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Manulife provides employees spaces for learning which includes Legacy Space, a dedicated area for Indigenous awareness.Provided

Natalie Czobit Fanone is the co-op student who never left. Her learning journey at insurance leader Manulife Canada began right at the start with a mentor who encouraged her to figure out her future path.

Over the next 10 years, Fanone explored several different roles, eventually switching from formal marketing into her present dream job as director, human centred design enablement, Canada.

“I like helping people understand how to do things differently or better,” says Fanone. “I followed that extracurricular interest at work and ended up turning it into my full-time job, which was really rewarding. A lot of my role is developing training programs – something I had a natural inclination for but no formal training – so Manulife paid for me to go to George Brown College and do a certificate program.”

Fanone says Manulife has invested in her learning and career development multiple times along the way. Currently she’s doing a course in strategic change management.

“I started with the internal programs on Pursuit – Manulife’s online learning platform – because we have a lot of great curated content there, and then took it to the next level with an external program with the support of my leader,” says Fanone. “The commitment to learning is real and there’s the flexibility to make it work.”

“Pursuit gives us a world-class online platform for learning that colleagues can access anywhere and any time, while Fuel Up Fridays give us the time and space for learning,” says Michelle DeBeyer, head of HR for Manulife Canada. “Each month all year the company sets aside a Friday afternoon for employees to focus on learning and development. It gives them another tool in their tool box for growing their careers.”

Manulife introduced Fuel Up Fridays in 2022 to support the well-being of staff and help build an ‘always learning’ culture. Employees can explore new skills, deepen current ones or complete required compliance or team-specific training. As of last Aug. 31, employee learning globally totalled 636,000 hours, with 90,914 hours of that completed during Fuel Up Fridays.

“A lot of companies say, ‘learn, learn, learn’ but you don’t have time,” says DeBeyer. “Everybody’s really busy so we give people the time to take that three-hour course on leadership or acquire new skills via expert-led video. They actually have time budgeted for that.”

Typically, colleagues can have a conversation with their leaders and managers on what their development opportunities are, says DeBeyer. Then the company provides the courses, platforms and time for the individual to fulfill that ambition.

“Sometimes you’re just interested in doing something different,” says DeBeyer. “If you really want to be a software engineer, you need to take this coding course. So we give you the time to take that coding course. Then maybe you can apply for that coding job because you now have the skills.”

With the stated goal of becoming the most digital, customer-centric global company in its industry, Manulife recognizes the need to do things differently than before, Fanone says.

“In order for us to be successful, we need to continuously upskill and grow,” she says. “The skills I came in with a decade ago aren’t the skills that would give me the job I have today. Manulife is investing in building up that talent pool themselves.”

Beyond technology, DeBeyer, who is five months new at Manulife, notes how impressed she has been by the kind and welcoming culture.

“Everyone actually wants you to succeed,” says DeBeyer. “There are a lot of support mechanisms in the culture to ensure people can be successful.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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