Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2022), Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers (2022) and Montreal's Top Employers (2022):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 11, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Pfizer Canada ULC was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2022), Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers (2022) and Montreal's Top Employers (2022):
- In support of employees working from home for extended periods of time, Pfizer Canada introduced a virtual fitness and well-being program to encourage employees (and their families) to stay healthy -- and the company is one of 25 organizations that have joined forces in support of "WellCan," which is a free collection of digital resources in support of the well-being of all Canadians
- Pfizer Canada recently revised its family-friendly polices, increasing maternity and parental leave top-up for new mothers to 100 per cent of salary for up to 24 weeks and offering parental top-up for fathers and adoptive parents (to 100 per cent of salary for up to 12 weeks) -- additionally, the company offers the convenience of onsite child care at its head office
- Along with helping employees save for the future through a defined contribution pension plan, Pfizer Canada offers retirement planning assistance and health benefits that extend to retirees (with 100 per cent premium coverage and no age limit)
Collaboration is key in Pfizer Canada’s vaccine success
Oscar Mancini vividly remembers December 14, 2020. It was a high point for Montréal-based Pfizer Canada in what he calls “quite a journey” – the day the first people in Canada received Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. Mancini, logistics and supply lead, played a key role in getting it there.
“Since July 2020, I’ve been almost fully dedicated to the vaccine,” says Mancini. “Sometimes it was 12 to 15-hour days, including weekends.” Not that he’s complaining. It was a thrill when all of that planning led to people in long-term care homes in every province receiving those first injections. “It was stressful, but so rewarding.”
Initially, Mancini immersed himself in getting ready, staying in constant touch with Canadian government officials as well as his colleagues in Europe who were testing and then manufacturing the Pfizer-BioNTech doses.
Once it was approved by Health Canada, Mancini and his colleagues at Pfizer went into high gear for the rollout. The vaccine vials had to be shipped from Belgium to Germany to the shipper’s hub in the U.S. and finally to locations in all 10 provinces and the North – always maintained at a temperature of -80C. “We chose a Friday for shipping so we would have the weekend to get it to our locations on the Monday,” says Mancini. “There were government officials and TV crews waiting in many of the places and it had to be on time.”
As the shipments to immunize Canadians continued, a critical element was a proprietary GPS monitoring system developed by Pfizer in partnership with digital companies, says Mancini. “We knew at any moment where the vaccine was, what the temperature was and when it arrived. It was brand-new technology for a new vaccine developed in record time.”
Mancini, who joined in 2001, credits Pfizer’s collaborative culture for keeping things running so smoothly. “Our values are courage, excellence, equity and joy,” he says. “And there are so many competent people at Pfizer – that’s where you see the excellence come out.”
Laura Larbalestier, vice-president of human resources, agrees. “We are incredibly proud of our employees’ contribution to the public health effort of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and to have maintained access to Pfizer’s portfolio of medicines,” she says.
She notes that although Mancini’s long hours were essential for that project, extended hours are not something that the company promotes – in fact, she says, “one of the challenges of working from home is that the lines between work life and personal life have become blurred.
“So we instituted several benefits and programs designed to support our colleagues and effectively manage their overall wellbeing, such as telemedicine, online mental health support, fitness and nutrition programs and other innovative initiatives.” These benefits, along with a hybrid flexible work policy, are now permanent.
Employee excellence goes well beyond the pandemic, Larbalestier adds, whether at the Montréal head office, the company’s specialized manufacturing facility in Brandon, Man., or at its locations worldwide. “It’s all about our colleagues who bring their best to work every single day, because we have patients who are counting on us,” she says. “They desperately need our medicines to manage a broad range of other diseases, from breast cancer to rheumatoid arthritis. The work we do beyond COVID-19 is also critically important.”
Both she and Mancini point to a very special piece of the Pfizer values – joy. “At the beginning of every meeting, we start off with someone talking about a moment of joy – it could be a successful project, or a new baby or a great tomato sauce,” says Mancini. “It’s all about our values, and I do believe Pfizer employees live them every day.”
At Pfizer Canada, joy is part of the corporate culture
One of the global values for employees at pharmaceutical company Pfizer Canada is, simply, “joy.” And in Montréal, Guylaine Lessard found a great way to express it with her team as they worked remotely during the pandemic. They would all go out for a “virtual walk” in which each person strolls on their own while talking to the others on a video call.
“Pfizer has encouraged us to break away from our computer screens to ensure wellness,” says Lessard, who, as field medical advisor team lead, oversees a group of colleagues based across Canada who provide medical and scientific support on Pfizer’s medicines and therapeutic areas to healthcare professionals. “We would go out and talk, but never about work. Sometimes people would turn their camera to where they were walking, which could be different places across the country. We would just have that joyful moment.”
