Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021) and Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 12, 2020)
Here are some of the reasons why Desjardins Group / Mouvement Desjardins was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021) and Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers (2021):
- Desjardins Group has implemented a number of creative ways to support its non-telecommuting employees over the course of the pandemic, including reimbursement for parking fees, cab fares, daycare fees, ergonomic home office equipment, an additional half-day of vacation per week, and even the reimbursement of the cost of cancelled personal trips that were not covered by insurance -- and over 80 per cent of employees have been able to work from home over the past year
- Along with helping employees save for retirement through contributions to a defined benefit pension plan, Desjardins Group helps employees prepare for life after work with retirement planning assistance and phased-in work options when nearing retirement -- retired employees can remain in the health benefits plan with no age limit (with shared contributions)
- Desjardins Group's distinctive head office features an extensive original art collection to provide "a touch of humanity and beauty to the workplace," a full-service cafeteria, and outdoor rest areas that feature ponds and plenty of surrounding vegetation
The Desjardins mantra: proximity and flexibility
The first thing Shereeza Ali did when Desjardins Group topped up employees’ health spending accounts was to buy an ergonomic desk chair. The piece of furniture was the final item she needed to work safely and comfortably from her home office in Stouffville, Ont.
Canada’s leading cooperative financial group had begun sending employees home on March 10, 2020, just four days after executives returning from business trips abroad described the impact COVID-19 was having on regions of Asia and Europe.
At the time, about five per cent of Desjardins employees worked remotely; IT teams rapidly ramped it up to 80 per cent. Marc-André Malboeuf, vice-president of HR solutions development, describes it as the largest shift in the company’s 120-year history.
“We are absolutely determined not to be a vector of contagion,” he says, noting that teleworking is just one of many measures the financial cooperative took to protect its employees, members and clients.
Ali says few of her clients even noticed a difference in how they were interacting. A claims adviser, accident benefits, with Desjardins Insurance since 2013, she spends a lot of time on the telephone with people who’ve been in motor vehicle accidents, reassuring them and arranging medical care. But Ali herself detected a significant change.
“The biggest part of the job has always been listening,” she says, “but people are far more stressed now. Some have felt stranded when their treatment clinics closed. Others are alone and lonely and just need someone to speak with. Some calls have lasted over an hour.”
Knowing that delaying therapy can impede an accident victim’s long-term recovery, Ali is always eager to get them the help they need. So, although she can rely on her 14-member team and direct manager for virtual backup and brainstorming, she says maintaining a healthy worklife balance has become a challenge.
Leaving work used to clearly demarcate the end of her shift, but now it’s all too easy to keep on making phone calls, Ali says. “I’ve had to learn to step away. I have two young daughters who also need me.”
Malboeuf says that Desjardins expected employees working remotely would experience certain problems and augmented its range of supports. Managers, he says, were given two key mantras: proximity and flexibility. In other words, they should stay in close contact with their team members and accommodate individuals with demanding child- and/or elder-care obligations, depressed by social distancing, or faced with other complications.
Desjardins also prioritized clear communications, including regular employee web conferences with president and CEO Guy Cormier. New internal websites offer employees comprehensive information about COVID-19 or opportunities to simply socialize with colleagues they miss seeing daily. The company has also posted how-to videos and capsules on everything from teleworking with children to home office ergonomics.
At the same time, the company has introduced a variety of initiatives to help members and clients navigate tough times. Ali’s anxious clients, for instance, now have access to teleconference counselling with third-party psychologists.
Other group divisions have, among other things, deferred payments on credit cards and loans, offered members aged 18 to 30 psychological and legal assistance by telephone, and worked with outside partners to help businesses shift online.
Desjardins has a different mindset that doesn’t just focus on the bottom line, Malboeuf explains. “We were created as a cooperative that gives back. It means we make decisions based on what’s best for our people. After all, we’re all in this together.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2020):
By Richard Yerema and Chantel Watkins, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jun 15, 2020)
Here are some of the reasons why Desjardins Group / Mouvement Desjardins was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2020):
- Desjardins Group has longstanding programs to encourage members to move from paper to e-statements and launched an internal paper reduction challenge that has led to reduced paper consumption (by 18 per cent since 2014), as well as a simultaneous increase in the use of recycled paper
- Desjardins Group launched the alternative transportation program "A New Route for Your Commute" back in 2010, encouraging employees to think about the impacts of single car commuting -- the initiative features transit subsidies, discounts for bike-share programs, locker rooms and showers for bike commuters (with over 1,000 users in Montréal), an online carpool sign-up system and a daily shuttle bus between the Lévis and Montréal offices -- a program that enabled over 17,870 individual trips last year, which is the equivalent of eliminating nearly 700 tonnes of greenhouse gases
- Desjardins Group introduced special financing rates for members who purchase new hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as discounts on insurance rates (over 50 vehicle models now qualify) and special incentives for green home purchases or renovations -- employees can also incorporate environmental sustainability into their long-term investments through the "SocieTerra" portfolio of investment and savings products
Environmental responsibility is in Desjardins’ DNA
For Desjardins Group, the focus on implementing sustainability initiatives and responsible investing is nothing new. In fact, the country’s leading cooperative financial group has been making the transition for over 25 years. “It’s not a question of marketing or following a trend,” explains president and CEO Guy Cormier. “It’s really in our roots, it’s in our mission, it’s in our DNA.”
