The Best HR Teams for Innovation in Canada
The Best HR Teams for Innovation in Canada

Leading the evolution

Human resources professionals are making significant strides by devising a range of leading-edge strategies. 

Industry expert Anthony Ariganello, president and CEO of CPHR British Columbia and the Yukon and CPHR Canada, lists the key areas of innovation for the best HR teams: 

  • “Striving to ensure that they foster a ‘people first’ culture and environment – it is easy to lose sight of the need for the human aspect.”

  • “Staying on top of HR trends and not shying away from trying new technology like AI that is unknown but can ultimately better serve their organization.”

  • “Connecting and aligning the growth and development of an organization’s teams with business goals.”

  • “Taking the pulse of the team on a regular basis, listening to their needs, and ensuring the team is engaged and retained.”

The Best HR Teams for Innovation in Canada

Fellow expert and co-founder of atlas copilot, Matt Burns, emphasizes the need to embrace modern tools. 

“If technology and data are an afterthought and not central to their practice, then I ask myself, how innovative are they when they’ll be losing ground to other HR departments that are deploying technology like AI in a more thoughtful way?” 

And he adds, “HR has fundamentally changed in the last four years and what would have been seen as best practice would now be seen as being traditional and out of touch.” 

All of CHRR’s winners have embraced these new methods while remaining grounded in the fundamentals. 

Ottawa Community Housing Corporation

The organization provides housing to 32,000 residents, making it the second largest provider in Ontario, and is reaping the rewards of centering its top to bottom HR approach around five key factors:

  • flexibility

  • health, safety and wellbeing

  • workplace culture

  • an inclusive and psychologically safe workplace

  • opportunities for growth and development


Cindy Newell Ottawa Community Housing Corporation
“We plan to launch a reverse mentorship program and want to flip it and have opportunities for the younger generation to be mentoring the older generation; we see merit in that”
Cindy NewellOttawa Community Housing Corporation

“The charge that we’ve taken is really to embed the initiatives that support those key drivers for employees. That’s really led from our team and fully integrated and supported by leadership at all levels,” explains vice president, people, culture and strategy, Cindy Newell. 

One standout initiative is partnering with the YMCA. 

“Community is at the core of what we do and it makes complete sense from a talent attraction standpoint because one of our critical roles is our maintenance worker, so we need to have a pipeline,” explains Newell.  

Individuals complete a 12-week hands-on placement shadowing a maintenance worker. Since the initiative was launched in 2022, 13 people have taken part and six have become full-time employees, a 46 percent conversion rate. 

OCHC has also innovated to cater for those at the end of their careers with its three-stage retiree program: 

  • pre-retirement support

  • celebrating retirees

  • post-retirement engagement

“We look at opportunities for employees to continue to work if that’s what they want to do, which is very beneficial for us because it helps us retain that institutional knowledge,” says Newell. “Engaging employees’ post-retirement involves how we continue to keep people connected because people are drawn to us as we have a strong social purpose. When people retire without that connection, that could be perceived as a loss, and so we want to provide opportunities to stay connected and mentor the next generation of employees.”

Employees enjoy hybrid working but are given the agency to determine what is best for their performance. 

“Our approach is to focus on the purpose of the office – to enable effective collaboration to drive innovation and continuous improvement, and we are creating inviting spaces that are accessible to, and inclusive of all employees and encourage cross-departmental connections,” comments Newell. 

These initiatives are creating success for OCHC illustrated by: 

  • turnover rate down to 8 percent (2023) from 9 percent (2022) (the national average is 12.4 percent according to the Conference Board of Canada)

  • increase in applications with just under 5,000 résumés received in 2023

  • internal promotions rose from 61 (2022) to 71 (2023)


Investment Management Corporation of Ontario (IMCO)

Managing over $77 billion in assets and providing advisory solutions to public sector clients is a challenging remit, but an enhanced benefits program to reflect employee diversity supercharged everyone. 

