Thierry Miras, Schneider Electric’s vice-president of human resources in Canada, discusses embracing workplace inclusivity, flexible working and the Toronto Raptors.

Q. What top challenges do you face in your role?

A. The past year has brought unexpected challenges. As we still face uncertainty, one fact remains true: businesses must put employees first. We’re going to transition to a new normal that is highly flexible with reliance on digital tools and an extra focus on well-being.

Read: Focusing on employee experience helping build new, improved work culture

Health and safety will also remain key to our phased approach to our office reopening, as will well-being in terms of providing support for employees in managing their new virtual work life. We recognize there’s a sense of urgency around climate change and social justice issues, so diversity, equity and inclusion will also be a key focus area.

Q. What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?

A. In May 2021, we implemented a paid-time-off purchase program and a recharge break program, which is a sabbatical leave — up to three months — that’s partially subsidized by the company based on years of service. With home becoming the workplace, it’s important to consider the mental-health consequences of working remotely. We’re launching Not Myself Today, which uses physical and digital tools to build awareness, reduce stigma and foster safe and supportive cultures. Since April, we’ve been rolling out a virtual mindfulness and exercise platform that helps employees stay healthy, connected and engaged through these challenging times.

Q. What programs do you consider the most successful or that you’re most proud of?

Career crib sheet

January 2019 — Present
Vice-president, HR Canada, Schneider Electric

June 2013 — December 2018
HR director, Canada operations, Schneider Electric

July 2008 — May 2013
Global HR business partner, power business unit, Schneider Electric

December 2005 — June 2008
Talent acquisition manager, France, Schneider Electric

2004 — 2005
HR manager, STMicroelectronics

2003 — 2004
HR specialist, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd.

2002 — 2003
Plant HR manager, Rectiphase SAS

A. As we move to a more flexible working approach, it’s important to help employees build a comfortable work environment at home. In September 2020, we implemented a program to support remote workers by providing free home office furniture, including standing desks, ergonomic chairs and monitor arms.

Read: How are employers supporting the big shift to remote work?

I’m also proud of our focus on DEI. In Canada, we have multiple employee resources groups and we’re proud to support them by providing a dedicated budget to drive multiple activities — mentoring sessions, career advice and other information seminars.

Q. What key human resources issues do you expect in the year ahead?

A. Employee well-being is an important factor to consider as we implement a hybrid work model. We’re also growing, so talent acquisition in a competitive market will be a key focus, as will diversity. As this is a male-dominated industry, we want to attract more female talent to ensure we achieve gender diversity and more diverse talent in general.

Q. What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

A. Playing and watching sports are my passions. During the pandemic, I’ve missed going to the Scotiabank Arena to watch Toronto Raptors’ games. I’m a huge Raptors fan and an avid soccer player.

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In the last year, I’ve been playing much more racquet sports, though — tennis, pickleball and badminton — because they’re perfect for social distancing. Participating in sports has a positive impact on my whole well-being.

Q. What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?

A. The furniture package had an immediate benefit for me because I love my height-adjustable desk for my day-to-day work. I also really like the mindfulness and exercise app and tracking my healthy habits and physical activities. It helps me connect with employees and get well-being tips. I also really enjoy our new virtual mental-health program.

Lauren Bailey is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.