Pethealth Inc.’s senior vice-president of HR talks flexible working, mental health and crime fiction.

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

A. A key challenge is balancing between the needs and wants of employees. For example, employees at different life stages value different benefits — some employees want more vacation time, while others want increased retirement benefits and more benefits plan options. As a result, we continually assess and compare our plans and programs to remain competitive.

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

A. More than 50 per cent of our employees are millennials and they make up a large proportion of our contact centre. For this group, flexible working arrangements and work-life balance are important. So we’re looking to implement telecommuting and flexible working options for these employees.

Read: HR decision-makers concerned with attraction, retention of younger workers: survey

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

A. Participation and utilization rates are key metrics. We consider participation in our online learning platform, Pethealth Academy, to be a phenomenal success with a 96 per cent enrolment rate. We also keep a close eye on our Glassdoor rating, which . . . reflects overall employee satisfaction, and we know that total compensation plays a big part in those ratings.

To me, though, a key measure of success is the testimonials we hear directly from our employees about how our wellness programs have directly supported them in navigating a personal or professional wellness challenge.

Career crib sheet

December 2015 — present
Senior vice-president of HR, Pethealth Inc.

January 2013 — December 2015
Vice-president of HR, Coinamatic Canada Inc.

2006 — 2012
HR manager, Ricoh Canada Inc.

1997 — 2006
Senior HR generalist, Ikon Canada

1994 — 1997
HR representative and payroll and benefits administrator, Legal Copies International

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

A. This year, we launched our wellness program that promotes healthy eating, rest and recovery, movement and mental well-being, as well as the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Not Myself Today initiative. We also launched our Step Career Path program, which provides employees with access to key information for all positions, regardless of country or business unit.

Q. What key human resources issues do you expect in 2019?

A. Recruiting and retaining talent in our contact centre is an ongoing challenge. Employee life cycles are shorter, so we see lower retention rates in this area of the business. We also compete with the banks and insurance companies for talent.

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To address this, we’re always looking for ways to differentiate ourselves in the market and build our employer brand. We’re also dedicated to creating a culture that engages and retains our employees, and makes Pethealth a great place to work.

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

A. In keeping with our corporate values, I like to have fun, stay active and energized and maintain work-life balance. Time with my family is very important to me as well as quiet time reading — suspense novels and crime fiction, in particular. I also enjoy a good game of golf. While I don’t get out on the course as much as I’d like to, I love being outdoors and challenging myself to do better than I did the round before. I’ll absolutely admit to being a fair-weather golfer: I only go out if the weather is warm and the sun is shining.

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

A. One of the benefits that’s unique to Pethealth — and is my personal favourite — is the pet insurance available to employees. We’re a business, but we’re also a group of caring, people-centric individuals — and a team of pet lovers. So we take a very holistic view as to what constitutes a family.

Read: My Take: Should employers offer pet insurance?

To promote the well-being of our human and furry family members, every employee is entitled to free pet insurance and lost pet membership services for one of their pets. We also offer pet bereavement days. For our employees without pets, we offer a childcare subsidy instead.

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