In fact, Pfizer people go out of their way to look for joy, finding time at the beginning of most meetings to highlight moments that have brought joy to employees, from a successful work initiative to a new baby. “Courage, excellence, equity and joy are our values, and we’re very proud that joy is one of them,” says Laura Larbalestier, vice-president of human resources. “I think the focus on joy has been one of the things that has gotten us through the pandemic.”
A trained pharmacist, Lessard has found a lot of joy working for Pfizer Canada. After an initial career in pharmacy, she joined the company in 2009 as a medical information manager – but not without drama.
“I got a sense of the Pfizer culture even before I started,” she says. “Just before my first day, my six-month-old daughter came down with the H1N1 virus. I had to call and tell them, I’m at the hospital with my baby and she’s fighting for her life. And they told me, You know what? Take care of your daughter, and when you’re ready, let us know – we’ll keep your position for you.
“When you hear that, you know you’re getting into a great, great company,” she says. “And from then on, I’ve never been disappointed.”
Lessard, whose daughter soon got well, moved smoothly through a succession of roles, taking on her current responsibilities in 2019. At the same time, she received educational support from Pfizer to obtain her doctorate in pharmacy, a designation that will help in her career development and patient care.
Meanwhile, on weekends and in other free time, she still works as a replacement pharmacist in Québec, again with the full support of Pfizer and aligned with her passion for direct patient care. Lessard also played a key role overseeing the staff COVID-19 vaccinations in April and May of 2021. She led a team of employee volunteers with medical backgrounds as they vaccinated their colleagues at the head office in Kirkland. The employees were encouraged to donate grocery cards, raising over $20,000 for West Island food banks.
Lessard notes that Pfizer operates both at macro level, improving the lives of patients around the world, and locally and nationally, offering strong community support. “It makes you proud to be working for a company like that,” she says.
Larbalestier says professionals like Lessard are a big part of the proud Pfizer family in Montréal. “We have people with chemistry backgrounds, biology backgrounds, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, MDs and many PhDs. We have pharmacists, nurses, economists – the full gamut. It’s a very diverse workforce in terms of opportunity and different types of jobs – there’s something for everybody. And it’s a very interesting place to work.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2022):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 17, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why Pfizer Canada ULC was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2022):
- Pfizer manages a four-year marketing rotation development program, providing participants with work experience in sales and market analytics -- program participants work alongside mentors on real-world projects in different functional and therapeutic areas, while receiving comprehensive training and exposure to complementary areas of marketing
- Pfizer provides students with various opportunities to network with and learn from senior leadership, including an annual student event, town hall meetings and development events -- the organization also offers secondment opportunities for employees to try new roles, develop skills and broaden their knowledge of the business
For Pfizer Canada, young people add to diversity
Antoine Turcotte studied for three years in his business program at HEC Montréal before he joined Pfizer Canada in a commercial role in 2017. Then he spent even longer – four years – learning more about the pharmaceutical marketing field while on the job.
“I joined Pfizer in a new four-year marketing rotation program,” he says. “The goal was to create bench strength – a new wave of marketers – and allow people to develop their skills and go on to a marketing role, just like I did.”
Having graduated with a triple major in math, economics and finance, Turcotte spent two years as a sales representative in women’s health, working primarily with doctors and pharmacists. Then he moved into business analytics and insights for the second two years, analyzing data and doing market research and forecasts.
Now, having completed the two rotations, he is an associate portfolio brand manager in the Hospital business unit, and he knows a lot more about marketing.
“My major was not in marketing – I just had some basic courses. And that’s something I really appreciated about my interviews for the program. I was interested in it, so the hiring managers didn’t close the door on me. They saw that I would bring another perspective and another skill set that they thought would fit in nicely with the program.”
Turcotte notes that he was doing real tasks as a sales rep and an analyst. “Right from the start, it felt like I was going into the actual work market,” he says.
Lisa Del Signore, a senior manager in Human Resources, says Pfizer has shifted in recent years from hiring more experienced outsiders to bringing in new graduates through the rotational program. “We decided to build our own pipeline of talent,” she says. “Young graduates learn what a rep is facing when in front of the client, and then they learn about analytics that inform business strategy. We feel that for a role in marketing, once they have this experience as a base, it’s easier to learn and advance their careers at Pfizer.”
Pfizer regards young employees and their input as an important aspect of its diversity outreach, says Del Signore. The company has also revamped its summer student program to focus on students from under-represented backgrounds, bringing in 12 such students in 2021 with plans to expand in 2022. This, she expects, will benefit Pfizer’s diversity in future as some of the students are hired permanently after graduation. “We are implementing strategies to ensure that we are an inclusive employer, reflective of the customers we serve,” she says.
