How the Yukon Hospital Corporation Attracts and Retains Top Talent

Five ways Roxane Larouche is helping her company prosper in a remote locale

In 1990, the Yukon Hospital Corporation (YHC) and its board were created in preparation for the First Phase Transfer Agreement for health services between the Yukon Territorial Government and Canada’s federal government. Since 1993, the YHC has been responsible for operating hospital facilities across the Yukon Territory, including facilities in Whitehorse, Watson Lake, and Dawson City. Roxane Larouche has held senior HR roles for more than 25 years and was named director of HR for the YHC in 2007.
In 1990, the Yukon Hospital Corporation (YHC) and its board were created in preparation for the First Phase Transfer Agreement for health services between the Yukon Territorial Government and Canada’s federal government. Since 1993, the YHC has been responsible for operating hospital facilities across the Yukon Territory, including facilities in Whitehorse, Watson Lake, and Dawson City. Roxane Larouche has held senior HR roles for more than 25 years and was named director of HR for the YHC in 2007.

1. Engage employees

Canada’s Yukon Territory is known for its seclusion and long winter months, and according to the Yukon Hospital Corporation’s (YHC) director of HR, Roxane Larouche, the greatest challenge is attracting capable talent while retaining existing employees. The key, she says, is engagement.

“We tackle the challenge by encouraging our employees to participate—participate in patient care teams, project teams, and to become a more active part of the local community,” Larouche says. “Engaging our employees both at work and in the community is key. Our Whitehorse General and new Dawson City Hospitals are located near the Yukon River, and there are beautiful walking paths and meeting areas that provide opportunities to socialize. We try to provide many opportunities for employees to participate in local community events, and the fact that many of our employees have been with us for many years speaks to our retention.”

2. Be transparent

When creating advertising and performing interviews, Larouche and her team believe that honesty is the best policy, meaning they’re completely transparent when it comes to their locale and the challenges it may present to prospective employees accustomed to living in larger cities.

“We don’t want anyone to move here without succeeding,” Larouche says. “We’re very honest about our geographic location. It’s not unusual for employees to move to the Yukon to work for us, fall in love with the area, and stay forever, but those from larger cities sometimes have a hard time transitioning to the more rural area, and they leave us. We want to avoid that, and the best way is through transparency.”

3. Offer amazing benefits

In 2011 and 2012, the YHC was selected from more than 2,000 companies and organizations as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. The award is an annual competition held by Mediacorp Canada to recognize organizations that lead their sectors in the attraction and retention of employees. Simply put, those that make the cut are the best places to work in Canada, and there’s no denying that the Yukon Hospital Corporation deserved the recognition. All indeterminate employees are provided with extensive health care, leave, and other benefits, such as maternity and parental leave allowances for up to 32 weeks. The organization offers a comprehensive compensation package with full benefits and generally the third-highest wages in Canada.

“Our benefits are incredibly family-friendly, as we pay 100 percent of extended health and dental premiums,” Larouche says. “After one year of employment, employees get four weeks of paid vacation. Not only are we very excited to offer these benefits to our hardworking employees, but we’re very proud to. Our employees are our greatest asset, and we want them to know that.”

4. Emphasize work-life balance

Larouche goes out of her way to attract ideal employees, hiring “the right people with the right skills at the right time for the right place.” Clearly, the YHC wants to retain these employees, which is why the organization emphasizes work-life balance as yet another workforce strategy.

“All of our nurses self-schedule around their personal lives because it’s important to us that they actually get to enjoy the hiking, biking, and camping the area is known for,” says Larouche. “We also offer many on-site amenities, such as a fitness facility with a professional gym and our newly opened day care. Many of our other employees also enjoy flexible working arrangements.”

5. Dispel misconceptions

While being transparent about the reality of the YHC’s surroundings is crucial in Larouche’s quest to attract and retain top talent, dispelling misconceptions about the area could be considered the opposite side of the coin.

“When I first moved to this area in 1984, there were no big-box stores, no fast-food restaurants, none of it,” Larouche says. “Things have changed dramatically; we now have all of that and more, including the Yukon Arts Centre and Yukon College. We’re not missing anything, but I still go to conferences and people will ask, ‘Do you have running water?’”

The Yukon has all of the same resources every other central hub of Canada has access to, just not the variety a city like Vancouver would have.

“Cities like Vancouver have bigger populations, so they have more variety, but we can offer everything they can and some things they can’t, like our beautiful surroundings and work-life balance,” Larouche says. “Alaska is next door, and British Columbia and Alberta are a short drive away—and believe me, all of our highways are paved.”