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At Interac, employees have flexibility in their roles to choose the wellness and professional development opportunities that suit their needs.Provided

Five years ago, when Meeka Shah was new to both Canada and her job at Interac Corp., she was grateful to her new employer for its flexible work hours.

“Getting used to winter is still a thing,” says Shah, a director of enterprise risk management at the financial tech company. “I come from a warm country so that’s something I don’t take for granted. We have wellness weekends with an extra day added to every long weekend throughout the summer. And we’ve got summer hours where every Friday on a regular weekend we can log off at 3 p.m. I really try to enjoy the warm weather.”

While remote work and increased flexibility are the new normal at most companies, Interac was already embracing similar initiatives in its focus on employee wellness.

“Wellness is super important,” says Caroline Stephens, chief human resources officer. “Interac has always had top-tier benefits, and it’s because the value embedded in the organization is that you don’t just take care of the person who shows up to work, you take care of the entire person.

“Over the last year, Interac hired over 250 employees and onboarded a new president and CEO, and through lots of change and growth we maintained a strong culture, to the point that our employer brand and value proposition is a big attraction in the market,” says Stephens. “People are coming to us because of our strong trusted brand and culture.”

Another workplace program Shah says she cherishes is the three “quiet hours” every workday, when employees can choose not to book meetings. “It really gives me focus time, or if I need to do something, like book a doctor’s appointment, I know that I’m going to be free.”

“Those hours are meant for whatever the employee needs,” says Stephens. “You use that time for your own sense of balance.”

With a shift across the company to dynamic “agile teams” that are formed to solve a particular task or project, Stephens stresses the importance of encouraging leadership, and breaking down the barriers between management and staff.

“Retention is paramount,” she says. “People need to feel valued. They’ll talk about opportunities for growth, feeling that their contributions are appreciated and have added to the overall success of the organization and the opportunity for leadership.”

“We do a lot of cross-training,” says Shah, “and that means backup for individuals doing a certain type of work. We also have shadow opportunities. I haven’t had to use those yet because there’s so much I’ve been able to learn within my team, but people have reached out to me for shadow opportunities.”

Flexible job roles put a whole new emphasis on professional development, which Shah says she’s achieved with networking and attending conferences with company support.

“Conferences have really helped me in my work at Interac. For us it’s more valuable to go out and hear about what’s new to the market,” she says.

“When I was new to Canada, I went to a ‘women in leadership’ conference. This one really stuck out because as a new immigrant, as confident as you were at home, when you’re new to a country you need to rebuild a little. I saw women being encouraged and celebrating successes and that left an impression.”

“I have never in my career seen the degree of trust that our organization has in management,” says Stephens. “We call ourselves ‘One Interac’ internally. It demonstrates that we’re on the right path, and that people trust that we have their best interests at heart with where we need to get in the business.”

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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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