Del Signore says Pfizer offers many advantages to young people, including its culture and strong work-life balance. The company has announced plans globally to follow a hybrid model when employees return to their sites post-pandemic, with no more than two or three days a week in offices. “It will be as flexible as possible,” she says.
Turcotte notes that Pfizer is very focused on developing its people. He appreciates the mentorship he has received along the way, and has thrived in “a great, great culture,” he says.
“Pfizer is very good at understanding and acknowledging that people are at the centre of everything we do,” says Turcotte.
“Our purpose in our work is to put the patient at the centre, and in our corporate culture, it is the same thing – our colleagues are at the centre of what we do to deliver results to the patient. It is a culture of continuous growth, of learning, of having a good work-life balance.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2022):
By Kristina Leung and Stephanie Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 7, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why Pfizer Canada ULC was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2022):
- Pfizer Canada committed to increasing diverse representation amongst senior leadership by 2023 (women from 30 per cent to 50 per cent and other underrepresented populations from 15 per cent to 30 per cent, including racialized persons, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people living with visible and invisible disabilities, as well as First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples)
- Additionally, the company launched an enhanced summer student program in 2021, with the goal of hiring 50 per cent of students from underprivileged and/or underrepresented backgrounds
- Pfizer Canada rolled out a "Courageous Conversations" program to encourage dialogue on challenging subjects, such as equity, race, and bias
I am proud of Pfizer Canada’s continued commitment in building an inclusive workplace environment where every colleague has the freedom to bring their whole, authentic selves to work each day. This has elevated my own personal sense of belonging within Pfizer even while working virtually from a distance during the pandemic. Alex, Senior Brand Manager
Pfizer Canada is embedding inclusion in its culture
She was born and raised Canadian, but Ranjita Banerjee says she still looked for a sense of belonging as she grew up in Montréal with her Indian immigrant parents. So even after decades of high achievement, including a PhD in oncology research, she still quickly put up her hand when the call went out at Pfizer Canada for someone who’d like to lead its new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) community of practice.
“When you feel different, individuals tend to hold things back – you don't want to upset anyone or have anybody misinterpret what you're trying to say,” says Banerjee. “It’s something I grew up with myself, not trying to rock the boat. So at that moment, I felt I wanted to help create a place where, regardless of your upbringing or your story, everybody felt comfortable.”
Banerjee, who joined Pfizer in 2008 as a fellow in the health economics and outcomes research group, is now commercial development and strategic initiatives lead in the oncology business unit. The DEI work, which involves leading some 18 colleagues in three workstreams, is over and above her day job, and theirs.
Why is that? Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow explains. “We really want this to be embedded in the culture of our organization,” he says. “And there’s no better way of doing that than giving the organization a sense of ownership and accountability.” If the task were carried out only by the human resources group, he says, “it’s not going to have nearly the impact, as opposed to having business unit leads, functional area leads and/or grassroots colleagues who are championing and highlighting those resources.”
At the same time, he notes, Pfizer as a global company has vast DEI resources, including many employee resource groups, which Pfizer Canada takes full advantage of. “That’s why we’ve taken a hybrid approach, where we leverage global resources but really ask our people to own it. We want our colleagues to feel they’ve created this culture that is inclusive.”
Banerjee, who put up her hand in 2019, says the three workstreams focus on: building a culture of belonging; colleagues & leadership – developing a talented, diverse workforce while promoting inclusive leadership; and external stakeholders – advancing DEI through partnerships.
The first priority for the culture group, she says, was to survey the entire workforce to set a baseline on how people felt. “In general, things are going quite positively at Pfizer Canada, so that was a good thing to hear,” she says. One outcome was establishment of a local LGBTQ+ employee resource group, in addition to an existing one for women, and more will likely come, she says. The culture group has also worked to raise awareness of DEI concepts, as well as events such as Black History Month and National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
Meanwhile, the colleagues & leadership group initiated inclusive training for senior people across the organization. It also revamped the summer intern program, in cooperation with a specialized agency, so that 100 per cent of 2021 interns came from under-represented groups.
And the external stakeholders workstream led Pfizer to fund research by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation on health care disparities that under-represented groups may face. It also teamed up with the Legacy of Hope Foundation to help raise awareness about those disparities among Indigenous Peoples.
Pfizer Canada has also set 2023 as its goal to have 30 per cent of its senior leadership coming from underrepresented backgrounds.
“We still have a long way to go,” says Pinnow. “I think the first step to creating a more inclusive culture is just creating awareness.”