Over the past five years, the company – carbon-neutral since 2017 – has taken steps to accelerate that transition out of the belief that the industry must adapt to climate change. “It’s not a question of if or should we,” adds Cormier. “We must.”
To reduce and compensate for its emissions, Desjardins supports projects that credibly demonstrate the amount of carbon they reduce. “We strive for local socioeconomic development,” explains Gildas Poissonnier, manager of the sustainability and responsible finance department, “and one way to achieve that is to be selecting carbon offsets projects in the communities where we do business.”
Within Desjardins offices, the focus is on reducing paper (in 2019, paper consumption was down 23 per cent from the previous year), banishing single-use plastics and encouraging employees travel to work “with less impact,” as Poissonnier says, with showers and locker rooms for those who run, walk or cycle in most key offices.
About 7,000 employees take advantage of a partial reimbursement of monthly transit passes, and parking incentives are provided for those who carpool. Desjardins has also implemented a network of 184 charging stations for electric vehicles in Ontario and Quebec, with more to follow.
Desjardins is also a committed responsible financial group, and all projects it invests in have been assessed under environmental, social and governmental (ESG) criteria. In each of the last two years, for example, the company declined about 25 per cent of the financing files presented to them because they weren’t acceptable from an ESG perspective.
The changes have been well-received by members. “It hasn’t affected any of our activities,” Cormier says. “We have continued our growth and we haven’t lost any clients.”
While some organizations may be reluctant to follow Desjardins’ lead because they don’t feel ready, waiting for perfect means missing opportunities. “I’m sure we’ll be better in five years than we are right now,” Cormier adds. “And we are better now than we were five years ago. If everyone in the business community is doing it, we can achieve what we need to achieve.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2021):
By Kristina Leung, Stephanie Leung, and Jing Wang, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 18, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Desjardins Group / Mouvement Desjardins was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2021):
- Desjardins Group manages a Young Intern Director program for individuals between the ages of 18 and 30, allowing them to become familiar with the role of an officer or administrator by completing an internship on the Board of Directors or the Board of Supervision at a Desjardins caisse -- participants may have opportunities to share ideas for new services for young members with committees and commissions
- Desjardins Group maintains a Young Executives Network for managers under the age of 35, which organizes a number of activities for members including an annual conference, a networking cocktail hour, monthly newsletters and community involvement initiatives
Desjardins Group empowers the next generation
For Laurence Laurin, a summer job with Desjardins Group, after her first year of university studying labour law and human resources, turned out to be much more than a good opportunity to earn some money. It set her on a career path she hadn’t previously considered.
“I discovered I loved the cooperative side of the business,” says Laurin, who was 19 at the time. “Desjardins is committed to giving back and it really appealed to me that I could have a job that has a positive impact on my community.”
Desjardins, Canada’s leading cooperative financial group, has a democratic, member-run governance structure. Its mission is to create sustainable prosperity by participating in the socio-economic development of people and communities.
Laurin learned another key lesson that summer – Desjardins is dedicated to empowering young people to reach their full potential. Her manager, she says, saw something in her and encouraged her to consider a future with Desjardins. The company, which offers a full range of financial and insurance services, provides opportunities in a variety of employment fields.
The encouragement continued as Laurin worked at various jobs at Desjardins throughout her time at university. Desjardins managers helped her build her CV and point her career in the right direction, she says. “I really appreciated their support. They only wanted what’s best for me.”
Now 25, Laurin is paying it forward. In her final term before graduating in April 2020 with an MBA, she became a fulltime employee with Desjardins. A financial education adviser, she contributes to four educational programs that teach financial literacy and entrepreneurship tailored to specific age groups ranging from six to 25.
At the same time, she’s one of four Desjardins employees on the company’s Youth Advisory Committee, which is also composed of four Desjardins members and four directors from Desjardins’ caisse (or credit union) network, all aged 18 to 35. Their two-year mandate: to share their points of view, aspirations and concerns on the major issues affecting the future of young people and the organization.
When Björn Bruschke joined Desjardins in 2016, he, too, was drawn to the cooperative business model. The vice president of marketing for the Ontario, Atlantic and Western regions notes that instead of answering to shareholders, Desjardins’ decision-making takes into account the long-term interests of the organization, its members and clients. For him, the Youth Advisory Committee has a unique role in that process.
