Reputation Elevation

Ashley Karpowicz, former Ontario Teachers Insurance Plans HR generalist, shares five keys for attracting the marketplace’s top talent

In late November 2013, the human resources team at the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan (OTIP) celebrated an accomplishment a long time coming. After more than a year of hard work, the provider of insurance products to Ontario’s education community was named a top Waterloo-area employer by Mediacorp Canada. OTIP was able to repeat this feat in 2014 and 2015. Recently, Ashley Karpowicz, a former human resources generalist at OTIP, sat down with Advantage to share the best practices that have allowed OTIP to attract and retain its top talent.

1. Engage employees and provide meaningful opportunities

OTIP and its group of companies are in the midst of unprecedented growth in both group insurance services and individual insurance services. While exciting, this introduces the challenge of trying to fill more roles with top talent in an already competitive landscape.

Her passion for career development motivated Karpowicz to give back to her community. She coaches recent immigrants and graduates on résumé writing, interview skills, job hunting, and other related areas.

To attract and acquire more top talent, it’s important to know what candidates are looking for in an employer. I get similar answers across the board. They want to know that their future employer cares about them and their professional goals, and that they will have an opportunity to contribute to both their workplace and the community at large. OTIP does an excellent job of providing these opportunities.

Second, our employees are encouraged and are given every opportunity to contribute within and beyond company walls. We offer dozens of charitable outreach initiatives driven by our employees’ interests that touch the lives of those in our community. We also encourage departments to come together and rally around a cause. These interactions build a sense of teamwork and morale that is long lasting.First, being named one of the best employers in the Waterloo region shows our community that we care about our people. Competitive salaries, generous benefits, philanthropic and social activities, comprehensive wellness initiatives, and opportunities to progress professionally all contribute to our being named a top employer three years in a row. We even make sure to show these qualities to candidates during the recruiting process before they are hired. We take the time to answer questions, explain our policies, and provide a level of service unparalleled in the insurance industry.

2. Remember that the effort is worth it

Earning the “top employer” title is worth the months of hard work it takes. It’s our way of saying “thank you” to all of our employees. Our employees provide great service to our members, uphold corporate culture, and make OTIP’s future bright. Each year, we start the application in early January and aggregate hundreds of pages of supporting documentation. In May, we submit our application and wait patiently until October for the good news. When we win, we celebrate the achievement!

We’ve also noticed some tangible results on the recruiting side since winning the award in 2013. Website traffic and traffic to our career site has doubled, and we’re well above industry baselines across Canada. In a way, this award has highlighted what we already knew was great about OTIP in a very visible way.

3. Give employees a voice

OTIP’s strong culture is a result of encouraging our employees to participate in building it. We have committees they can be a part of to ensure their input finds its way into our culture and policies. One year through our ongoing employee suggestion program called “Rewarding Ideas,” we approved 53 percent of the suggestions we received, and these approved suggestions saved the company more than $25,000. We also open the lines of communication via town-hall meetings and executive blogs.

4. Dare to be different

We do insurance differently. That motto extends to all parts of our business, including recruitment. I encourage my counterparts at other organizations to think outside the box, push the envelope, and try new methods. For example, social media, while becoming more popular as a recruitment tool, is still underutilized. It’s a great way to reach high-performing, passive candidates who aren’t looking for a new role but become interested in a company as they become more familiar with them. And it’s about building the brand and being able to engage job seekers wherever they are online with information that sets you apart. The combination of social media and the award certainly helps us do this.

5. Keep moving forward

We don’t stop. Right after receiving the 2015 award, we expanded our corporate giving program and initiatives, giving our employees more opportunities to support their charities of choice. We also continue to benchmark against the industry to stay relevant, competitive, and one of the most sought-after insurance employers in Canada.

We’re growing like never before, and we’re committed to continuing to be an employer of choice. Think you know what to expect from a career in insurance? Let us surprise you!