Q&A with CSA Group’s Melodie Mason

CSA Group’s vice-president of total rewards talks mental health, well-being programs and travelling with her family.

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

A. We’re in 13 countries and we have some global programs — our employee assistance program and business travel accident [insurance] — but then we also have to develop local, country-specific programs. We want to ensure they’re aligned to the market and also meet our employees’ needs.

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

A. In 2018, we launched a 24/7 video-based, confidential well-being support service. In 2019, we relaunched our EAP. Now we’re working with our health and safety team on formally implementing the [national standard of Canada for psychological health and safety in the workplace], which will lead us to doing more on mental-health initiatives and mental-health first-aid training over the next year or two. As we go through that, we’ll launch even more health and wellness programs.

Read: Head to head: Should Canada’s workplace mental-health standard be mandatory? 

Q. How do you judge the success of a program or initiative?

A. A significant part is employee feedback and participation. When we launched the well-being support service, we ran a contest — we had more than 2,000 entries and more than 3,100 videos were watched in a month. That told us our employees actually read our communication.

In 2019, in Canada, we moved to a new benefits administration system. It gave visibility for our employees into all of their plan enrolment information, their dependants and their beneficiaries. The success was people calling us and saying, “How can I change my beneficiary? Because I can see I haven’t.” It’s that active participation.

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

A. All of our well-being [programs]. We’ve had a number of things in place for many years, like the global fitness subsidy, which reimburses employees for the physical side of well-being, and we have great participation rates.

Read: What are the ingredients of a successful wellness program?

We’re encouraging it even more with this latest EAP launch where we’ve also included a wellness coach, so every employee is eligible for six or eight sessions. We’ve also implemented things like a cancer and health-care assistance service. On the financial well-being [side], we train our employees on their pension plan . . . and we have a tuition refund program in place.


November 2016 — present
Vice-president, total rewards, CSA Group

October 2010 — November 2016
Director, total rewards, CSA Group

May 2004 — October 2010
Associate director, total rewards, Kellogg Canada Inc.

1998 — May 2004
Manager, compensation, benefits/pensions and HRIS, FedEx Corp.

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

A. CSA hit a 100-year milestone in 2019. Now we’re starting to think about what work is going to be like for the next 100 years. We’re just kicking off a future of work program, [which looks] at our total rewards to make sure we’re going to be ready to attract and retain the exceptional talent we need to help us stay in business another 100 years.

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

A. I celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary last year and my husband and I took a trip to Hawaii; we like to go there every five years. I have a 22-year-old daughter and I travel with her as well. We try to have a couple of girls’ weekends away.

Read: Can points-powered apps help employers boost wellness programs?

I like to go to the gym four times a week and try to get the Fitbit steps, at least 10,000 a day. I also have a puppy at home — a black Lab — and he keeps me walking.

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

A. The combination of the fitness subsidy and our [EAP] because you can also get nutrition and stress management out of that. I like that it has a concierge too, so if tomorrow you don’t have childcare and you need emergency childcare, they’ll help with that. Or if it’s about ageing parents, you can get resources for long-term care facilities. Over my career, I’ve used all of those. It really just reflects the way we can be a caring employer.

Kelsey Rolfe is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.