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HOOPP focuses on building an inclusive environment and giving back to the community.Provided

When Elena Palumbo-Sergnese was in the waiting room before interviewing for a job at Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), she was struck by one of its values posted on a wall. “It was ‘compassion,’ and that was not anything I’d seen in any other organization.”

Seven years later, Palumbo-Sergnese, senior vice-president of human resources, can attest that compassion is absolutely one of HOOPP’s values. “We treat our members and we treat our employees with empathy, and we recognize that they are individuals with unique stories,” she says. “That’s my experience of the organization, and I think people feel that appreciation.”

Working for HOOPP was personal for Palumbo-Sergnese, who’d experienced her own significant health issues and was grateful for the care she’d received. “Being attached to an organization that has a purpose is really important,” she says. “Knowing that we are supporting health care workers in Ontario by delivering to them retirement security aligns with my own personal values. It is a way for me to give back to those who had done so much.” Among HOOPP employees, she adds, her experience isn’t unique.

HOOPP’s mission is also what drew Sarah Alexander, senior legal counsel, corporate and governance, legal services & governance division. “It’s a really unique organization where you have the opportunity to work with people who are very much aligned with your values,” she says. “When you can tie the individual work you do to a greater purpose, there’s nothing better than that. That’s the ideal circumstance for a workplace.”

One of HOOPP’s increasing focuses has been on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), Palumbo-Sergnese says. “We want to ensure that we have psychological safety across the organization, that people can bring their whole selves to work, that it’s an inclusive environment,” she explains. “It’s actually part of our strategic plan. And it really is a way to build the right culture.”

HOOPP’s long-standing commitment to EDI led to the creation of its EDI Council in 2023. “It’s a great forum for employees to discuss initiatives we’re working on in our divisions to encourage participation within the organization,” says Alexander, who represents HOOPP’s legal services & governance division on the council.

Alexander says they’ve partnered with the University of Toronto (Laws In Action Within Schools) for the last three years to give students from less-advantaged groups exposure to the legal profession.

“For me, it was such an incredibly valuable opportunity to be able to participate and for the organization to be fully supportive of our participation in that program because of the impact,” she adds.

HOOPP staff have stayed in touch with the students, and some are now taking courses in politics or law as part of their undergraduate studies. “You can see the value,” Alexander says.

HOOPP’s compassion extends far beyond its walls. The United Way is its charity of choice, and throughout the year, employees contribute in myriad different ways – from putting together meal kits to stuffing knapsacks with school supplies. In addition, employee resource groups do community service for the equity groups they represent. “There is always something happening here around giving back to the community,” says Palumbo-Sergnese.

In legal services, there’s an annual pro bono volunteer day, when the lawyers put the work aside and provide legal advice to the community for free. “In some instances, we have to brush off our textbooks to answer some of the questions because we don’t deal with certain issues on a day-to-day basis,” says Alexander. “HOOPP is supportive of these initiatives. As an organization, it encourages staff to volunteer and give back to the community.”

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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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