What I learned in one week at BioTalent Canada

BioTalent Canada named to 2020 List of Best Workplaces in Ontario

By Howard Miller — BioTalent Canada Writer and Editor

BioTalent Canada is the human resources (HR) partner and catalyst for growth in Canada’s bio-economy. It’s also one of Ontario’s best places to work. These two facts are not mutually exclusive. It’s important that an organization responsible for teaching best HR practices, practice those same principles within its own walls—even virtual ones.

My first day was June 8, 2020. It was clear from the word jump that BioTalent Canada’s HR practices were cutting edge. The company prides itself on how it treats its people. And rightfully so. BioTalent Canada leads by example. And it’s this example that led to the company’s inclusion on the 2020 List of Best Workplaces in Ontario.

But there’s more to the BioTalent Canada story than that. I’ve worked for a lot of companies that claim to have a conscience. It’s a wonderful thing to say but is often little more than a buzzword. What BioTalent Canada displayed to me on my third day was much more than a conscience. It was a genuine heartbeat.

BioTalent Canada deserves its place on the list of 2020 Best Workplaces in Ontario. And I can tell you that it took no less than three days to understand why. On that day, they invited me to attend a Lunch and Learn about systemic racism in Canada.

Inclusion is a right, not a privilege for a select few

Three of BioTalent Canada’s employees of colour hosted the presentation. They shared their real-life experiences as minorities in Canada. To call this powerful would be an understatement. Their stories inspired me as a father.

This is not an easy discussion to have. It impressed me how open management was to this difficult conversation. Our CEO Rob Henderson empowered his employees with a platform. They used it to educate those that have never experienced racism. It took incredible courage for my colleagues to approach Rob. It took true leadership for Rob to be receptive.

These are the kinds of employees and employers I want to work with and for.

This Lunch and Learn accomplished a lot. It gave the presenters—Hannah, Benita, and Jules—an outlet that they needed. And it showed them that their colleagues, made up of a diverse group, have their collective backs. In today’s social climate, that’s a win for equality and inclusion. It’s also a criterion for a great workplace.

Good colleagues know that “we” is more powerful than “me”

On the topic of inclusivity: in my first week, the majority of my colleagues reached out to welcome me. They offered any support I needed to do my job. It’s not easy to onboard remotely. It’s more difficult in an industry where you have no prior experience. But, my peers have welcomed me with open arms and that’s eased my transition. You’d think this small gesture would be commonplace, but I can assure you that it’s not.

COVID-19 is a busy time for the Canadian bio-economy. Everyone at BioTalent Canada is neck-deep in deliverables and timelines. Yet, I had one-on-one video calls with more than 10 individuals—including the CEO. Each call designed to help me understand what we do, who we do it for, and how we all work together for the same goal.

It says a lot when you’ve worked somewhere for one week and you already understand where you fit in the puzzle. The people at BioTalent Canada make it one of Ontario’s Best Workplaces.

Being proactive means being reactive ahead of time

It’s interesting to write about Ontario’s best workplace when the workplace is home. Unfortunately, no one can give a definitive answer about when the pandemic will be over. We don’t know when life will return to normal.

It comforted me to see how proactive the management team has been in planning a return to work game plan. It’s clear that the health and safety of BioTalent Canada’s staff is top of mind. Especially when it’s clear how much the CEO misses the comradery of a workplace.

Everyone’s personal circumstances are being taken into account. It’s clear that Rob and, his partner-in-crime, Daphne understand that return to work is not a one size fits all. We all need a custom design and it appears that they’ll accommodate that.

Life is short. Work some place awesome.

Some might say that one week isn’t long enough to make an informed decision. To them, I say that I knew I was going to marry my wife after one cup of coffee. I knew that my favourite baseball player was Ken Griffey Jr. after one at-bat. And I knew that I didn’t like beer after one sip. So, in my world, one week is a lifetime.

And in that week, I discovered that when we return to the BioTalent Canada office, it’ll be a space deserving of its title as one of 2020 Ontario’s Best Workplaces.

In the meantime, we’ll make do with GoToMeeting. If you listen closely, you can hear the heartbeat.