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Montréal-based CAE offers employees small projects (‘gigs’) to develop skills beyond their usual work responsibilities.Provided

Nancy Boone had been working as an accountant at CAE for about two years when she learned her five-year-old daughter was autistic. This was going to mean a lot of time devoted to her daughter’s care. But this was 2003, long before work from home was a possibility, and Boone was worried about how she would manage. She consulted her manager – and they designed a flexible schedule so Boone need not be at the office from 9 to 5.

Today, that tradition of empathy is entrenched at CAE, and Boone is part of the leadership committee of Mozaic, CAE’s employee resource group for special needs and neurodiverse people and those caring for them. Moreover, Boone’s daughter now works at CAE herself in another section of the accounting group.

“Throughout the years, the company has had the vision to be more inclusive,” says Boone. “They really see there’s an opportunity there. There’s a pool of knowledgeable people – they only need CAE to accommodate them so they can feel safe and secure in their workplace. And I really feel we have the ear of top management to make that space safe for everyone.”

Montréal-based CAE, founded in 1947, is a Canadian success story, known for its flight simulators and being the leader in aviation training, but it’s also active in defence training and health care. Along with many allied forces, it now trains all 43,000 pilots in the U.S. military at some point in their career. At CAE Healthcare, lifelike simulators help practitioners train for various medical scenarios – including manikins that simulate delivering a baby.

Globally, the company has some 13,000 employees in over 250 locations in more than 40 countries. “The sun never sets on CAE,” says Boone proudly. In Canada, there are operations in Montréal; Ottawa; Toronto; Halifax; St. John’s; Vancouver; Cold Lake, Alta. and Moose Jaw, Sask.

Bob Lockett, CAE’s chief people officer, says CAE’s leading-edge technology and its mission to make the world safer are key factors in attracting top talent. And, he says, “we really take care of our people. They’re the cornerstone of who we are and what we do. You can’t have innovation without talented people. They come from all walks of life, and we’re very diverse in terms of our work force.”

Lockett is proud of what he calls “work-life integration” at CAE. Through CAEheartbeat, a peoplecentric initiative that includes a flexible benefits and time-off policy, “even employees who have been here a short while can take as much vacation time as they want, as long as they are meeting business needs and have sought manager approval,” Lockett says. “There also are sabbaticals available to long-service employees. Plus, there are ‘California Fridays’ – employees can leave at noon on Fridays as long as they have worked 40 hours that week.”

Aside from those who must be on-site, employees have a hybrid work week, determined by each team but commonly two or three days a week in the office.

The company offers leadership and mentorship programs to help people advance, says Lockett. “We also give employees a chance to learn about how to improve their skill set through a program called Gigs, in which there’s a small project outside your regular tasks that you can work on.”

Diversity is a given at CAE. Boone says her five-person team includes people from four different countries. She adds that part of the fascination of working at CAE is proximity to the world of aviation. She has tried out a CAE full flight simulator. “I can do a takeoff, that’s pretty easy. But it’s the landing part that’s more of a trick.”

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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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