IBM Canada Ltd.’s director of HR talks data and analytics, holistic employee health and playing the piano

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

A. I want to help employees understand and fully leverage all of our benefits offerings. IBM provides competitive retirement saving vehicles and financial management tools, but I always worry employees aren’t taking full advantage of these offerings.

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Financial wellness is a big part of our overall holistic wellness program, which includes health, social, financial, mind and purpose. It’s my mission to continue to educate employees on all of IBM’s benefits offerings to help them and their families live well.

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

A. We’re introducing a new tool that allows employees to quickly and easily review their individual benefits offerings, including beneficiary setup, investment asset mix and available resources. It will help employees reach their financial goals by combining various offerings in one location.

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

A. I look at a few factors. First, data and analytics through IBM’s [artificial intelligence]-driven tools help assess our programs and initiatives. Paired with data, AI provides sentiment analysis and analytical power to help us better understand employee engagement and a program’s effectiveness.

Second, levels of participation in educational webinars and in-person seminars provide a good gauge of a program’s value. For example, the use of online financial planning tools is measured quarterly and an increase or decrease in use is an indication of the program’s value.

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

A. Over the past several years, we have created numerous programs around mindfulness and have established mindfulness rooms in most of our Canadian locations. We also invest a lot of thought and effort around mental health. In 2020, we’re hiring a leader for our mental-health program. We also promote physical activity and learning by providing incentives on the various dimensions of health.

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Career crib sheet

March 2015 — present
Director of HR, IBM Canada Ltd.

July 2012 — March 2015
HR director, business analytics, IBM Software Group

January 2011 — July 2012
Leader, operations and administration, Algorithmics Inc., an IBM company

January 2008 — December 2010
Senior vice-president, operations and administration, Algorithmics

January 2002 — May 2004
Vice-president of HR, Swiss Reinsurance Co. Ltd.

April 1986 — December 2001
Vice-president of staff services, Lincoln Financial Group

Giving back to our communities is a part of IBM’s culture. We have a program, IBM Service Corps, that provides global employees with leadership opportunities as they work with government bodies in emerging markets to address high-priority issues. Since it began in 2008, the program has had more than 4,000 participants and supported more than 1,400 projects in over 40 countries. That’s no small feat.

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

A. Retention of top talent and skills in an evolving market. To help address this issue, we need to continue to focus on developing employee skills.

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

A. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. The newest addition to my family is my grandson, who was born last August. Watching him grow and interact with the world is one of my favourite things to do.

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As for hobbies, I’m an avid golfer and I enjoy walking and cycling. I’m also trying to get back to playing the piano, which I learned when I was young.

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

A. When it comes to traditional benefits, IBM’s pension plan is my favourite. This is an offering that people in smaller companies don’t have access to and one that makes a huge impact on the lives of our employees. IBM also matches contributions, which is key in making this benefit truly impactful.

For non-traditional benefits, we have a great giveback community through the IBM Service Corps.

Cassandra Williamson-Hopp is a conference editor at Benefits Canada.