Employees appreciate clear communication and empathetic ear during pandemic
COVID-19 has upended many aspects of life, particularly at the workplace. Many employers, though, have successfully navigated the challenges presented by the pandemic. Some of them are among the National Capital Region's Top Employers this year.
The National Capital Region's 2021 Top Employers competition, which recognizes excellence in compensation, engagement and workplace culture, among many important metrics, also considered how workplaces managed their way through the pandemic.
"For many employers who operate and recruit within the region, it is highly sought after to be included in our list so they can showcase themselves as a great place to work," says Richard Yerema, managing editor at Mediacorp Canada Inc., the organization that manages several annual regional competitions, as well as Canada's Top 100 Employers.
This year's campaign has been like no other, though, because of how the novel coronavirus has laid plain one focus for every employer: Keeping workers safe.
"Across the board, we have seen with top employers that their wellness and support programs, along with related corporate policies, have really come into their own during the pandemic," Yerema says.
One such employer is Bank of Canada, which last spring quickly implemented additional safety measures for a skeleton staff that had to remain on site, while the majority worked from home.
Besides additional cleaning of facilities, providing adequate personal protective equipment like masks and mandating health protocols such as physical distancing, the central bank's management also recognized that communication was among the most appreciated measures.
"Communicating in clear, actionable ways, including updating protocols as needed and offering health and safety sessions to on-site staff," were incredibly well-received by employees, says Alexis Corbett, managing director and chief human resources officer at Bank of Canada.
Besides supports on site, the Crown corporation also has provided enhanced assistance to the majority of its employees now working from home. That included delivering ergonomic office furniture and even developing a home health and safety checklist.
Technology giant Adobe Systems Canada Inc. also moved to a work-from-home protocol early on to protect its Ottawa members.
"We also pledged no layoffs," says Mike Scott, senior director of customer care at Adobe Customer Solutions, as well as the Ottawa site leader.
The big challenge for organizations with so many workers at home has been ensuring they feel connected to the workplace culture, considered the jewel in the crown of sought-after employers such as Adobe.
"To ensure our employees feel informed, supported and safe, we've also increased communications, hosting regular companywide town halls to hear from our executive leaders," Scott says.
These events have not been merely opportunities for management to talk to workers, but for employees to ask questions, raise concerns and, most importantly, get some answers.
Adobe engaged employees with surveys to get a sense of what it can do to support those who may be facing stresses such as caring for aging parents, a spouse out of work or children learning from home.
It also increased its sick and personal days while giving staff every third Friday off since mid-September. The company tried to infuse levity into the home office, arranging fun events so everyone still feels connected, Scott says.
"We've continued to keep our site connection strong with our virtual bi-weekly happy hours, magic shows, trivia, bingo, name that tune and much more."
Similar initiatives have been in place at Bank of Canada. Among them is "meeting-free Friday afternoons to combat online meeting fatigue and allow employees time to wrap up before the weekend, so they can better disconnect," Corbett says.
The overarching goal, she adds, has been keeping employees safe, happy and engaged. A poll taken last summer supported this idea, finding that more than eight in 10 employees felt supported during the pandemic while "90 per cent said their leader had responded to their personal situation with empathy and sensitivity."
It's that concern and focus that are helping businesses move forward during these trying times.
—Joel SchlesingerFrom the official announcement magazine for the National Capital Region's Top Employers (2021), published on February 2, 2021, and featured in the Ottawa Citizen.
Top employers take diversity and inclusiveness to heart
George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, Minn., has spurred action around the globe.
In Ottawa, the staff at tech company SurveyMonkey Canada Inc. felt a deep sense of sadness and revulsion at the illustration of racial injustice when Floyd, a Black man, was arrested outside a convenience store and died after a white police officer put one of his knees on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes
And the leading provider of surveys and market research was listening to its members. What's more, SurveyMonkey was uniquely positioned to respond as an organization for social change.
"Having employees feel like they belong, have a voice and equal opportunities, has always been a major focus for us," says Sabrina Leblanc, one of the site leads in Ottawa at SurveyMonkey Canada.
"But, it's not just saying that we want to be diverse and inclusive; it's about taking a stance and saying, 'We want to be anti-racist.'"
Named one of the National Capital Region's Top Employers this year, SurveyMonkey recognizes being a great place to work -- particularly in the tech industry -- is about more than good wages and fun, quirky perks.
SurveyMonkey believes diversity and inclusion are key to attracting top talent. It even offers referral bonuses to employees who recommend under-represented minorities for job openings at the firm.
"We created this new group to have a place where our diverse workers can share ideas and concerns," Leblanc adds.
The company also puts real economic might behind initiatives to elicit change, not just in its own operations but within its partners, too.
"We spend millions of dollars every year across different vendors, and so we're looking at what those vendors are doing toward promoting diversity and inclusion, and what are they doing regarding minority representation," she says. "In some cases, we've even made the decision to move our dollars elsewhere."
Of course, SurveyMonkey is not entirely unique among Ottawa's leading employers in being the agent of social change its workers would like to see.
Adobe Systems Canada Inc. has also focused on initiatives encouraging staff to share stories about their journey as visible minorities, having different sexual or gender identities, or living with disabilities
"It's hard to leave those conversations and not feel inspired by their stories and proud to work alongside such remarkable people," says Mike Scott, Adobe Ottawa site leader.
Fostering these conversations and promoting social change don't just inspire a greater sense of togetherness among employees, they help attract best-in-class workers from many backgrounds who feel like they belong and are making a difference, Leblanc adds.
"If you can do that as an employer, you're ultimately going to build a better business."