Employees have options such as:

  • fertility drug and treatment coverage

  • gender affirmation coverage

  • veterinary costs

  • gym membership

  • music lessons


Kira James Investment Management Corporation of Ontario
“We really think about how we want to grow and be seen as an employer, and part of that is creating diversity much broader than simply representation or metrics around ethnicities”
Kira JamesInvestment Management Corporation of Ontario

The schemes are administered by two platforms, which have a 98 percent participation rate: 

  • Healthcare Spending Account – $1,000 for medical expenses that may not be covered under the current benefit plan

  • Lifestyle Spending Account – $2,000 to $3,500 designed to support health and well-being in ways the standard benefit plan may not cover

“We came to the decision to provide these enhanced accounts in response to feedback that came out of our employee engagement survey where employees were looking for increased flexibility,” explains Kira James, senior vice president, human resources. 

Being proactive is evident in how IMCO offers support, notably as more women graduate from university proportionally compared to men (60 percent across various disciplines). 

“As they move up through management, you begin to see men excel because women are leaving to pursue other life endeavours,” says James. “We want to support employees to make different decisions by making sure they have the benefits to engage in what they feel is right for them.” 

James also references IMCO’s vocal support for gender affirmation. 

“We’re an inclusive employer and we actually mean that and we want people to know if they’re going through any type of gender transition, that we’re here to support them.” 

IMCO's benefit offerings are refined with Workday’s Peakon, a continuous listening platform rolled out this year with an annual survey and pulse surveys every quarter. 

James says, “We’re on a quarterly algorithm now. The benefit is that it’s cyclical, it’s probing employees on questions they may have scored lower in their previous survey, we’re constantly reassessing.” 

Demonstrating the willingness to listen is evidenced by the 93 percent response rate on IMCO's annual engagement survey in 2023. 

In addition, anyone with a team of four members or larger has a dashboard where they can see aggregate responses at the team level and analyze it together. 

“We ask leaders like myself to bring their directs into a room, share the dashboard and talk about what opportunities we have in front of us to be able to continuously enhance our engagement,” adds James.  

Other initiatives IMCO offers include:  

  • employee feedback on office layout

  • remote working webinars on ergonomics and home office expenses

  • milestone program (recognizing one, three, and five years of service) that includes gifts and a letter from the CEO

  • impact awards for employees

The internship program is also something IMCO has shaped in its own image, mindful that other employers only target leading educational institutions. 

“We made the decision that we really wanted to be inclusive. We use both universities and colleges alike, but we post specifically on our website, and then we tried to get it out through word of mouth,” explains James. “We want to make sure that we’re not just looking at diversity dimensions, but we’re actually contemplating different function factors like socioeconomic factors, affordability, and different educational experiences.”

RSG International

Starting as a family business in 1968, the Ontario-based firm has evolved into a global leader in devising cutting-edge road safety solutions with 300 employees across different teams. 

To bring everyone together, RSG began quarterly mixers in 2023. 

“People said they would like to not just to see the department that they work with on a daily basis, but different departments where they have an email relationship,” explains Leah Marche, people and culture specialist. “It’s a chance for everybody in our locations to come together and get to know people outside of their groups.” 

The president, general manager, and HR director also address the group with updates and highlight recognition for certain employees. 

Recognition is tracked using online platform Gusto, which allows employees to allocate monetary rewards to suit their preferences. 

“We’re able to look back quarterly and see which employees have received recognition from their manager. Then, we have another platform with more peer-to-peer-based recognition,” adds Bianca Granicolo, senior human resources manager. 

Themes for the mixers include:

  • fun-filled trivia sessions

  • Bingo nights

  • events at local breweries

  • ten-pin bowling

  • onsite BBQ with ice cream truck and outdoor tents


Leah Marche RSG International
“Anytime we have an event or host a training, we put out surveys to get employee response. We always want to get feedback”
Leah MarcheRSG International

A key aspect is the mixers are held during work hours to highlight their importance. This year, RSG is focusing on mental health and paying particular consideration to it across HR operations, including:

  • Mental Health Monday – a monthly email on the first Monday with topics ranging from financial wellness to environmental wellness to physical wellness, giving employees resources and tips

  • Volunteer Days – one paid day off a year to participate in community service

  • Personal Days – three paid days off a year for personal matters

  • Referral Bonus – $1,000 to $1,500 incentive for employees who refer qualified candidates

  • Menstrual Products – available in washrooms to address period poverty

Creating an inclusive culture is important to RSG and driven by its Equity 101 program. 

