BMO Financial Group’s chief human resources officer and head of people and culture discusses mental health, leadership development and yoga.
Q: What top challenges do you face in your role?
A: We’re a people business . . . so [our challenges are] skills, the access to fantastic talent, making sure we’re developing our people. But right now, we’re in unchartered territory and it’s really about ensuring we’re keeping our employees safe and that we’re meeting the needs of our clients in the context of what’s happening right now in the world, predominantly the risks around health and safety.
Q: What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?
A: We partnered with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health . . . to develop a mentally healthy playbook for all of our clients. It really generated a number of recommendations on the importance of creating a mental-health strategy at BMO, instituting training and tailoring support for all of our employees and managers.
We’re also recognizing that people want to have things easy, simple and digital, because that’s basically how we interact with everyone — and even more so recently. So we’re digitizing everything for HR . . . . That means it’s simpler, more intuitive, people can check on the status of things, they know what’s happening and they have access to information at their fingertips.
Q: What program do you consider the most successful or that you’re most proud of?
A: I’m extremely proud of all of our leadership development programs. . . . and the feedback we get in terms of their effectiveness. We’ve been doing [these programs] for three decades and recognize that managers play such an important role in creating an experience for an employee.
The second area is our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We’ve launched a number of mandatory training modules on unconscious bias and inclusion to all managers and all employees. I think raising people’s awareness and building skills around an inclusive culture is very important and very much aligned to our values.
Q: What key human resources issues do you expect in 2020?
A: These are extraordinary times and people are feeling stressed and unsure. Whether it’s the uncertainty of the economy [or] people worrying about the health and safety of family members, we are really thinking even more now about employees physical and mental health when we think about wellness in the workplace.
What’s equally important is recognizing stress . . . and making sure we’re providing people with the resources they need. And providing a culture where people can speak up and share their concerns. We have employee assistance programs and a variety of things.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
A: I love yoga and spending time with my husband and my three kids. Under normal circumstances, they’re all involved in hockey, they love sports, [so I] usually spend a lot of time in hockey rinks, on the side of the soccer pitch. We live in Toronto and enjoy all the different restaurants . . . and we like to experiment and try different places in the city. I’m also involved in youth-based charities, so either family time or a lot of volunteering.
Q: What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?
A: I really like the flex benefits we provide. The second one is flexible work arrangements. I’ve been with the bank for 24 years, I’ve worked part time, full time, I’ve job shared and I’ve taken two leaves of absence. I’ve had fantastic managers throughout my career at the bank and they’ve recognized, at different points in my life, I was dealing with many different demands of my time. So that opportunity to have a flexible way of working . . . has been huge in terms of my retention and loyalty to the bank.
Avery Page is a former conference editor at Benefits Canada.