Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 8, 2015)
Here are some of the reasons why BASF Canada Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2016) and Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2016):
- BASF Canada helps employees raise their families along the way, offering maternity and parental leave top-up for new moms and dads (including adoptive parents), family coverage on their health plan, an academic scholarship program (to $2,000 per child) for kids pursuing post-secondary studies, and the unique "BASF Global Family" international exchange program that allows children of employees to stay with the family of a BASF employee in another country
- BASF Canada helps employees prepare for the future with year-end bonuses (most employees recently received a $1,150 bonus in celebration of the parent company's 150th birthday), retirement planning assistance, employer contributions to a defined contribution pension plan, and health benefits that extend to retirees, with no age limit
BASF turns global challenges into exciting careers
BASF Canada Inc. is part of a big global company that likes to think very big. Not just about its core business, chemicals, but about world issues.
"This is a company with a clear purpose," says Carles Navarro, President of BASF Canada, a subsidiary of German-based BASF SE. "We set very high goals that aim to benefit society."
In celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2015, the world's largest chemical producer has targeted three areas in which it will harness its people's talents to look for new innovations: urban living, food and smart energy.
"When you hire someone and you explain that you're going to find new solutions to the big challenges that mankind faces, this excites people," says Navarro.
As part of the 150th anniversary, the company recently held a two-day "jamming" session in which some 40 employees from across Canada came together to focus on one problem - minimizing food waste - and to propose a solution for submission to a North America-wide competition. The best proposals will get company funding.
"Everyone was very engaged," says Navarro. "When you realize how much food is wasted, you become very eager to find solutions.
And there is a lot we can do as a chemical company that people may not realize is within our reach."
Based in Mississauga, Ont., BASF Canada has 12 locations across the country, primarily involved in sales and customer support. But it also has scientific operations in Saskatoon and Toronto involved in research and applications development.
Navarro says that while the Canadian company has fewer R&D personnel than some other centres, "we encourage our people to innovate in everything they do. It can be in sales, in warehousing, in quality control, in communications." Many of these ideas are logged as part of the company's Simply Dare! program, and at the end of the year, the best are evaluated in a "Shark Tank" style event where the top three receive awards.
The global scope of BASF was one of its attractions for Vernon Schneider, Customer Experience Manager for the firm's crop protection business, when he joined the marketing team four years ago. "It's a very dynamic company," he says.
Early on, he was able to visit global headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, near Mannheim. Since then he has travelled to several U.S. locations for meetings and training, and back to Germany for a course at the Mannheim Business School.
A chemistry grad with an MBA from Queen's University, Schneider is also impressed with the company's commitment to sustainability. It shows in some of its Canadian crop products, such as biological inoculants produced in Saskatoon that enhance growth in pulse plants, such as peas and lentils, using natural bacteria.
And it showed in a global review of some 60,000 BASF product applications that focused on their sustainability. "We published both products that accelerate sustainability, and those that need improvement," says Schneider. "I think that says a lot about the culture of BASF. We are always brutally honest with ourselves and always thinking about how we can improve."
As a new dad, Schneider also likes BASF's popular Kids' Lab, a partnership with Earth Rangers in which employee volunteers help show elementary school students the wonders of chemistry. "I'm starting to think about how I can get my two-year-old as excited about science as I am, and this program does a really great job at that," he says.
He adds that in such a science-driven company, "with so many employees who want to get involved in their communities, it's tough to get on the volunteer list - the spaces go in five minutes."
Starring now on eTV - your fellow BASF employees
You've heard of CTV and MTV. How about eTV? You've heard of it if you work at BASF, the world's largest chemical producer. That's where they watch Employee TV, or eTV, a program that started at the Mississauga headquarters of BASF Canada Inc.
Jamie Apfelbeck was involved in the creation. Now Internal Communications Manager in Mississauga, he was working in IT some four years ago when the idea of sharing staff videos was broached. It came from a group of employees responding to BASF's Simply Dare program, which encourages people throughout the company to suggest improvements and innovations.
Apfelbeck became part of the team that implemented eTV, which took its original inspiration from Citytv's "Speaker's Corner" feature. Employees were recorded talking about their work or their ideas for improving company processes in short videos of around two minutes, which were posted on the local intranet.
"It really caught on," says Apfelbeck. After starting as a Canada-wide platform, eTV spread across North America. Now anyone at BASF locations in Canada and the U.S. can record videos for eTV, and anyone in the global company, which is headquartered in Germany, can watch.
Today there are four video categories - Drive, for ideas; Faces, for employees to introduce themselves; bSAFE (a play on BASF), to encourage safety; and Only at BASF, where people describe experiences at work. The videos are also shown on the company's informational LCD screens.
"It turned into something that no matter where you are in the organization, whether you're a top executive or in sales or in production, you have this platform where you can share your ideas and thoughts," Apfelbeck says. "And your audience is the whole company."
To Terri Howard, Director, Human Resources, for BASF Canada, eTV is a perfect example of how the company does things. "It really demonstrates what we call our CORE values - creative, open, responsible and entrepreneurial," she says. "It was created in line with those values, and it was also an opportunity to engage our employees. It's been really well received."
In Canada, BASF employees are largely involved in sales, marketing and production - agricultural products make up the largest business unit - along with corporate functions and a small research and development group. In the Greater Toronto Area, BASF has the Mississauga head office and production facilities in Brampton and Toronto that primarily manufacture construction-related chemical products.
But about 40 per cent of Canadian employees only sometimes visit a BASF office - most of the sales team, including in the GTA, work from home and go out to meet clients directly. They still network with other employees at company meetings and events, however, and Apfelbeck - who himself works from home two days a week - often uses such opportunities to record the visiting employees for eTV.
Howard says BASF is a particularly good fit for people who are drawn to large organizations. "Our applicants often talk about the greater opportunities within a big company, whether it's advancement, or training and development, or the wide variety of areas to work in," she says.
An engineer by trade, Apfelbeck says he has benefited from BASF's support for career development. After 18 years in IT, his work on the eTV project led to him joining the corporate communications team and taking on his current role overseeing internal communications.
"It's a big change for me but I'm really enjoying it," he says. "I think it's really cool that I got the opportunity to make the jump. It says something about the company - they really value, enable and encourage this kind of career progression."
Sounds like a good video for eTV.