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This marketer and mover of oil and natural gas has refined its benefits program to meet the needs of its diverse workforce.

With everyone in the oil patch competing for the same limited resources, the flexible benefits plan and defined contribution (DC) pension plan offered by Gibson Energy make it an attractive organization—and No. 4 in the 30 Best Pension and Benefits Plans ranking.

Diverse Options

Gen-Yers make up 13% of the Gibson Energy workforce, generation X workers represent 42%, baby boomers are another 42% and traditionalists, 3%. With such an eclectic group of employees, the midstream operator moved from a traditional benefits plan to a flexible benefits plan six years ago. “The flexible benefits plan was introduced to accommodate the intergenerational groups,” says Rick Luciani, vice-president, human resources and administration.

The company-paid plan covers all of the standard items (extended medical, dental, vision care) at the highest level and includes a number of unique components, such as critical illness insurance, a wellness plan and a health care spending account (HCSA). “These things are not standard within our industry. We have some new and innovative pieces in our plan, and a lot of companies haven’t gone down that road yet,” says Tawnie Soufi, manager, compensation, benefits and HRIS, with Gibson Energy.

If employees want a lower level of coverage or want to opt out of the medical and dental coverage altogether, they can use their leftover flex credits to buy vacation, top up their group registered retirement savings plans (RRSP), add to the wellness account or HCSA, or they can take the excess credits as taxable cash.

At the head office in Calgary, employees have access to the free on-site gym. While that isn’t much of a perk for those in field locations such as Hardisty or Moose Jaw, Gibson employees can use the wellness plan to buy gym memberships or cover the fees of other sports clubs or teams. “[It’s for] anything that shows an ongoing physical activity commitment from the employee,” explains Luciani.

Soufi adds that the company is very health-minded. “There is a culture that comes from the top…that really believes healthy employees are productive employees, and we want to encourage our employees to have healthy lifestyles.”

Accommodating Schedules

Just as Gibson Energy recognizes that the health and wellness requirements of its employees vary, it recognizes that the same flexibility is needed to balance their work and personal commitments.

“With the flex hours, you can start as late as 9:30 and end your workday as early as 3:30,” Luciani says. “You can start at 7:30 and finish at 3:30 in the afternoon, if that accommodates your schedule.” For people with school-aged children and those who volunteer, take courses or just want to get away early on a long weekend, these work hours are a definite bonus.

“As long as you are here for the core hours of the day, we can work around start and end times,” he adds. Gibson Energy is also looking into alternative work arrangements so that employees can work compressed weeks or work from home when necessary.

But the flexibility doesn’t stop there. The company also offers flex days. In addition to the minimum three weeks of vacation (up to a maximum of five weeks after 17 years of service), each employee gets an additional day off per month. That’s an extra 12 paid days off a year.

“For the young people coming into the workplace, they’re looking for a more flexible work environment, more time off, and more career opportunity and advancement. We try to develop our programs with those ideas in mind,” says Luciani.

Promising Pension

Gibson Energy has an employer-matched DC plan with a 6% minimum contribution. But, unlike the benefits and working arrangements at the company, the pension plan is not flexible. In fact, it’s mandatory.

“There was a strong feeling from the pension committee that we had a responsibility as a corporation to help employees start [better preparing for retirement],” says Luciani, about why the plan became mandatory. He adds that, despite the amount of flexibility employees enjoy in other areas of the company, most people accepted the new provision.

“There were some who didn’t want to put 6% of their salary to the pension plan. For those individuals, we allowed them to start their contributions at 3% and, over a period of time, move up to the 6% level. We compromised.”

Flexibility and compromise are essential in any good employer-employee relationship, as is the ability to recognize differences among people, their lifestyles and their needs—skills that Gibson Energy has honed.

“We look at it as, every individual is unique,” says Soufi. “Our concern is that, if every person is an individual, how can we accommodate them? To me, that is how we meet the diverse needs of our workforce—by treating everyone as a unique person.”

© Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.