Beverly Silver, the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education’s employee benefits officer, talks employee assistance programs, employee training and independent coffee shops.
Q. What top challenges do you face in your role?
A. I find that most employees don’t take an interest in their benefits plan until they actually need it. The challenge is in making sure people know what their benefits package includes — for their health, their dental, their pension. I believe knowledge is empowerment, so constantly being able to put that information into the forefront.
Q. What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?
A. We’re looking to do more comprehensive human resources metrics to make sure everything we’re doing in HR is as efficient as possible. We want to get better at our [new employee] orientation and part of that is being knowledgeable about our benefits, in what we offer; it’s the starting point. And making sure employees are getting [the benefits information] from us and not from someone else — we have more than one union group, so we want to make sure accurate information is out there.
Q. How do you judge the success of a program or initiative?
A. Generally, if it’s not, you hear about it. But we have labour relations committees, so a lot of problems that aren’t working out or suggestions come from those committees. We’ll hear from different supervisors if something is amiss among them. Feedback, basically.
Q. What programs do you consider the most successful or that you’re most proud of?
A. The employee assistance program. When employees call and they have issues, something they’ve never dealt with before, [the EAP offers] a wealth of information . . . [and] it’s confidential. I think it’s invaluable to have that and to be that source where that helps employees get help.
Q. What key HR issues do you expect in the coming year?
A. The continued use of sick leave in relation to mental-health issues, which are directly related to the pandemic. Keeping employees at work, because they’re nervous about the workspace, the safety of it, the cold and flu season that will continue. And employees nervous about not following proper public health protocols, wanting to do what’s right. I think the challenge is keeping employees at work and keeping them healthy and safe.
Q. What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
A. I like walking on trails with my dog. I like to experience the local festivities — there’s not a lot going on right now, so that’s not happening this year — but also gardening and travel. And a friend of mine and I have been doing this for a little over a year: we go and visit the different independent coffee shops. I find them very unique, almost like a culture in themselves, because they have artwork for sale on the wall; it’s just a different type of setting.
Q. What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?
A. Training and development because I believe it’s a win-win for the employee and the employer. We help pay for a portion of the costs, so the employee can afford to do it, but it also gives us a better employee as far as more knowledge and training. And it also affords the employee with an opportunity to increase their knowledge to maybe move up in their career.
Jennifer Paterson is the editor of Benefits Canada.