Manitoba's Top Employers


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 10 of 23

11 Even though they're working apart, employees of Johnston Group Inc. are finding creative ways to come together for some virtual socializing and teamwork. Most of the company's 285 employees were shifted to work at home in April instead of at the insurance and group benefits provider's Winnipeg headquarters because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but employee-led committees came up with creative ways to continue their Work Life Wonderful wellness programs. An online talk show draws appreciative audiences, fitness classes are held virtually instead of at the office's gym and employees socialize playing digital bingo, visiting virtual escape rooms or having online coffee dates. Fundraising for community organiza- tions such as the United Way has been maintained, and even expanded. "As you can imagine, it's not easy when you're trying to run things virtually, but these committees have really done an outstanding job," said Will Johnston of Johnston Group. "They worked very hard to make sure these activities didn't disappear and people could still interact with them." Johnston's father, David, founded the company in 1983. It provides benefit services to more than 30,000 businesses and their employees across Canada. When the pandemic got a foothold in Manitoba, the company sent all but about 15 of its employees home with their desktop computers and then turned to its IT department to ensure it was almost business as usual. "Our tech support team was fantastic in managing the whole piece," Will Johnston said. "They were the heroes of that moment. "Making sure everyone could get out was our first priority for our employees' safety, and then to do it in a way that we still had the capacity to serve our clients." The employees remaining in the 60,000-square-foot home office follow all health protocols and connect via video calls instead of in-person meetings. A few employees also work from home in cities across Canada. Employees even expanded their committees this year to six "pillars" from four, rebranding them as Work Life Wonderful wellness programs that key on a holistic approach. They are: Eat, Sleep and Move (physical); Personal and Professional Development (mental); Purpose and Contribution (spiritual); Green Team (environmental); Mission in Positive (emotional); and Social Committee. Johnston said one of the popular initiatives was the twice-weekly JG Coffee with Friends show on "JG TV" led by charismatic employees Jeff Reyes and Abraham Tassia-Santos. They chat with guests from management giving updates or committee members talking about what they're working on. "It was really just, 'Everybody's out of the building, how do we keep people connected?'" Johnston said. "Kind of a virtual lunch room type of thing." A third of the company has watched the show live for many of the episodes, he said. "And we're even seeing people that in the past may not have participated regularly in these types of activities are participating a lot more. It speaks to that connection and that we want to see our team members." The Purpose and Contribution committee oversees fundraising. Johnston Group president Dave Angus is chairing the United Way campaign this year, which the company has long supported, along with other agencies and organizations. "(Our committee) put together a phenomenal template for a virtual United Way workplace campaign this year," Johnston said. "In fact, I think a few other organizations said, 'Can you send me what you guys did?' "They organized virtual agency tours and hosted some of the events through Zoom meetings, and even ran a live auction with all proceeds going to United Way. It was really an outstanding amount of effort and they did a fantastic job." Despite challenging times, he said Johnston Group was able to keep everyone employed. Employees will also receive their annual bonuses. This year, Johnston Group wanted to increase grassroots giving to the United Way by creating a match in honour of Manitoba's 150th birthday called the 150 Challenge. Johnston Group matches new donations of $150. Also, to help increase contributions at the Major Donor level, Johnston Group is matching every individual who has previously donated at the $5,000 level and increases their donation to the $7,500 level. Along with being named one of Manitoba's Top Employers for 2021, Johnston Group was also recognized as one of Canada's Top Small and Medium Employers for 2020. For more information, visit Fortunately, we're wild enough to try. It might be wild to think that work can make every person's life better. JOHNSTON GROUP EMPLOYEES TAKE PART IN A TEAM-BUILDING ACTIVITY BEFORE REMOTE WORKING WAS IMPLEMENTED. PHOTOS BY BRADLEY GERBRANDT DESPITE THE CHALLENGES OF THE PANDEMIC, JOHNSTON GROUP HAS BEEN ABLE TO KEEP EVERYONE EMPLOYED. JOHNSTON GROUP INC. CREATIVE COLLABORATION BY JUDY OWEN

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Manitoba's Top Employers - 2021