Martha Callum, Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Ltd.’s senior director of total rewards, talks about the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, diversity and inclusion initiatives and perfecting her baguette recipe.

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

A. Right now, it’s all related to COVID-19 — not only ensuring that we have proper safety processes in place to protect our employees, but also the effects of remote working and the mental health of our employees and their families. Communicating the advantages of the benefits and savings plans to employees is another challenge. I’ll be visiting our sites and talking to employees and they might say, ‘I didn’t know you could do that,’ or ‘I guess I should set up my [tax-free savings account].’

Read: One year later: Why employers should create ‘water-cooler’ moments for employees amid the pandemic

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

A. There’s been so many recent changes in the industry, like virtual care and access to virtual walk-in clinics, that have been accelerated with COVID-19 that we need to review the best way to incorporate them into our benefits plan for the long term. In the more immediate future, we’re very focused on positive mental health and how to align and communicate all the programs we have.

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

A. We upgraded our [human resources information system] at the end of 2020 to allow for more employee self-service and to have one system that ties together all of our HR programs, including compensation, talent management and recruiting. We also launched a diversity and inclusion program in 2020 to tie our mission, vision and values to the actions we expect of all employees. I didn’t lead this program, but I’m super proud of [those who did].

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

A. We look at the feedback that we get from our managers and employees — they’re not shy. If something’s not working, it’ll bubble up either to supervisors or directly to HR. Conversely, if something’s working well, they’re not afraid to tell us that, either. For example, the diversity and inclusion program launched with a campaign called ‘I Am Human.’ We planned to run it for 12 months through 2020 and as we got to the end of the program, we got our managers and employees together to see what they wanted in a new diversity and inclusion campaign. They said, ‘You can’t end it. We’re just getting good momentum now.’.

Q. What key human resources issues do you expect in 2021?

Career crib sheet

September 2016 – Present
Senior director, total rewards, Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Ltd.

October 2012 – August 2016
Senior vice-president, compensation and benefits, Citigroup Inc.

January 2010 – November 2012
Director, human resources operations, AB SCIEX Pte. Ltd.

January 2007 – January 2010
Manager, global HR processes, AB SCIEX Pte. Ltd.

September 2004 – January 2007
Human resources generalist, AB SCIEX Pte. Ltd.

May 2003 – September 2004
Six Sigma Black Belt, Ford Motor Co.

October 2000 – June 2003
Human resources business partner, Ford Motor Co.

A. We successfully integrated virtual meetings and use of online collaboration spaces . . . during the pandemic, so reviewing what a more-permanent work-from-home/flexible-work arrangement [will be] is top of the list. . . . Once we get past the immediate challenges of COVID, we’re still going to see ongoing effects to mental health and wellness. As a result, we’ve increased our psychological benefits to $5,000.

Read: Managing the employee mental-health tsunami

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

A. Now that it’s colder, I have my cookbooks out and my son and I are trying new recipes. I recently learned how to make baguettes and a delicious onion soup but failed at making French macarons, soI have no plans to make a career change.

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

A. My favourite feature is the flexibility we offer in both the benefits and retirement plans. Employees can choose the level of health coverage they need and elect for optional pension and savings contributions that fit their financial goals.

Blake Wolfe is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.