All employees take part with an external trainer. 

“They learn about queer identities, the importance of pronouns, their ally capacity, and microaggressions,” explains Marche. “They also learn a lot about the indigenous history of Canada as our trainer is indigenous, so that’s always a really important piece.” 

The firm has added Equity 201, which is non-mandatory, for people who want the next level. 

Marche adds, “We learn about privilege and power systems, we get some tools and strategies to handle difficult and challenging conversations, not just at work but in life. We do more indigenous teachings, [the trainer] walks us through a healing circle and does indigenous drumming. It’s a really powerful course.”

Centurion Asset Management

The financial firm, which specializes in real estate and other alternative asset classes, thinks outside of the box. 

Based in Toronto, Centurion Asset Management is a serial award winner in the HR sector for its innovative mindset. 

Centurion’s latest initiative was to launch a book club for its leadership circle where:

  • 65 employees are enrolled

  • 20–40 employees attend monthly virtual meetings

  • the first book discussed was Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Laura Salvatore, vice president, human capital, explains, “There are a series of preset questions, each of which is opened up to the group for discussion. The idea is that we are able to draw on the unique perspectives and experiences of those participating, allowing for meaningful dialogue and learning opportunities for the other people leaders in attendance.” 

Laura Salvatore Centurion Asset Management
“Our employees are at the core of everything we do. Ensuring that we are constantly seeking out new and innovative ways to keep everyone happy and engaged is our top priority”
Laura SalvatoreCenturion Asset Management


Mindful of differing schedules, the firm also created a Slack channel to allow for continuous discussion.

“Managers who weren’t able to attend the meeting on that date can review the material and pose questions, which participants in the group can then respond to. It creates another opportunity for dialogue and continuous engagement,” Salvatore adds. 

Centurion has seen such promising results; it is now extending the program for all employees this June. 

Salvatore says, “To pick the book, we identify six or so that we feel would be suitable/beneficial for a broad audience, and then put it out to employees to decide. They have picked Atomic Habits by James Clear as our next book.” 

Another area of new focus is offering increased psychological benefits, such as psychologist and social worker appointments. 

“We worked with Canada Life, our group benefits provider, to increase the coverage that we extend to our employees to the absolute maximum amount that they will cover,” shares Salvatore. “While I can’t give you numbers, if for example, most companies only offer a $10 coverage for every psychologist appointment, we went to Canada Life and said what is the absolute maximum you will cover as they won’t do unlimited. That is the amount we offer to our employees.” 

And she adds, “It is very uncommon for a company to do that and we have even been told by Canada Life that our coverage in this respect is far superior to the majority of their clients.” 

Additional innovations that Centurion has introduced include: 

  • Quarterly Well-being Challenges – increasing personal well-being through healthy competition and the chance to win prizes. An example is the Healthy Eating Challenge with new themes and actions to complete each week.

  • Weekly Wellness Tips – on a wide variety of topics to help employees improve their financial, physical, and mental wellbeing. In addition, bi-weekly yoga and guided meditation classes are offered.


TMX Group

At the centre of Canada’s capital markets, including operating the Toronto Stock Exchange, the firm has a presence in seven countries with 2,000 employees. 

Despite being part of a stressful and demanding sector, Cindy Bush, chief human resources officer, explains TMX Group’s approach. 

“People are people and we really want to listen to the needs of our people, regardless of our industry.” 

That feedback has shifted TMX to create an overhauled holistic wellness strategy. 

Bush says, “We make sure it is available to everyone regardless of what their circumstances are as I’m a big fan of fairness, so we wanted to make sure there were opportunities for everyone to tap into what they personally need.” 

The strategy’s five pillars are:

  • physical

  • emotional

  • financial

  • community

  • social

Over the past 12 months, TMX Group launched innovations around these pillars. 

Cindy Bush TMX Group
“We really listen to our employees and what they say”
Cindy BushTMX Group


Revamping employee-led charitable giving – two paid days per year to volunteer as part of a charitable action program and up to $200 annually for charitable donation matching.  

  • $530,000 was awarded to eight charities in Canada

  • 153 requests for corporate matching

  • 401 Impact Days used by employees (73 percent increase on 2022)

Mental health training for people managers – teamed up with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s for a virtual workshop to build knowledge, skills, and confidence to better support employees.   

