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 University of Waterloo was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017) and Waterloo Area's Top Employers (2017):
- University of Waterloo encourages employees to prepare for the future with contributions to a defined benefit pension plan, retirement planning assistance and health benefits that extend to retirees (with no age limit)
- Employees who are new to University of Waterloo receive three weeks of starting vacation allowance, moving to four weeks after only four years of employment
- University of Waterloo's campus offers a number of onsite amenities including a quiet room for meditation and religious observance, a cafeteria with healthy and special diet menus and a fully-equipped fitness facility, featuring squash courts, a golf simulator, a swimming pool, a hockey rink and a bouldering wall
University of Waterloo: Call it the university of innovation
Martha Foulds arrived at the University of Waterloo in May, 1999, to assist with its annual Canada Day celebrations. The event is a big deal, attracting more than 60,000 people from Waterloo, Ont. and the surrounding communities, and Foulds had been sent to help as part of her community college internship.
"Once I got here," she says, "I didn't want to leave." Now Director of Planning in the Faculty of Engineering, Foulds readily admits that "my career path hasn't been direct."
"You have an opportunity here to try different things," she says. "There are larger organizations like the registrar's office that might provide a different environment than, say, a smaller academic department, all under the same employer. I couldn't have followed this path anywhere else."
In an institution that set out from its first days in 1957 to be different, Foulds' employment experience is not unique. Thousands of others share similar experiences. With almost 36,000 full- and part-time students, the University of Waterloo has earned a reputation as the country's top innovation university.
Supporting an entrepreneurial culture and relationships with the world beyond its campus, Waterloo operates the largest equity-free startup incubator in the world, the Velocity program. It also administers the world's leading post-secondary co-operative education program and is one of seven Canadian universities ranked in the global top 200 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Meanwhile, President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur is one of 10 university presidents and the only Canadian invited by the UN to join the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 initiative, a global campaign to advance gender equity throughout the world. As part of the initiative, Waterloo is committed to increasing the participation of women in faculty and leadership positions and to increasing female enrolment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
"Every time I read about another accomplishment at the university, I think about the team behind it," says Marilyn Thompson, Associate Provost, Human Resources. "Our faculty, staff and students make us what we are."
Thompson had no intention of leaving her home in Newfoundland when the university recruited her in 2014. But she'd never encountered an environment like Waterloo's.
"I'd reached the VP level in my career, so I knew about planning and implementing programs," she says. "But we do things differently here.
"Every organization talks about benchmarking, for example. But that's not our goal. Why would we want to measure ourselves against something that's already been achieved? Why aren't we exploring what hasn't been done before?"
Innovation informs the way that Thompson and her team develop and apply HR programs and strategies. "What should I expect as a new employee at a place founded on innovation?" she says. "What should we be doing for people we're here to serve? The onus is on us to deliver."
As it does in its academic pursuits, the university leads the world in applying best employment practices. Waterloo administers an award-winning program for employees to develop and reinforce inclusive behaviours and skills, for example. Its wellness and healthy-workplace programs emphasize mental health.
"We ensure people are valued," says Thompson. "We make it not just OK to talk about mental health, we make it part of the conversation."
The same imaginative forces that drive programs such as these prevail throughout the university.
"There's an energy to this campus," says Martha Foulds. "I've now been doing the same job for seven years, but it's never the same job from one year to the next. I continually work with new people, new ideas. I can't get bored."