Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 24, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Abilis Solutions was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017):
- Abilis Solutions encourages employees to recruit their friends with generous referral bonuses, ranging from $300 to $1,000 depending on the position
- Abilis Solutions' downtown Montréal head office features workstations for telecommuters, an employee lounge with comfortable seating and video games, regular lunch time yoga classes (led by an employee) and free baskets of fresh fruit delivered to the the office every week
- Abilis Solutions helps employees save for the longer term with matching RSP contributions and offers profit sharing and a share purchase plan to let employee share in the company's overall successes
Abilis Solutions brings professionalism to the corrections sector
When Abilis Solutions celebrated its twentieth birthday last year, it had grown into a very different company from the one its founders originally imagined. Abilis, which started out in Montreal as a professional services and software company with a wide range of clients, is now sharply focused on the corrections software industry, where it has become a world leader.
The shift began in 2007 when Abilis was called in to rescue a large telecommunication organization with a major corrections project in trouble. "The thing was almost dead," says President and COO Alain Elbaz. Abilis saw an opportunity where no one else did. The project was quickly turned around, Abilis acquired the intellectual property of the system and rebuilt it as CORIS Offender Management System, a web-based system.
Given that Abilis Solutions' strength was always building very robust IT systems for large companies with a lot of users, it wasn't that much of a leap. "It represented the ideal opportunity for our skill set," says Elbaz, who co-founded the company with CEO Eric Le Goff.
One of Abilis's aims, when it bought CORIS, was to diversify away from professional services, which can be a feast or famine business. The company was looking for a more sustainable revenue stream, which it believed the globally booming corrections industry offered. Its goal is now to become the number one global vendor in the corrections space. And it's well on the way, with clients in North America, Europe and Australia.
"People are very impressed with the team we've assembled," says Elbaz, who describes Abilis as a company on the leading edge technologically and a meritocracy. "People always feel they're learning. They learn from each other. They feel they're not stagnant."
Vice President of Operations Bertrand Double says that in its hiring, Abilis looks for employees with both strong tech and human skills. "We're extremely multicultural. We have people from all over the world. This multicultural environment has made us richer." On several occasions, he says, Abilis has hired employees, who wouldn't be considered elsewhere because they didn't speak either French or English. It took steps to integrate the newcomers.
"Today some of those people are our best managers and developers," he says, citing the example of a young Chinese woman who was brought in by a referral and worked under a Chinese manager while Abilis paid for her to learn English. "We've all grown together with those experiences," says Double, and now they also celebrate Chinese New Year together.
Raya Zachs, who's been with Abilis since 2008, says she really appreciates the career-building opportunities and flexible working conditions, which have led to a low turnover rate. If her child was sick, she could take the day off or work from home. More recently, she's made a major switch and taken on a product management role along with being head of software development.
"Product management is cool. It's really new to me and very interesting," says Zachs, who has visited corrections facilities in Tennessee including a high-security prison with a death row, a community facility, and an intake facility and prison with 2,500 beds. She regularly attends industry conferences.
"They invest a lot into people," she says of management, adding that she feels comfortable going to the CEO and asking for advice and support. "We work as a team here."
Marketing Vice President Ken McGovern, who came to Abilis from another company within the corrections industry, says that around the world, corrections agencies consistently face three main challenges with which Abilis tries to help them: knowing the offender better, running the system as efficiently as possible, and determining how to achieve better outcomes.
For Abilis, he says, "it's a very exciting time being in a growth phase in the markets we focus on around the world. Our profile is increasing rapidly."