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Sanofi Canada employees connecting during a BBQ event at its 54-acre campus.Provided

One of the first things Benoit Lemelin did after he joined the executive team at Sanofi Canada in December 2022 was to introduce what he calls ‘Bagel Fridays with Ben.’ Each week he would set aside four 45-minute sessions for any employee, at any level, who wanted to discuss their career and professional development.

“At first, some people told me ‘no one’s going to come for a bagel; no one’s going to come on a Friday,’” says Lemelin, who buys the bagels in Montréal when he visits his ailing mother every other week. “Turns out my Fridays are fully booked.”

It’s a fitting turn of events at Sanofi Canada, part of a global biopharmaceutical and health-care company that’s rewriting its prescription for human resources. In fact, Sanofi no longer uses the term – and that’s just fine with Lemelin, whose title is people and culture business partner Canada.

He’s also quick to point out that he has “zero direct reports.” Recruitment, hiring, benefits and all the other tasks that HR departments traditionally oversee are handled by the People Excellence and other “centres of excellence” teams. That leaves Lemelin free to concentrate on coaching and strategy.

“It’s one of the reasons I came to the company,” he says. “I get to focus on the bigger picture in a way that wouldn’t be possible if I had to deal day-to-day with routine activities.”

In November, Sanofi Canada consolidated its operations at its 54-acre campus in north Toronto. The site hosts commercial, research and development (R&D), and support function teams, as well as state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities producing various vaccines. In addition, Sanofi established a global artificial intelligence centre of excellence in downtown Toronto in 2022.

What’s more, the company is on track to deliver over $2-billion in new infrastructure investments by 2028 to enhance its vaccine capabilities. The campus, in fact, is already one of the largest vaccine R&D and manufacturing facilities in the world, exporting vaccines to over 60 countries while also protecting over seven million Canadians annually against infectious diseases.

With operations in over 100 countries, Sanofi has a long-standing commitment to transforming scientific innovation into health-care solutions. As well as vaccines, it offers prescription and non-prescription products for a wide range of common, chronic and rare diseases.

Stephanie Veyrun-Manetti, Canada country lead and general manager, specialty care, says she understands why people are attracted to working for a company committed to improving people’s lives. Sanofi, of course, also wants them to grow and stay.

“We want to be an employer by choice, as well as an employer of choice,” Veyrun-Manetti says.

That’s where people and culture comes in. “We’re putting the focus on people rather than the processes,” she says. “We are very intentional and precise in what we want to achieve and we make sure we execute it well.”

The Canadian country council, for instance, took three months to define how they wanted the company culture to look and feel in three years and then presented the results to employees for further discussion.

“We’re really putting the emphasis on creating a work environment where employees can be their best selves,” Lemelin says, adding that a key for many is feeling included.

Like many companies, Sanofi Canada has a comprehensive strategy to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. And sometimes small gestures speak volumes.

“Employees see us being down to earth and concretely engaged,” Lemelin says. “They feel we’re not doing something just to put a tick in a box.”

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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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