  • 8 x 3.5-hour sessions to ensure as many leaders as possible could attend

  • Feedback included, “I thought the quality of content and facilitation was outstanding. Highly recommend it.”

Personal days – providing more ways for employees to customize their own paths to well-being. 

  • increased from 2 to 4 days annually

Funding for recreation teams – registration fees and sports facility rentals for employees who were getting together to play sports.

  • One employee said of the experience of forming the TMX cricket team, “In Canadian business culture, when we think about the sports that get sponsored or played, usually it’s the same classically Western sports: hockey, baseball, golf, basketball, etc. I wanted to create a way for TMX cricket fans to connect over our love of this amazing sport, and through that, to contribute to people’s sense of belonging for those who have cultural connections to cricket.”

TELUS Health launch – streamlining the employee experience to harmonize previously separate online services to a one-stop shop for employee and family assistance, perks, and wellness resources. 

Benefits review and refresh – compared to other financial services organizations, TMX’s benefits plan ranks in the top quartile, and they further enhanced it by allowing customization:  

  • health and/or personal spending account credits doubled to $600/year

  • mental health coverage doubled to $3,000/year

  • long-term disability (LTD) formula changed to a graded formula to give employees a similar LTD benefit and similar premiums

  • family-friendly coverage available for fertility drugs and treatment up to $10,000

  • adoption and surrogacy support up to $10,000

Another key innovation is TMX Group’s focus on the indigenous culture and people of Canada. 

“As an organization headquartered in Canada and a key player in our capital markets, it’s a priority for us,” explains Bush. “We could recognize it and see that it’s part of the national fabric and we need to play a role.” 

Beyond raising awareness, the program undertakes decisive action. 

Bush adds, “It’s about making sure we have indigenous representation in our employee base, but it’s much more widespread. We work with indigenous communities to find real-world long-term solutions, we help bring more investment to indigenous-owned businesses and lower barriers for indigenous companies to become publicly traded and also make it easier for investors to find companies that hold reconciliation within their corporate practices.” 

Other steps include: 

  • Indigenous Arts Market during Canada’s Indigenous History Month

  • Recognized National Day for Truth and Reconciliation globally and hosted guest speakers from the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund

  • Reached phase 2 of being committed to Progressive Aboriginal Relations

The difference maker with these initiatives is they boost employees’ morale and make them feel more engaged to be a part of TMX Group. 

“It matters to them and they like that we think about these things,” says Bush. 

The Best HR Teams for Innovation in Canada


The Best HR Teams for Innovation in Canada

500+ employees

  • CAA Club Group of Companies
  • Carleton University
  • Coast Mental Health
  • Corus Entertainment
  • Infrastructure Ontario
  • Fidelity Canada
  • Kraft Heinz
  • MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company
  • Metrolinx
  • SAP Canada
  • Securiguard Services
  • Teck Resources


300–499 employees

  • Alida
  • Axonify
  • Centurion Asset Management
  • Investment Management Corporation of Ontario
  • Ottawa Community Housing Corporation
  • Pusateri’s Fine Foods
  • Syngenta Canada
  • Town of Innisfil
  • YMCA of the National Capital Region


1–299 employees

  • Canuck Place Children’s Hospice
  • eCampusOntario
  • FuelPositive
  • MCAN Financial Group
  • RSG International
  • ScalePad
  • Svante
  • The Pod Group



As part of our editorial process, Key Media’s researchers interviewed the subject matter experts below for an independent analysis of this report and its findings.


Canadian HR Reporter’s Innovative HR Teams 2024 report recognizes firms that are breaking boundaries to move the HR profession forward, whether it’s by taking a progressive approach to recruitment, introducing new technology, or rolling out a groundbreaking reward and recognition strategy.   

Readers were invited to submit entries showcasing HR teams that have agile, bold, and forward-thinking people strategies. Nominations focused on areas including talent management, diversity and inclusion, health and wellness, and HR technology. Initiatives introduced and results achieved in 2023 were highlighted. 

The CHRR  team objectively assessed each entry for detailed information, true innovation, and proven success – along with benchmarking against the other entries – to determine the 30 winners.