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 Great-West Life Assurance Company, The was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2016) and Manitoba's Top Employers (2016):
- Great-West Life encourages ongoing employee development through in-house training programs, tuition subsidies for courses taken at outside institutions (including general interest courses), summer and co-op opportunities and dedicated rotational programs for students completing their actuarial or accounting designation
- Great-West Life takes a holistic approach to employee well-being through a wellness spending account that can be used for mental health, physical health and sporting activities, subsidized membership to an impressive onsite fitness facility at the head office, and a number of employee sports leagues and tournaments, including hockey, curling, soccer, volleyball and golf
Wellness is a part of life at Great-West Life
At Great-West Life, wellness is more than just a word. "As a business, our focus is to improve the financial, physical and mental well-being of Canadians," says Cathy Weaver, Vice-President of Human Resources, Canada. "As an employer, we apply that same philosophy to the people who work for us. We understand the link between the health and wellness of our employees and the achievement of our business objectives."
Great-West offers its clients a variety of life, health and disability insurance, retirement savings, and investment products, both to individuals and employees under group benefits plans. It hires about 1,000 new employees a year across Canada. While many have actuarial and accounting backgrounds, a growing number are in digital services, IT and other non-financial professions.
Staff benefit from a corporate culture that encourages them to address their wellness in the workplace and helps them achieve work-life balance. These two themes were reflected when Great-West introduced employee wellness accounts and paid personal days in January 2015. Both were identified as priorities in a recent staff engagement survey.
Wellness accounts can be used to pay for recreational equipment and activities. "Wellness means different things to different people," says Weaver. "Our staff are at different stages of life, so we created a program flexible enough to fit their different needs."
The wellness account program has already reimbursed over $750,000 in employee expenditures. For example, a Winnipeg couple, both employees, combined their allotments to buy a $600 canoe. Exercise bikes, hiking boots and fitness class fees are typical of the more than 4,000 claims submitted.
This year, staff members don't necessarily need to use vacation days to take care of family-related or other issues. "We recognize that 'life happens' to all of our employees outside of work," says Weaver. Flexibility is key, as staff can arrange with their own supervisors to take up to two personal days as needed.
The company maintains a team of eight nurses and three support staff at its main offices in Winnipeg, London, Regina and Toronto. They provide physical care such as immunization and screening programs, wellness education and counselling to employees, help them access the Employee Assistance Program and do ergonomic assessments.
The nurses also follow up on occupational health and safety issues and help employees return to work after suffering a disability. "Our goals are to help people stay healthy, stay well, and stay working," says Annastasia Lambert, Associate Manager, Health Services.
Two years ago, when an employee suffered a stroke at the Winnipeg office, the nurses used their expertise to fast-track an ambulance for her, then later helped her transition back to work with accommodations. "It's satisfying to feel we've made a difference in someone's life, but it doesn't have to be that dramatic," says Lambert. "It can also be helping someone stop smoking or lose weight."
Staff at three main locations also benefit from subsidized memberships at on-site fitness centres, open seven days a week. About half of employees at those locations have joined. The fitness centres offer a variety of exercise classes, and members can hire a personal trainer.
The company also promotes active lifestyles by sponsoring employee sports leagues, including 12 hockey teams (for both men and women), regular curling bonspiels and golf tournaments.
To encourage healthy eating, each of the four main company locations has a full-size cafeteria offering a salad bar and other nutritious food choices.
"Individuals are expecting more than a pay cheque," says Weaver. "They want a workplace that aligns with their values and where they can influence the culture."
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Canada's Top 100 Employers winners, published November 9, 2015 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2016)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 10, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Great-West Life Assurance Company, The was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2016):
- Great-West Life manages a scholarship and work placement program in partnership with University of Winnipeg for Business Administration or Economics students -- additionally, actuarial and CA students working at Great-West Life may have opportunity to rotate departments or cities, including London, Toronto, Winnipeg
- Great-West Life recruits second and third year accounting students from the University of Manitoba who are interested in pursuing the CPA designation and offers 4-month co-op and summer placements
Great-West Life builds talent with student interns
When opportunity knocked, Kim Fierback answered. In 2011, Fierback was an accounting student at the University of Manitoba doing recruitment interviews with several potential employers when The Great-West Life Assurance Company came calling.
"What stood out with Great-West Life was the diverse range of experience I could have while still a university student," Fierback recalls. "The training program offers optional rotations in a choice of nine different departments. Seeing accounting from multiple angles is pretty rare."
Fierback began at Great-West Life as a CA student intern in 2011, and following graduation from university became a full- time staff member in September 2014. She continues to work toward completing her designation, now known as a CPA.
Great-West Life offers a variety of life, health and disability insurance, retirement savings and investment products, both to individual Canadians and to employees under group benefits plans. The company hired about 1,000 new employees across Canada last year, just over half of whom were under 30. While many have actuarial or accounting backgrounds, a growing number are in IT and other non-financial professions.
"Approximately 15 per cent of our workforce is under the age of 30," says Cathy Weaver, Vice-President of Human Resources, Canada. "We want to continue to build that number. Young people bring new skill sets and new perspectives that we are interested in learning from. They are also our succession planning pool for the future."
As it did with Fierback, Great-West Life often makes its first connection with its future accountants and actuaries at the university level when they do co-op placements at the company. "We provide paying jobs while they are students and give them paid time off to study while they are employed here," says Weaver. The company also provides internships for students in human resources and IT.
Once they're members of the Great- West Life team, new employees are encouraged to continue their education. The company offers in- house training programs, such as leadership development, and also supports external courses on subjects such as insurance basics, group benefits and accounting management. For other career-related external courses, each employee is eligible for a credit of up to $2,000 a year.
The company's commitment to work/ life balance resonates with young employees such as Fierback. Great- West Life offers part-time work arrangements as well as full-time with flexible starting times in the work day.
"During my rotation in the Human Resources Financial Management department, I did a compressed work week for a couple of months, working a bit longer each day in return for an additional day off every two weeks," says Fierback. "It certainly helped me with my studies."
Great-West Life gives employees the opportunity to do more than simply work. Employees can also receive paid time off to volunteer for worthy causes. Fierback and seven of her colleagues recently devoted a day to painting the offices and kitchen of Winnipeg's Pregnancy and Family Support Services, a United Way agency.
The company promotes active lifestyles by sponsoring employee sports leagues, including hockey teams (for both men and women), regular curling bonspiels, and golf tournaments. Employees at three main locations benefit from nominal membership fees at on-site fitness centres, open seven days a week.
Employee wellness accounts, launched in January 2015, can be used to pay for a variety of recreational equipment and activities. The program has reimbursed over $750,000 in employee expenditures so far. Exercise bikes, hiking boots and fitness class fees are typical of the more than 4,000 claims submitted to date.
"Our employees are at different stages of life, so we created a program that is flexible enough to fit their different needs," says Weaver. "We value the contributions of our younger employees, and we're working to make Great-West Life an attractive employer for people at all stages of their careers."
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Canada's Top Employers for Young People winners, published January 11, 2016 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.