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CAAT Pension Plan employees volunteering at a garden clean-up for Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.Provided

At CAAT Pension Plan, everyone is on a mission to create better financial futures for Canadians. “Alignment to purpose is at the heart of everything we do,” says Julie Giraldi, chief human resources officer.

That purpose resonated with Jason Lau when he started in 2015. “It’s no coincidence that I’m still here,” says Lau, associate portfolio manager on CAAT’s investment team. “It’s a special place with a special mission and purpose.

“It brings me joy to help prepare Canadians for retirement and to know that our members can retire with dignity and not worry whether they can pay their bills or if they will outlive their retirement savings.”

Acting in the best long-term interests of its stakeholders, CAAT has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s leading providers of sustainable defined benefit pensions. And it’s growing rapidly.

In 2019, it had about 85 employees. Today there are more than 425, a number that’s expected to keep climbing in response to the influx of new members and employers joining CAAT since it enhanced and extended its offerings.

Established in 1967 to support the Ontario college system, CAAT now serves more than 290 employers in 15 different industries throughout Canada, including the for-profit, non-profit and broader public sectors.

Much of CAAT’s growth took place during the pandemic, compounding the challenge of welcoming and integrating so many new people. Nevertheless, the most recent annual survey showed employee engagement at 88 per cent, an increase from 76 per cent in 2019.

Giraldi attributes the high score, in part, to CAAT fostering a culture of connection, collaboration and belonging. This includes fun social events, the HR department’s regular newsletters - which let employees know what their colleagues in different departments are doing - and more.

It all starts with the onboarding process. Giraldi, who joined in 2018, recalls that pre-pandemic, people were greeted with balloons on their first day in the office. And the message that teamwork is a core value arrives in the form of a CAAT team jersey with the individual’s name on the back.

Opportunities for professional development also contribute to employee engagement, she says. CAAT Academy, for example, is an online learning and training portal where employees can prepare for the jobs of the future through up-skilling and re-skilling, Giraldi says.

On top of that, the organization has its own take on mentoring. “Mentors are matched to mentees based on an individual’s skills, not their role or seniority,” Giraldi says. “We have five generations in the work force right now and they all have different areas of expertise they share with one another.”

Then there’s CAAT’s active employee engagement committee. Lau is one of eight volunteer members from different departments who meet regularly throughout the year to develop engagement strategies and collaborate on action plans.

They also offer advice to CAAT’s leaders on different matters. For instance, the committee helped develop policies for the hybrid work model that CAAT adopted as the pandemic waned, Lau says.

“I’m proud of making a difference,” he says. “It’s rewarding to see those higher engagement scores. The best thing about CAAT is that we’re all working toward a common goal and that really energizes people.”

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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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