Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 6, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Air Canada was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017), Top Employers for Canadians Over 40 (2016) and Montreal's Top Employers (2016):
- Air Canada employees receive a number of unique financial perks, from duty-free store discounts to personal shipping discounts through Air Canada Cargo to air travel discounts that also include employee's family members
- The company manages the charitable Air Canada Foundation to raise funds and donations for initiatives focused on helping children and youth including the well-known "Dreams Take Flight" program that takes children from across the country to Disney World or Disneyland for one magical day, and the "Wings of Courage" program that recognizes the bravery of children confronted with serious illness
- Air Canada ensures that employees keep their skills sharp with tuition subsidies, an online Air Canada University, extensive in-house training for airline crews at 4 major training facilities across Canada and flight simulation training for pilots which includes state-of-the-art flight simulators as well as online options for training in the comfort of their own home
Air Canada is a high-flying champion
If you want to succeed at Air Canada, make sure you understand these words: "global champion."
You'll hear them a lot, and for good reason. More than ever, Air Canada is a global airline, with an expanding network on nearly every continent. So its standards for everything it does - the services it offers, the processes it follows and, most especially, the people it hires - are built around the idea that all must be world-class.
This means it's crucial for Air Canada to make sure it's supporting its people, so customers have the best experience possible, from call centre to check-in to flight. "There is an increased understanding at every level of the company, from the top down, of what it means to be a frontline employee," says Arielle Meloul-Wechsler, Vice President, Human Resources. "It's becoming more and more tangible as we grow to become what we call a global champion."
In recent years, Air Canada has been expanding its international traffic at a rapid rate. "We are launching great new destinations on a regular and unprecedented basis," says Meloul-Wechsler. The airline markets heavily to U.S. travellers who might want to go from Atlanta, say, to Europe, and use Toronto as an alternative hub to New York's JFK. Vancouver plays the same role for U.S. west coast travellers heading for Asia. In the other direction, the airline competes for U.S.-bound Asians and Europeans.
"Because of all this growth, our reality has changed," says Meloul-Wechsler. "We carry more customers, the check-in agents are busier, our in-flight crews are busier. So we all recognize that to keep up stellar customer service through this growth, it has to be done through mutual support."
The airline has responded with "a lot more listening" to employees, through focus groups, quarterly meetings, direct conversations and online forums, she says. Quick communications are essential. "We make sure that frontline employees are empowered and equipped to answer customer questions right away. It's about everybody rowing in the same direction with real-time information at their fingertips."
Air Canada has also boosted its recognition programs, including the Shine online initiative in which employees can give each other peer-recognition points redeemable for awards ranging from movie tickets to electronics. There are wellness programs, tuition support, and environmental scholarships that employees' children can apply for. And of course, all employees and their immediate famlies are eligible for the longstanding airline perk of access to discounted travel on a standby basis, all over the world.
The airline's strongly people-centred approach is evident in the work of Dotane Harel, Manager, Maintenance Performance and People Development. His job is to support continuous improvement in the critical area of aircraft maintenance - not by directing the work, but by making sure the process is working properly and people have what they need to succeed. "If you don't have what you need, you can't be your best," he notes. "So we put a lot of effort into making sure employees have the tools and the support to truly excel. Our goal is to be world-class in everything we do."
Recently, for example, the airline introduced iPads for its licensed aircraft technicians, as well as pilots and on-board service directors, so they could immediately see the data they needed. "It just makes their work environment easier," Harel says.
Air Canada, says Harel, a 19-year veteran, has done a lot of work in recent years on people management. "We want to attract the best, we want to keep them, and we want to help them develop."
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 23, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Air Canada was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016):
- Air Canada maintains regional diversity committees in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, compromised of representatives from all designated groups and a variety of different positions -- committees provide employees with a forum to share and discuss work related issues and best practices to improve the overall work environment
- Air Canada hosted two "Women in Aviation" events to encourage female employees to establish internal networks -- the events featured panel discussions with senior-level women at the organization as well as female executives from across the aerospace industry and resulted in the creation of four internal discussion groups on career management, balancing career and quality of life outside of work, diversity and inclusion, and difficult conversations and feedback
- In partnership with imagineNATIVE, Air Canada offers "imagineNATIVE Shorts Program", a compilation of shorts from the imagineNATIVE Film Festival (containing films from well-known indigenous filmmakers) to customers as part of their in-flight entertainment programming
"I'm happy and proud to work for a team that not only accepts diversity but embraces and leverages it for success. Meeting people with different cultures, identities, abilities, and experiences made it easy to feel like I belonged. I started working here less than two years ago and it's still refreshing to see Air Canada represent the Canadian mosaic of people." Clare L., Administrative Assistant, Strategic Procurement
Air Canada works to attract diverse high-fliers
Like many companies, Air Canada has learned that one of the challenges in encouraging diverse recruitment is that it's not just who's applying to work for you - it's who's not.
Canada's leading airline is meeting that challenge head-on. "After taking a close look at our workforce, we asked ourselves why were we so successful in certain areas and departments and less in others," says Chantal Dugas, General Manager, Linguistic Affairs and Diversity. "Why did certain positions not attract more candidates from a wide range of diversity groups, and more importantly, how should we be approaching this matter differently to ensure better representation? We came to the conclusion that we had to engage in more targeted recruitment."
"For example, if there weren't enough Aboriginal applicants, we would increase our visibility within that specific community, and partner with Aboriginal organizations to promote all available positions." Similarly, Dugas says, the airline has worked with a number of partners to attract people with disabilities. "We realized that a lot of people have the skills for the job but may feel intimidated or unsure about applying," Dugas says. Now, through programs and awareness campaigns, the company is better equipped to welcome candidates with disabilities in virtually all areas of the business.
The airline has also put a lot of energy into attracting women and ensuring that they feel supported and understand their career and growth opportunities at Air Canada - in any role. The airline has even improved female representation in a surprising area - baggage handling. "I spoke to a number of women who do this work, and they are so passionate about it," says Dugas. "You can see the sparkle in their eyes when they talk about it. We've invited a few to come to career fairs and promote this type of work. A lot of our positions are not well-known with the general public."
In 2014, Air Canada created three diversity committees, one each in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. They bring together employees from all departments and levels to exchange ideas and brainstorm on a quarterly basis about how to improve the workplace.
Members come from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds, including visible minorities, women, Aboriginals, people with disabilities, LGBT people, older and younger staff, managers, union and non-unionized employees.
Air Canada has also started a "Women in Aviation" initiative in which it invites prominent and successful women in business to share their stories and offer support, encouragement and tools for women employees.
Conversely, one job that in the past was seen as a mainly female area has since attracted many men and is getting close to gender parity - that of flight attendant. Among the men who love the job is Gilles Bourque, a flight attendant of Acadian and Métis heritage who grew up in a small New Brunswick village.
"When people see me they try to figure out where I'm from," he says. "I have olive skin and my eyes are a slightly different shape - I guess that's the
Aboriginal part of me coming out." But in the Canadian context, it's the way he speaks that stands out. "People say I have a cute Acadian accent."
Bourque says Air Canada's efforts to have a workforce that reflects its 40 million annual customers were clear to him when he joined in 2011. "In my training class, there was every kind of background," he says. "The whole class was 'diverse'." Bourque is aware that the company offers various forms of support to anyone requiring it, but he says he's found the culture so inclusive that he hasn't felt the need for it. He's more focused on the
diversity of the job itself. "It's never the same," he says. "Every flight is different, every destination is different, every day is different," he says. "It's never boring."