Our People, Our Stories

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Our People, Our Stories is a collection of moments that show our colleagues dedication to Morneau Shepell’s central purpose of improving lives and improving business. Through the summer, we will profile employees across the globe who have made a difference in the lives of our clients and their families.

Jeanessa Hawkins – Helping out wherever she’s needed

Jeanessa Hawkins

For many people, COVID-19 means wading into completely new territory. Jeanessa Hawkins is a Morneau Shepell colleague that works as a benefits analyst, however, during the pandemic, she found herself in an entirely new role – training new hires.

Despite some early nerves and apprehension, the Atlanta, Georgia-based analyst says she is very pleased with her first experience in a training role. 

“I think it went really well,” she said. “I receive great feedback about the new hires all the time.” 

Jeanessa spent six weeks working alongside two new benefits analysts for two hours each day. As she worked with the new hires, she says she strived to teach them things she wishes she knew when she started her job.  

“When I first got to operations, I went live the second day,” she says. “I didn’t really have training, so I had to ask a lot of questions.” 

Jeanessa also made sure to teach them how to work effectively with clients, and ensured the new hires had the resources they needed to succeed. 

“I wanted them to feel as comfortable as possible,” she says.  

Jeanessa says that while she was initially nervous about training, she saw it as an “opportunity for growth” within the company. She says she would be keen to take on similar roles moving forward and aims to “grow into a management role” and “be a leader.”  

She attributes much of her success to her coworkers and managers that she says have “groomed me into the employee I am today.” 

 “I plan on retiring from Morneau Shepell,” Jeanessa says. “I’m only 29, but I plan on staying with Morneau Shepell until retirement.” 

Susan Mulderrig - First impressions really do count

Susan Mulderrig

This Our People, Our Stories profile is on Susan Mulderrig, the principle receptionist at the Toronto Don Mills office.  

Susan is often the first point of contact between Morneau Shepell and our guests and clients. Whether it’s greeting people as they arrive, handling incoming phone calls, or just chatting with colleagues, she can be counted on to be warm, friendly and always willing to share a smile.

“When somebody comes by . . . I’ll stop and listen,” she says.  

Susan, who has been with the company for roughly five years, says her desire to treat everyone around her with “love and respect,” and leave them feeling an “attitude of gratitude” have been the biggest keys in developing and maintaining strong relationships with the people around her. 

This is a mindset that has served her well during COVID-19, as she has handled calls from people facing great deals of stress during the pandemic. Among these calls, Susan has talked to people facing financial troubles, people who need counselling services, people dealing with the loss of a loved one and more. No matter who the caller is or what their needs are, she ensures she extends "empathy and kindness” as she connects them with the appropriate team that can best serve the caller. 

“I know that I’m an invisible face to those people, but what they relate to is the tone in which you speak to them with,” she says. “They can see you smile through the phone.” 

Ultimately, Susan says she takes great pride on the role she plays in making sure people get the help they need from Morneau Shepell staff. 

“Together, as a team, we can make things better,” she says.

Marcia Christy - Fun at Work

Marcia Christy

This Our People, Our Stories profile is about Marcia Christy, an executive assistant in St. Petersburg, Florida.  

During her 23-year career with Morneau Shepell, Marcia has led an office volunteer team to take part in different activities around St. Petersburg. These have included food drives, beach clean-ups and events with Habitat for Humanity, among many others.  

With her busy volunteer schedule on hold due to COVID-19, Marcia has since parlayed her employee engagement passion and love of helping others into her work as a member of the Administrative Solutions Fun at Work committee.  

Here, Marcia and the other committee members have been working hard to find ways to keep morale up for the Administrative Solutions team across the company as they work from home. 

“The goal was to make sure people are still being engaged because everyone’s home life is so different, and the work from home experience is so different for everybody,” she says. “Some people have kids running around all over the place, some people have parents that they’re taking care of.” 

Marcia and the committee are looking at tactics that include weekly motivational email sharing content such as recipes for employees to try out, tips to keep their families engaged, and other ways to keep morale up during the work week. They also encourage employees to post thank-you messages to helpful colleagues on LifeWorks on Fridays. 

While not in a customer-facing position, this is a role Marcia has embraced, as she says she loves being in a position to provide support to her colleagues at Morneau Shepell – and their families. 

“I really like helping people,” she says. “I like being there to be that support to someone else when they need it.”

Caitlin Campbell – Support during hard times

Caitlin Campbell

For Caitlin Campbell, a disability case manager based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the words “busy” and “crazy” sum up working through COVID-19. 

Some of Caitlin’s roles as a case manager include handling incoming disability claims, collecting important information for each case, and providing guidance and counsel. Lately, she has faced a much higher volume of casework due to COVID-19, and has been putting in extra time to ensure clients receive the help they need.  

“I spent a lot of time not only working with my client that I’m assigned, but also putting myself out there for other managers if they needed additional assistance,” she says.  

“It was busy and it was crazy, but at the end of the day, as long as I knew that I was happy with the job that I was doing, I was able to continue to be successful and provide that additional support,” Caitlin adds. 

Caitlin’s hard work and dedication to her role during the pandemic has received praise from her colleagues and clients. She says she has received several emails from clients praising the quality of her work, the promptness of her replies, and general appreciation for her time and effort. 

She attributes her success to things such as her own personal experience of being around people with disabilities, her “every case is a new case” approach to her job, and the personal satisfaction she gets from her work. 

“For me, the satisfaction comes from knowing that I was able to continue to support these people during a very difficult time,” Caitlin says.

Allison Bishop – Help and resources for others

Allison Bishop

Different clients have had all kinds of needs during COVID-19. Lucky for them, Allison Bishop, a LifeWorks research specialist based just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is just the person to help them out. 