“It’s a fantastic example of how we really care about giving young people a voice,” he says. “They report directly to the president and influence the way we meet the needs of young people.”
For employees, that includes comprehensive training and professional development programs, flexible work arrangements and measures that promote a good work-life balance. Those benefits, and others, became even more meaningful when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a dramatic rise in the numbers of those teleworking, Bruschke says.
Desjardins introduced a range of additional supports including webinars on topics such as wellness and dealing with isolation, he adds. Meanwhile, thanks to virtual recruiting and onboarding, Desjardins continued to hire throughout the pandemic, including honouring its commitment to employ 500 summer students.
Bruschke is particularly proud of how Desjardins’ managers have taken time throughout the pandemic to stay in close contact with their team members.
After all, like Laurin, he’s experienced what a mentor’s interest and guidance can mean to a young person’s career. Just 34, Bruschke was named to his vice president’s position in October 2020.
“I was fortunate to learn from some of the best,” he says. “They pushed me, they challenged me, they made me grow.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2021):
By Kristina Leung and Stephanie Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Desjardins Group / Mouvement Desjardins was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2021):
- Desjardins Group established a goal to have women represent 50 per cent of senior management positions by 2024 and is implementing a female leadership development program in partnership with L’effet A
- Desjardins Group's #togetherforreal initiative addresses a variety of topics related to diversity and inclusion, with events open to the public in order to help build bridges between employees and society (past activities include a conference on International Women's Day, a panel discussion on women in leadership and male allyship, and a workshop on trans realities)
- Desjardins Group participates in "Un emploi en sol québécois," a program sponsored by the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec to help employ newcomers to the province
"I've been a Desjardins employee since 2011. As a lesbian, I feel lucky to be part of an inclusive organization that supports people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, sex or cultural background." Carole-Ann J., Business Development Manager, Desjardins Mortgage Financing
Cooperative values drive diversity at Desjardins
Whether he’s talking about the welcoming workplace culture or the headway he’s already made in his brief career, it’s clear Ismaël Koné is thrilled to be a financial adviser with Desjardins Group.
Born in Ivory Coast, Koné came to Canada by way of France. He settled in Sudbury, Ont., where he earned a bachelor of business administration degree at Laurentian University. Koné says that like many recent immigrants, he puts pressure on himself to make up for lost time. In his final year of school, he worked part time as a bilingual customer service agent for Desjardins Ontario Credit Union.
The heavy workload paid off when Desjardins, headquartered in Lévis, Que., hired him full time after graduation. It was the first of three promotions since 2018 for Koné, who today helps clients with their investments and other financial needs.
“I’m so happy that Desjardins sees me and not my race,” says Koné. “They focus on what I can do, how hard I work and how well I serve my clients.”
Koné is so positive on the work culture that he persuaded his younger brother, Mohamed, who studied accounting at Laurentian, to join him at the organization, which is now Sudbury’s leading financial institution.
Koné adds that the only thing clients have ever had an issue with is his accent. He explains that although he’s bilingual, his first language is French and financial terminology in English is more challenging than everyday language. His colleagues are always eager to help him improve his pronunciation, and his managers and co-workers have been generous with positive feedback and support.
Still, he found it particularly significant when Desjardins president and CEO Guy Cormier stated in a webcast that Canada’s leading cooperative financial group stands with Black Lives Matter. “I see myself having a long future with Desjardins,” Koné says.
In his webcast, Cormier referenced the cooperative values of integrity, respect and inclusion. He emphasized that Black employees, members and clients can count on Desjardins to help create barrier-free opportunities and build a society that recognizes their value.
Desjardins’ standing as a value-driven organization is what motivated Kim Trang Nguyen to join the organization in 2013. After a 25-year career with a global professional services company serving clients in Paris and Montréal, she was ready for a change.
“I felt it was time for me to start giving back,” says the IT director, payment and retail lending solutions. “When I saw that Desjardins shared my values, I knew I could make an impact in the community.”
Nguyen is also ideally positioned to make an impact for women in IT, a traditionally male-dominated field. She’s one of 13 ambassadors – one for each Desjardins sector –who are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) by setting up initiatives and activities.
Desjardins’s D&I program is focusing on three groups to start: women, young people, and visible minorities and people from cultural communities. The ambassadors share lessons learned with one another so they can have a bigger, cross-sector impact throughout the organization, Nguyen says.
In early 2021, Desjardins launched Empowering Women, a Canada‐wide network of women and their allies to take female leadership to the next level. Open to everyone from employees to the boards of directors, the network gives women at Desjardins an opportunity to grow, connect, stay informed and share their stories.
Nguyen says that rather than taking a top-down approach, this initiative helps women prioritize their needs themselves. “We want to make sure we’re walking the talk of our cooperative values.”