Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 11, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why CAA South Central Ontario was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2017):
- CAA South Central Ontario helps employees maintain their physical and mental well-being with weekly onsite visits from external fitness consultants who conduct stretch breaks and lead exercise and meditation classes -- additionally, the organization offers a generous health spending account of up to $1,500 which can be used to cover health and wellness-related expenses
- CAA South Central Ontario encourages the next generation to pursue post-secondary studies with academic scholarships for children of employees (up to $1,500 per year)
- CAA South Central Ontario offers a number of financial incentives including signing bonuses for some employees, year-end bonuses for all and referral bonuses for employees who help recruit candidates in their network (up to $3,000)
A place with heart: CAA South Central Ontario
Nassira Powell knew right away that something was seriously wrong during a Skype call with her mother. Working at the time as a supervisor with the travel call centre at the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAA SCO), Powell saw that her mother in England was all puffed up and looking very ill. She immediately made plans to be at her side.
First, Powell took vacation time for her visit. Then, when her mum received a lymphoma diagnosis and was about to undergo chemotherapy treatment, she requested a two-month leave of absence to nurse her mother back to health. "It was amazing," says Powell. "My manager said: 'Don't worry, we'll keep your job open for you when you return. Take care of your mum and do what you have to do'."
CAA SCO's response, Powell says, demonstrates that it is "truly, a company with heart." She adds: "There is a real people focus here. You are never a number or isolated in some cubicle."
CAA SCO has more than two million members who receive much more customer service than the roadside assistance it is best known for. Travel information and the full range of insurance products are a large part of what its employees, known as associates, offer to the public. "If we want our associates to look after our members, we first have to look after our associates," explains Mary Duncan, Chief Human Resources Officer, CAA SCO. "That means being compassionate and understanding when associates face personal challenges, but it also means having employee-focused programs and policies."
One such program is Applause, a revamped employee appreciation scheme that has received multiple awards, including the 2016 Canadian HR Award for Best Recognition Program. Applause allows all CAA SCO staff to recognize anyone, especially if they do something special that demonstrates the company's core values of collaboration, innovation, leadership or being care-driven. The program is online, making it accessible and visible to all. Associates can accumulate Applause points that can be converted into purchasing items from a vast catalogue.
Says Duncan: "Recognition is a key driver of employee engagement. We want to reward our associates for their good work because it shows we care, and we want to encourage behaviours that drive the success of the company."
Powell likes Applause because managers can establish a points reward system tied to a particular objective, such as selling the most travel bookings. She also likes Applause because it encourages peer recognition. "You can give a shout-out to a colleague for something that a manager might not even be aware of," she says.
Another way CAA SCO demonstrates support for its associates is through a comprehensive wellness program. For example, its offices in Thornhill, Ont., feature a wellness room used for workouts and yoga as well as meditation in designated hours. A physical fitness consultant has been brought in to oversee activities such as running and healthy eating clinics. During last summer's Olympics, associates who participated in a simulated walking competition to Rio were offered Fitbits at half price to track their steps to Brazil.
Next year, the wellness focus will address financial preparedness. "Money worries
impact one's health," says Duncan. "We want to make sure our associates are financially savvy, as well as physically, fit."
Equally important for Powell, now a Business Development Specialist in Travel Insurance Marketing, is a chance to develop new skills and experience different opportunities. When she expressed interest in moving into a leadership role, Powell's managers made sure she received the necessary support and training. "I want always to keep challenging myself and developing," she says. "There are tremendous opportunities here to move around and try different roles."
Powell lives in Barrie, Ont., and her commute is more than one hour each way. "It's no fun, but I would not keep doing it for 11 years if I wasn't going to an incredibly positive environment," she says. "The people are genuinely passionate - and they care."