Aramark Canada Ltd.’s director of total rewards talks balancing total rewards priorities, employee assistance programs and children’s psychological development.
Q. What top challenges do you face in your role?
A. In total rewards, it’s always balancing many things, so finding the right balance between the different programs you have . . . . Striking the right balance between streamlining, but leaving enough flexibility to make exceptions when they’re needed and they make sense. And also communicating all that out to the right groups . . . . Between the ease of administration and the cost and the flexibility that’s needed, you’re oftentimes the negotiator, so you’re trying to balance everyone’s interests and make the right decision that makes sense for the company.
Q. What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?
A. The biggest one we’re working on is our [employee assistance program]. It’s not really a true implementation because we’ve had an EAP before, but it’s a re-implementation. There are some new services that are available. It’s rolling that out to employees and trying to turn that into a platform for something that’s a bit broader for us, so something wellness-focused. . . . We’re re-implementing the EAP because we think it’s a great service that oftentimes isn’t known to employees.
Q. What programs do you consider the most successful or that you’re most proud of?
A. The ones that are most successful are the ones that are the strategic differentiators for the organization. There are certain programs that you implement because it’s a bit of a table stake to stay competitive in your industry or as a large employer, but then there’s those things you can customize that are a little bit more unique that align better with the strategic direction of the company. The programs that I’m typically most proud of are the ones where we can marry the regular table-stakes benefit with something that is much more unique and strategic for the organization.
Q. What key human resources issues do you expect in the year ahead?
A. It will definitely depend on where you are and what industry you’re in and how the organization you work for is doing. Where I am is the middle chunk — we’re not in an industry that’s thriving in the current environment, but we’re not one that’s as hard hit as, say, the airline industry. We’re definitely impacted and we have to be strategic about how we use our resources, but I think the biggest challenges for all companies . . . is going to be retaining key talent. Most organizations are not able to spend quite as much, or in the same way, on programs and particular rewards. So it’s about know who your key people are and making sure you redirect those limited resources toward them.
Q. What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
A. Because I have young children, I find the whole topic of psychological development of young kids — and their cognitive development as well — fascinating, reading about how the human brain develops. And thinking about how that can impact my parenting style. [For] pure physical relaxation and time away from everything, I’m a big fan of yoga . . . . It gives you that physical workout that’s needed and the time away from the desk or the office, which is at home, and a little bit of a way to focus internally.
Q. What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?
A. I really appreciate any retirement savings programs that employers offer. I think it’s a very unexciting topic for most people . . . so any help you get from anyone else on making that happen is fantastic. And it shows that employers think of people more holistically, too. They appreciate the challenge we have outside of work and after work.
Jennifer Paterson is the editor of Benefits Canada.