The changing people experience

BDO focuses on foundational principles of shifting with change, the power of flexibility, career development, listening, and connecting

The changing people experience

This article was produced in partnership with BDO Canada.

With all the talk of the great resignation and quiet quitting, it’s clear that people are re-examining their lives and what’s meaningful to them, says Alicia DeFreitas, CHRO at BDO Canada.

“When we think about engagement, it's critical that managers and leaders have connections with their teams and really understand what's important to their team members.”

BDO has always prioritized flexibility, wellness, personalized experiences, and professional development, while focusing on foundational principles such as shifting with change, listening, and connecting.  

That commitment is outlined in the first issue of The BDO Experience, a series dedicated to all the people who have been part of BDO’s 100-plus year history in Canada.  

The firm encourages everyone to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle that cultivates professional and personal success.

“Attraction and engagement require creating a personalized experience,” says DeFreitas, who has been at the firm for 15 years.

“The key is that it has to be personalized; it can't be a one-size-fits-all approach. Everybody has different drivers and motivations, and to understand those drivers and motivations, the key is to listen to people to create that personalized plan.”

To that end, BDO created a Firm Engagement Committee comprised of people across different areas of the firm.

“The mandate of the committee is to nurture purpose and meaningful connections to build engagement,” she says.

Some initiatives that came from the committee include “Get Stuff Done (GSD)” days — an entire day for focused work and productivity without the interruption of internal meetings — shortening meeting times from 30 and 60 minutes to 25 and 50 minutes respectively, additional full-day long weekend office closures and a “sunshine hour” encouraging people to get outside during the day.

As part of its focus on listening, BDO puts a big priority on providing people the opportunity to continuously learn. As part of that, Strategic Performance Outcomes (SPOs) are outlined for each role, ensuring the path to success is clearly defined at each level and business function.

“It's important that we're thinking about what skills people need for today and in the future, and ensure that we are providing opportunities for people to develop and grow,” says DeFreitas.

“Ultimately, when people are developing, it contributes to the service that we provide to our clients. It's all connected.”

Continuing with the theme of a personalized experience, people leaders at BDO work with individuals to create a professional development plan that makes sense for each person.

“It identifies the right combination of formal training, with stretch opportunities, and on-the-job opportunities in combination with coaching and mentoring ,” she says.

When it comes to connections, BDO has focused on progressive technologies and collaboration initiatives to build connectivity coast-to-coast — as one unified team — with a flexible hybrid workplace that involves both in-office meeting times and at-home workspaces.

Even before the pandemic, leaders at BDO were having regular check-ins with their teams, and technology helped to enable that, says DeFreitas.

“Understanding what interests people outside of work, who they are as individuals, and getting to know people for who they are — that's when you really build deep and meaningful relationships.”

Further to that, BDO has a National Inclusion, Equity & Diversity Council with pillar leads representing women, racialized groups, persons with disabilities, Indigenous groups, and LGBTQ2S+ communities, along with a chief inclusion, equity & diversity officer and firm-wide surveys and focus groups to gather and analyze data, and informing future initiatives.

“It’s around removing barriers and creating an environment where people have a sense of belonging and can show up and feel comfortable being who they really are,” she says.

“When we're all able to contribute, there's a higher degree of engagement, productivity and innovation. Ultimately, when people are engaged, connected and feel a sense of purpose, and that connection extends to their work and their teams, there's no limit on BDO’s performance and growth.”

Mental health and well-being are a big priority at BDO, which has enhanced its wellness reimbursement program to include home office and fitness equipment, and offers virtual care benefits for mind and body wellness.

BDO also introduced a “Do What You Love” reimbursement which encourages everyone to take time off using PTO to create experiences that bring joy. Every eligible BDO employee can use their “Do What You Love” reimbursement to cover their personalized experiences throughout the 2022 calendar year.

There is also an “Are You Okay” committee focused on building awareness and providing support, resources, and optimism around mental health.

There’s been a lot of change over the past several years, and as the talent landscape continues to change, BDO’s principles have been committed to doing what's best for its people, clients, and communities, says DeFreitas.

“When you go through any sort of change, we need to listen and communicate regularly,” she says.

“I also think it's critical that, through any change, that people are part of the journey, that they have an opportunity to have their voices heard, collaborate and be a part of making that change happen.”

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