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Employees and managers at AGCO strategize personal and career growth together through its ‘Connect Now’ program.Provided

Earlier this fall, Abha Ghuman took special delight in welcoming a colleague to the senior ranks in her department at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), a regulatory agency working directly with businesses in the alcohol, cannabis, gaming and horse racing industries, mandated with helping to prevent harms to Ontarians.

Ghuman is a senior eligibility officer in the liquor eligibility department, and this colleague was someone she had mentored over the past few years, passing on her own expertise and helping them understand the expectations of the job. For Ghuman, it was an incredibly rewarding moment.

“I feel empowered when I’m sharing my experiences and insights with my colleagues,” says Ghuman, who joined the AGCO 13 years ago. “In my present leadership role, I’ve been mentoring new eligibility officers and providing guidance to the team in managing complex new applications. I’m a firm believer that sharing knowledge is the best way of learning.”

Mentoring is typical of the AGCO’s ‘people-first’ approach. The organization is committed to providing training and development opportunities so that every employee can contribute fully. In addition to mentoring, the AGCO’s coaching program is a key component of developing leadership that starts at the executive level but is also an option for employees. All new hires are automatically enrolled and encouraged to try it out.

The AGCO’s new CEO and registrar, Dr. Karin Schnarr, gives full credit to her progressive predecessors for developing a strong coaching culture throughout the entire organization – and for making sure it was grounded in best practices.

Currently, 58 per cent of AGCO executives are registered corporate coaches through the World Association of Business Coaching. Additionally, its Connect Now program encourages coaching conversations between employees and managers to identify areas for development, as well as personal and career growth opportunities.

“I completely agree that our greatest strength is our people,” says Schnarr.

“A people-first organization involves being innovative, pro-active, inclusive and socially responsible. It’s making sure people feel comfortable here so they can voice their opinions and thrive with excellence.”

The AGCO asks all employees to set learning and developmental goals and then supports them through in-house and on-the-job training, external training opportunities and potential financial assistance for career-related education.

“All of our courses have a high uptake – people want to do them, people are interested,” says Schnarr. “Last year, our employees undertook about 7,000 hours of training and we’re seeing the same trending this year.

“As I meet people across the organization, what strikes me is people love what they do – they’re excited and passionate about it. The organization really values the work our people do and gives them the tools to grow in those roles.”

Over her career, Ghuman says she’s had numerous learning opportunities, as well as great mentors who have been crucial to her success.

“With their constant guidance, I’ve really grown professionally and evolved as a critical thinker and better decision-maker,” says Ghuman. “I’ve also benefited from team events that helped me become a better team player, with more empathy toward my colleagues and a better understanding of their individual personalities and backgrounds. I’d say I’ve grown as a better human being.”

Going forward, Schnarr says the AGCO will continue to invest in its people and in making sure that its workplace is an open and inclusive environment.

“We’re listening to our work force about what’s actually working in terms of our training as well as other opportunities they’d like to see,” says Schnarr. “As we grow as an organization, our people will continue to grow with us.”

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