Winner: Humanacare HR Professional of the Year
Annie Boilard has a lot of energy and passion for her work. She has to, considering she is not only a vice-president at training consultancy Groupe CFC, but also founder and president of a very large HR community in Quebec — Annie’s Network.
On top of those demanding roles, Boilard is often sought out as an HR expert, speaker, host, presenter, blogger and author.
“I strongly believe nobody will be better by keeping information and knowing something nobody knows. I have no pleasure of having stuff on my own and seeing companies not doing well, so if I know something, I will share it… with whomever it can help,” she says.
For these reasons and more, Boilard was presented with the 2017 HR Professional of the Year award from Canadian HR Reporter.
Boilard did not start in HR. Originally, she obtained a bachelor of business administration from the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi and then she pursued an MBA from the University of Ottawa. She went on to work at Ernst & Young.
“First, I was really a businessperson, and then when I started working, I realized how HR and OD, organizational development, were important for companies and businesses to reach their goals, and that’s when I decided to do a master’s degree in HR.”
Boilard went on to earn a master’s in industrial relations from the University of Montreal in 2002.
“I saw how HR issues were capital and very important in reaching those goals, and I saw that more than finance or adding access to capital or anything else, HR was really the thing that made the difference between success or failure, so I thought — as a real businessperson wanting a strong economy and businesses working well — the thing I had to do to make it happen was to focus on HR because that was the field that had the most impact on businesses.”
“My heart was business, my heart is still business,” says Boilard, who then went into a marketing role at construction firm Canam before specializing in training and development, working at a small firm.
“That was really my sweet spot because then I was really driving a business, creating employment in Quebec and Montreal, I was really helping the economy and, at the same time, I was helping organizations have great working environments and people be more engaged in their workplace, so that was just perfect for me.”
Most recently, Boilard works at Groupe CFC.
“I help companies first understand what is slowing them down, what is the issue with their HR capabilities and skills to be able to actually reach their goals,” she says. “So I help them put their finger on where it hurts, where are the problems, and help them create solutions around that. And those solutions are often around people growing, and people learning and evolving… so it’s not easy things to do — we’re not talking numbers here and it’s not work that we do in 24 hours — but it’s working with the people and the leaders to help them see things differently and evolve through their roles, and help leaders be better leaders and providing more engaging working conditions for their employees that will put all their strengths at the services of their business objectives.”
“That’s the strategy part, that’s how we accelerate the movement for them to get to where they want to be.”
The HR community
Boilard’s passion for all-things HR extends to Annie’s Network (www.reseau-annie.ca), a large HR community she established more than 14 years ago, offering HR professionals services free of charge.
At the time, there were many groups that fostered networking and mutual support, such as chambers of commerce and LinkedIn groups. But Boilard wanted to get past this first level of exchange, she says, and motivate the HR community to not only know each other but to co-learn and co-innovate to surpass the challenges of their organizations, increase their competitiveness and fuel the economy.
“Wanting to help HR people get better to ultimately help the company, I created this community where everything is simple and free… the only goal is for HR people to learn together and be better and stronger — that’s the point, that’s where we’re going with it.”
“I said, ‘We have to work together, guys,’ so that was the spirit at the beginning.”
Today, Annie’s Network makes up a significant part of the HR community, with a focus on four areas, says Boilard. Firstly, members can post job openings for free, and secondly, information is shared with HR professionals concerning day-to-day questions.
“That helps HR professionals to be more efficient in their workplace, and companies to find fast solutions to their day-to-day problems,” she says.
Thirdly, the members regularly come together to discuss HR issues. Last year, about 700 people were in attendance for the various events, which allow HR professionals to formally accumulate continuous training hours for certification.
“We meet and discuss more in-depth HR issues, and it allows HR professionals to keep learning and evolving as professionals. We call it continuous learning, and it also helps companies with being always up-to-date on trends and innovations and new ways of doing things,” says Boilard.
“It’s very aligned to what I believe in — a strong economy, with businesses being efficient and being the best. We need to have those, whether it’s Quebec companies or Canadian companies.”
Lastly, HR professionals meet up when someone in the network has a specific issue to be discussed, such as benchmarking.
“Sometimes it’s not perfect,” she says. “I write things, there are spelling mistakes, mistakes happen, but we’re fast and we really have the intent of being better and stronger together — that’s why I say it’s very agile.”
As a result, Annie’s Network has hundreds of cases of co-learning and co-creation, more than 1,000 communications among members, more than 5,000 self-help communications and solutions for everyday work issues, and Boilard’s blog is very popular.
Of course, Quebec already has an HR association — the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés (CRHA), but the two groups have different intentions, says Boilard. For one, the CRHA’s mission is to protect the public, and it’s also keen on making money, “where my intent is not as much protecting the public as to strengthen the economy and help businesses — so we don’t start at the same point,” she says.
Overall, the two work well together, says Boilard, who has served on the association’s board through the years. “We’re working basically hand in hand, but I’ve got to admit sometimes there are some differences in point of view.”
Boilard has also been involved with various HR panels or symposiums (such as those run by the Société québécoise de psychologie du travail et des organisations (SQPTO) or Le réseau des professionnels de la formation du Québec (RPFQ)) or in leading discussions or as a lecturer for the CRHA. She has also published articles in magazines such as the CRHA’s Revue RH, and been interviewed as an HR expert for both print and broadcast media, such as La Presse.
Boilard also visited with the Ministry of Labour in February to discuss employment issues. She is also an ardent volunteer, as seen in her work with Logis Rose-virginie, a non-profit helping women in Montreal, and Quebec Native Projects, a non-profit helping Native Americans.