The Canadian Automobile Association Atlantic Ltd.’s vice-president of human resources talks employee wellness and education, tax-free savings accounts and learning how to code.
Q. What are the top challenges you face in your role?
A. I would say trying to balance programs that fit the needs of everyone. It’s difficult. We have fleet drivers out on the road, then we have a lot of backend staff. And then we have our front-end people who are customer-facing — and customer service is huge for us.
Also, [there are challenges] with the different age ranges. We have a lot of long-term staff, but as we recruit more younger people, I find different people want and need different things.
Q. What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?
A. In 2019, we’re adding an option for a tax-free savings account through payroll deduction. It would give our employees the option to open one, it would come through their payroll and they’d have access to all of our group [investment] funds. It’s a small addition, but we’re actually pretty excited about it.
Q. How do you judge the success of a program or initiative?
A. We have a small workforce of about 170 employees, and they’re quite vocal if they like something or if they don’t like something, which I love. I get feedback through email or casual conversations or if I’m in one of our satellite branches and somebody talks to me about something — that’s a good way of doing it.
Also, every March we do an anonymous engagement survey. The best thing about that is the feedback. We always ask, “What are we not doing?” and “What could we do to make it better here?,” and we find that’s excellent. Over the years, it’s really given our employees some confidence that we listen to them.
Q. What program do you consider the most successful or that you’re most proud of?
A. I’d have to say our wellness program. We introduced it in 2014 and it has evolved over the years, but I do get a lot of feedback on that. This year, we did the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. I’m really proud of that because [employees] had to go into teams of seven and it was very competitive, and it brought a lot of life.
We had great participation — 66 per cent. I also introduced a quarterly newsletter I put out to all our staff, and I get them to send me photographs or news stories or anything personal. It’s very popular. They love that.
Q. What key human resources issues do you expect in 2019?
A. Recruiting. Talent is in demand and talent is scarce. We’ve done a bit of recruiting in the last little while and I’ve definitely noticed a downturn in the number of applications we’re receiving. We have to work at making ourselves an appealing employer of choice.
Q. What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
A. I guess I’m pretty outdoorsy. I have a couple of dogs and I spend a lot of time outdoors with them. I like to garden. I like taking fun courses online. I like techy things. Right now, I’m learning to do some basic coding because I think it’s interesting.
Q. What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?
A. I’ve already talked about our wellness program and I love that because it gets our employees engaged. But we have a professional development policy where, if you’ve been with us for a year and you would like to take some courses, we will reimburse you if you pass them. We had somebody who did their full business degree through that.
The only requirement is we ask them to stay with us for at least two years after completing the courses. For employee engagement, I love the whole wellness thing and the engagement and the chatter, but from a lifelong standpoint, education is very important.
Ryan Murphy is a former associate editor at Benefits Canada.