Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2022), Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers (2021) and BC's Top Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 11, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why British Columbia Investment Management Corporation / BCI was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2022), Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers (2021) and BC's Top Employers (2021):
- BCI organized a virtual health summit in 2020 with presentations on topics such as maintaining health and nutrition during the pandemic, the importance of physical activity and prioritizing sleep, and maintaining connection and avoiding isolation
- BCI supports new mothers with generous maternity and parental leave top-up payments (to 85 per cent of salary for 52 weeks) as well as new fathers and adoptive parents (to 85 per cent of salary for 36 weeks) -- parents returning from leave can also participate in a buddy program, which matches participants with employees who returned from leave in the past year
- BCI helps employees maintain a healthy balance between work and personal time, offering four weeks of starting vacation allowance along with six additional paid personal days, which can be scheduled at employees' convenience
Amid a pandemic, BCI bolsters support for employees
I n February, Minh Tran’s mother-in-law fell ill with cancer, passing away in April. Tran, manager of IT vendor and contract management at British Columbia Investment Management Corp. (BCI), needed time and support to deal with this personal tragedy – especially amid the challenges of the pandemic.
BCI provided both in spades. “People in our culture, from the leadership team to my direct manager – even people I don't normally talk to – told me, ‘Hey, we’ve got your back,’” he recalls.
“Did I need food dropped off? Did I need other help? And I think that says a lot about the company. That gave me the confidence to step away a little bit and support my wife as she provided palliative care to her mom. The people at BCI are fantastic and the culture they create is fantastic.”
The firm – which provides investment management services for B.C.’s public sector and handles close to $200 billion in assets – had already demonstrated its commitment to employee well-being when COVID-19 struck. For Tran, that meant a whole lot of flexibility and support when he and his close-knit team had to abruptly shift to working at home (Tran has voluntarily returned to BCI’s Victoria head office, but other employees continue to work remotely).
Still, maintaining work-life balance was a challenge. “My wife had gone back to work, and at home, I’d be in the middle of negotiating a contract with some of our leadership,” Tran says. “Then, in the middle of it, my three boys (ages 13, nine and seven) would start fighting, so I would have to go on mute, deal with my kids and then come back and try again. That context switching was quite disruptive.”
But BCI’s Employee and Family Assistance Program, and its culture of supporting staff, helped him persevere. “Without question, people are our most important asset here,” says Lincoln Webb, executive vice-president and global head of infrastructure & renewable resources. “We'd like to think that starts with ensuring we have a positive, inclusive work environment which we promote through our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council.”
Wellness and mental health are paramount at BCI, he adds, pointing out that a few years ago, the firm introduced the professional online counselling program Inkblot Therapy to staff to help bolster the existing team of trained BCI mental health first-aiders, and it has proven very helpful during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in addition to a gym at the Victoria headquarters, the company has a physical activity reimbursement plan to help employees pay for gym memberships, fitness classes and even, during COVID-19, home equipment – Tran used it purchase a set of weights.
Overall, says Webb, the pandemic seems to have galvanized staff. “Despite working remotely, the staff are bound together more closely since the pandemic. It really strengthened the collective commitment to the firm and each other. And it resulted in one of our best investment years ever.”
He adds that BCI also learned how to function and support staff better. “Many old mindsets have been broken – for example, the way we use technology to create flexibility in our work and improve collaboration,” he says.
“The pandemic also opened up our thinking about how we can support our people in the future. We’ve improved variable work arrangements, enhancing opportunities for staff to balance work and family. And through town halls and other tools, the communication level has gone way up.”
BCI employees say they feel more connected than ever
Like most of her fellow employees at the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), Gina Dennison was worried the pandemic would leave her feeling isolated. But now she has a whole new family.
Dennison, analyst, enterprise risk management, is part of the company’s COVID-19 working group tasked with ensuring employee health and safety. Coping with the huge responsibility – and meeting virtually every day since March – has brought them closer together.
“We’ve really become quite a family. It shows how resilient we are at BCI,” says Dennison.
“We’ve become closer as we’ve worked hard to ensure we’re in the best place possible, because employee health and safety is the top priority.”
Headquartered in Victoria, BCI ensures the financial security of 630,000 pension plan beneficiaries and 2.5 million workers while handling over $171 billion of managed assets. It’s a leading provider of investment management services for B.C.’s public sector.
When the pandemic hit, BCI shifted employees overnight to working remotely. It provided a stipend to pay for setting up home office spaces and offered home ergonomic assessments. Healthcare support was increased thanks to a virtual healthcare provider.
The BCI COVID-19 working group also developed resources like the managers’ guide to supporting employees during the pandemic and a hybrid teams best practices guide. A constant flow of information with virtual townhalls, a dedicated COVID-19 microsite and regular check-ins keep employees and managers connected.
“We surveyed staff throughout to gauge how well they’re connected and found the pandemic had actually increased the feeling of connection with their team and BCI, which was really surprising given we’re all working from home,” says Dennison.
BCI’s COVID-19 response wasn’t limited to within the corporation. It’s kept in constant contact with its clients and strengthened ties to the community. BCI continues its long-standing relationship with the Greater Victoria United Way, focusing on the most vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic, like isolated seniors, mental health and addictions.
“Since we started participating, we’ve given over a million dollars to the United Way,” says chief operating officer Shauna Lukaitis.“It’s important to us that we help people in the community not just with our time, but with our pocketbooks, because we’re so very fortunate to be able to continue to work.”
A strong foundation of employee empowerment and constant communication has helped BCI not just survive but thrive during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 put our resiliency and ability to respond quickly to the test and the corporation is successfully navigating those challenges,” says Lukaitis.