Getting on the Same Page

After a series of mergers, Homewood Health’s executive VP of human resources, Francine Bolduc, is taking a unique approach to building the company’s culture

In 2010, the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games came to Vancouver, necessitating an army-size staff to develop new sports venues, market the event, and work with various city departments and organizations to solve transportation, housing, and environmental issues. Francine Bolduc found herself at the epicentre as the leader of the HR division for the prep team, and though her tasks were monumental, they taught her valuable lessons about how to look at her work in context, how to understand the service a company or organization needs, and how to create the proper framework to support employees.

These skills have been incredibly useful at her new employer, Homewood Health, a private organization that supports total health for Canadians, including organizational-wellness services, employee-health management, addiction treatment, and the Employee & Family Assistance Program. When Bolduc joined the organization, in 2010, as executive vice president of human resources, there was a great deal of change on the horizon, and Bolduc’s particular experience has allowed her to navigate it collaboratively.

Homewood Health is the result of two consecutive mergers: the first between Homewood Employee Health and Homewood Human Solutions in 2010, the second, most recently, between Homewood Human Solutions and the Homewood Health Centre. So, before Bolduc can focus on ways to strengthen company culture, she has first had to figure out how to integrate the cultures of these different companies.

“We have very talented people on both sides, which really helps, but these things take a great deal of time and care,” she says. “We’re still bringing these cultures together. We want to be high-performing yet agile. We want to ensure we’re taking advantage of everyone’s strengths. These are the things we know, but our company culture is still in the process of being defined.”

Bolduc and her HR team have a unique approach to bridging the gaps between the companies, one that is less about policies and programs and more about engaging people. Bolduc says it requires having a clear organizational vision, understanding its strategic objectives, and, lastly, helping employees understand how their roles within the organization connect to its vision and objectives.

“When employees have that clear line of sight from the work they do to what the company does—and how their work directly impacts its success—well, they become pumped,” Bolduc says with a laugh.

Under her watch, the HR department is being integrated into the business side of Homewood, which has required her to maintain an understanding of the priorities of the organization’s stakeholders. To enhance her comprehension, Bolduc actually interviewed certain stakeholders, asking them what keeps them up at night.

“If I learned anything from working on the [Olympics, it’s] that you have to build a culture in a light way,” Bolduc says. “Many will prioritize policies over communication. Don’t get me wrong; infrastructure is very important, but it can’t be forced or overbuilt. What worked at other companies may not work here. We’re figuring out what’s best for us.”