
  • trustworthy,
  • capable of self-regulation,
  • and interested in the opportunity for decision-making and growth.

The Approach:

  • Direct participation
  • Involving as many persons as possible
  • Acquiring an early commitment from senior management and the union
  • Providing continuous training for everyone involved in the areas of leadership, problem solving, decision making and conflict resolution

The outcome: Collaborative Work Environments (CWEs)

Now Shell uses youtube videos and other social media platforms to continue with this practice of direct participation, and they have created  LIFE AT SHELL series  

Employee engagement works because committed workers need less supervision to do the job, take ownership, and sometimes pride, of their contributions to the work process .  Companies committed to the advancement of their employees with training and leadership opportunities for direct and indirect participation get rewarded with high functioning and skillful workers that increase productivity and ease the business process.


Shell Canada efforts to engage their employees in developing a new business process and the effective use of social media tools to communicate and maintain a conversation about being part of the company proves that employee engagement pays off, regardless of how much effort it takes. And for the detractors of employee engagement, a few words of wisdom to reflect on,



  • 8,000number of employees in Canada.
  • Approximately 1,300 Shell branded retail stations. About half are Shell-owned, the rest are independent dealers and branded wholesalers.
  • Shell V-Power gasoline is the number one fuel among major brands.
  • The Athabasca Oil Sands Project(AOSP) joint venture (Shell 60%) is one of Shell’s major projects. The current production capacity of AOSP is 255,000 barrels a day of synthetic crude, 11.5 per cent of Canada’s domestic demand for oil.
  • 2refineries in Canada – Scotford (built 1984, the latest in North America. It is the first to exclusively process synthetic crude from oil sands) and Sarnia (built 1952) and 3 chemical plants.

Shell Contribution

Submitted by: Dolores Montavez & Christian Ismodes. SMBP Students, University of Waterloo.

To contact the authors of this entry please contact: montavez3@hotmail.com and christian.ismodes@gmail.com

If you have concerns of the accuracy of anything posted on this sit, please send your comments to Peter Carr pdcarr@waterloo.ca , Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance