Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 3, 2020)
Here are some of the reasons why CAAT Pension Plan was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2021):
- CAAT Pension Plan offers generous maternity and parental leave top-up for employees who are new mothers (93 per cent of salary for up to 35 weeks) and also provides parental top-up for new fathers (93 per cent of salary for up to 17 weeks) -- employees can also take advantage of a phased-in return to work as they transition to parenthood
- CAAT Pension Plan helps employees balance unexpected challenges in their day-to-day lives with flexible work hours, six paid personal days per year (which can be scheduled as needed), and up to six paid sick days annually
- CAAT Pension Plan encourages employees to plan securely for the future with retirement planning assistance and contributions to a defined benefit pension plan
Core values count at CAAT Pension Plan
On their first day of work at CAAT Pension Plan, newcomers used to find balloons greeting them at the reception desk and their workspace. Pre-pandemic, it was a fun way to welcome them to an environment that thrives on teamwork. So what happens when everybody’s working safely from home and nobody’s in the office?
Even as the COVID-19 crisis led to widespread layoffs elsewhere, CAAT continued to hire. Indeed, in the first six months of the global pandemic, 70 newcomers were onboarded. So creating a special online welcome for them was among the myriad details that CAAT attended to as it expanded and enhanced its virtual resources.
In the process, it went beyond providing the secure connections needed to keep the Plan running smoothly – it launched initiatives to help employees themselves feel secure. A new staff portal, for one, provides timely, accurate information from top public health officials about COVID19. Learning opportunities, wellness tools and resources, feedback channels, informal interactions with colleagues and more are all also just a click away.
“I feel very comfortable saying we left no stone unturned serving our members and employers, and supporting the ongoing health and safety of our staff and community,” says Derek Dobson, CEO & Plan Manager. The guiding philosophy behind all CAAT’s pandemic-related activities is CAAT’s purpose and culture, he says.
Established in 1967 to provide pensions for 2,300 full-time employees of Ontario’s 24 Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology, CAAT gradually extended the Plan to a wider range of employers and employees. The Plan now has over 63,500 members and 56 additional participating employers throughout Canada from nine different industries and 14 labour unions.
Acting in the best long-term interests of its stakeholders, CAAT has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s leading providers of sustainable defined benefit pensions. So, early on, CAAT reassured members that despite upheavals in the investment market, their pensions were secure and would be paid on time. Its message to employees also focused on easing anxiety: their jobs were safe.
The CAAT office in the downtown Toronto core eventually re-opened with extensive sanitation and social-distancing protocols in place. Nobody, however, was required to return; the decision was up to each individual.
Openness, trust and respect for one another are core values at CAAT, Dobson says. Those and other key tenets of the workplace culture, including teamwork and innovation, facilitated CAAT’s transition to a virtual workplace, he says, noting technology was the enabler and not the focus.
Jennifer Goerz agrees. When her position as CAAT workplace wellness specialist was created in 2019, her responsibilities included developing and delivering physical, mental and financial wellness initiatives. Those three pillars haven’t changed, she says.
“CAAT objectives and priorities are the same,” says Goerz. “It’s only the method of delivery that has changed.”
Each employee working from home faced unique circumstances, whether unsuitable workspaces or feeling overwhelmed by multiple obligations, so solutions centred on flexibility and resilience, she says. This included extending the cap on the number of counselling sessions available through CAAT’s employee assistance program; dedicated sessions on mental health; expanding the fitness incentive to include things such as virtual yoga; and providing ergonomic equipment to make working from home more comfortable. “We can all be proud of what we’ve done,” says Goerz.
Although CAAT managers stayed in regular contact with their team members, Dobson says it “warmed his heart” when he learned that employees had taken to spontaneously reaching out to one another to make sure they were all right.
So while no one wanted the pandemic, there were some silver linings, he says. “When the unexpected happens, everybody’s workplace culture gets tested, but we’re emerging stronger than ever.”