Alberta employer of diverse workforce uses corporate chaplaincy program to help employees overcome personal challenges.
As an innovation, it may be seen as counter intuitive in a workplace that thrives on the diversity of its staff and actively recruits newcomers. But at All Weather Windows, Canada’s largest privately owned window and door manufacturer, the corporate Christian chaplains it employs have proved to be of great help, especially for new immigrants coming from different backgrounds.
Chaplaincy has been used by many secular institutions and especially by militaries to take care of the spiritual well-being of its constituents. But unlike many other martial ideas that find their way into the corporate world, chaplaincy has been a relatively new entrant here in Canada despite its acceptance south of the border. The United States now has over 5,000 registered chaplains working in workplaces of all sizes and the number is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decade.
Paul Taylor, vice president of human capital at All Weather Windows, views his company’s non-denominational chaplaincy program as part of a faith-friendly workplace envisaged by Gord Wiebe, Chief Executive Officer. The program began in 2006 with one chaplain based in Edmonton, Alberta and later added two part-time chaplains in its offices in Mississauga, Ontario, and Edmonton. The company also has a multi-faith prayer, meditation and reflection room for its 1,100-plus employees from over 40 countries.
For Mr. Taylor the program is also an extension of the help offered to staff by his human capital department. “The chaplains help us connect with our staff at a more human level and discuss what’s happening in their lives and the challenges they are facing. People become comfortable with them and a lot of issues they handle are not work-related. Most of the time our chaplains act as social and support workers for our newcomer employees, sorting out immigration issues and bridging language barriers. And they don’t proselytize.”
At All Weather Windows, the chaplains are seen as safe haven where employees are assured total confidentiality. They are one of the safety nets, along with the company’s external Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that helps employees deal with issues such as marital problems, addiction issues, or even immigration problems.
“The popularity of our chaplains can be gauged by the high utilization of the chaplaincy program relative to the EAP ,” says Mr. Taylor. “The chaplains try to ensure that the whole person comes to work without any distractions. The return on investment for the company is a more engaged workforce, lower staff turnover and higher productivity.”
Apart from the services offered by the chaplains to create a more welcoming workplace, All Weather Windows has implemented a new on-boarding and orientation process that takes into account the needs of new immigrants. “We even go to such lengths to accommodate a new employee’s need for interpretive services by pairing a new worker with an experienced one that speaks their same mother language.” The company also has worked with NorQuestCollege to help facilitate English as a second language classes for some of its production staff.
All Weather Windows is a recipient of a 2014 RISE (Recognizing Immigrant Success in Edmonton) employer award for Workplace Innovation initiated by the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.
Tips for employers
- Ensure the diverse religious and cultural needs of your work force are met in an equitable manner.
- Convey the message that the organization sees its staff as persons and as valuable employees.
- Having someone to talk with can help to alleviate problems and translate into a healthier workplace.
- Early intervention when an employee is facing difficulties will help him or her remain productive.
- The overriding benefits of face-to-face encounters include improved morale and loyalty that translates into greater productivity and profit.
All Weather Windows recipient of a 2014 RISE employer award for Workplace Innovation.