Allison’s role involves handling research requests from clinical or support staff as they work with different clients. These requests involve gathering information and resources related to housing, health, life transitions, childcare, and way more.

“Anything under the sun,” as Allison puts it. 

During COVID-19, Allison has faced many different requests related to the pandemic. Her research has helped parents looking for childcare as they go back to work, people struggling to pay rent after losing their job, among many other cases.  

“Every single case that comes through to me, it’s a person with a real need,” she says. “I can easily put myself in their shoes and think ‘If I’m experiencing this difficulty, what would I need to help make this issue better for me?’” 

For example, one request came from someone who needed to find a nursing home for a COVID patient, and another needed a cleaning company to disinfect the apartment of a COVID patient. In both cases, Allison worked hard to provide a wide range of information to ensure the clients were well looked after.    

“It won’t just be providing that specific resource that was asked, I may include additional resources as well if I feel like they would be helpful,” she says. 

“There’s a lot of my heart that goes into each request,” Allison adds. 

When Allison was in school, she says she did not have a lot of direction career-wise, but knew for sure she wanted to help others. She feels her research position is a perfect fit, calling it an “ideal position that I absolutely love.” 

“When I’m done my work, I feel good that I’ve at least attempted at my fullest capabilities to help someone that day,” Allison says.

Nadine Anderson – Learning opportunities

Nadine Anderson

Nadine Anderson wears many hats. She works as an associate project manager for Morneau Shepell, but she is also an executive assistant, works directly with client management, and handles office services for the Atlanta, Georgia office. 

A typical day for Nadine might include handling RFPs, managing office services, among many other tasks. She also works closely with Carey McKenzie in his role as Morneau Shepell’s senior vice president, U.S. client development; often helping to prepare presentations or notes on different topics.

“The day varies tremendously, which is primarily why I enjoy my role,” she says. “Every day is different from the last.”

Nadine is gearing up to earn her project manager certification, and she says one of her favourite parts of her role is being able to work alongside a wide range of people within the company and learn from them.

“What I enjoy the most is being able to work with each department and be able to assist different people with different needs,” she says. “This allows me to grow my knowledge bank, which I appreciate.”

Nadine says working alongside Carey has been a valuable learning opportunity too.

“He’s an amazing person when it comes to dealing with our clients, and so to be able to see how he does it and how he interacts . . . is wonderful to see,” she says. 

As her exam date approaches, Nadine hopes all of these learning opportunities can come together to help her be an “amazing” project manager. 

“My ultimate goal is to make sure I meet the requirements and exceed them each time,” she says. “That’s what keeps me focused, that’s what drives me every day.” 

Samantha Case – Caring for frontline workers

Samantha Case

With a background in social work, Samantha’s job involves working alongside clients with mental health needs, sharing resources and referring them on to other people who can help them. Throughout the pandemic, she has been involved in a project that provides mental health support for health care workers. 

Samantha was eager to be a part of this project, as she wanted to be helpful during a time where “it’s rough out there for people,” particularly for health care workers. One trend she has noticed is their reluctance to seek mental health support for themselves throughout the pandemic.

“They’re trained really well on how to compartmentalize,” Samantha says. “But trauma sneaks in no matter what you do sometimes.”

“They’re more comfortable giving help than receiving it,” she adds. 

Samantha’s callers are people who see too many people dying each day, and she works hard to provide the support they need. This usually involves a quick check-in, where she reminds them of what resources are available and ensures that they are safe.

“I just want them to know that they don’t have to be strong all the time,” she says.

Samantha embraced this role, given her love of helping others and her own personal experience in seeing people struggle with mental health.

“I live in the fact that I get to make people that thought everything is over, that there’s no hope . . . believe in themselves again,” she says.

Pierre Labetis – Creating strong relationships

Pierre Labetis

Need some advice on how to build successful client relationships? Pierre Labetis, a disability consultant based out of Montreal, can help out. 

Pierre’s primary role is to manage disability claims. There is a lot of checking in on client employees, along with medical professionals and employers to help clients return to work, he says.

He is also a practicing attorney, and notes there is quite a bit of overlap between his current role and his experience in law.

“There’s a lot of review of information, adjudication . . . following up with people; very precise, fast-paced environment, a lot of attention to detail,” he says. “So I gave it a shot, and I really liked it.”

Recently, a client singled out Pierre for praise for his work, and he says a key factor for him has been the effort he put in to build and maintain a strong relationship with the client. Pierre says he tried to interact with the client personally over the phone as much as he could, something that can be challenging to find time for in his fast-paced job.

“I find it really helps,” he says. “We don’t always have the time, but when you do it, it’s crazy how it can make a change.”

“I think that proximity, that closeness and that relationship got very solid very quickly,” he adds. 

For Pierre, his secret to cultivating these relationships is honesty. He says this includes everything from setting expectations early on between himself and clients, communicating effectively, and being open and up-front right from the outset.

“It’s that initial conversation, I think that’s key,” he says. “That way, you know where you’re going.”

As well, Pierre says the idea of “feeling useful” has helped him in staying focused and able to do his job.

“I do feel that usefulness, that what we’re doing is making good change,” he says.

Umesh Gaur – In the client’s shoes

Umesh Gaur

What is Umesh Gaur’s secret to success? For the client service analyst from India, it’s all about putting himself in the client’s shoes. 

“I always look from the participant’s point of view,” he says. “I place myself as the participant and process the request. I’m a very customer-centric person.”  

Recently, Umesh stepped up to help sort out a situation involving a pension calculation request that was placed on hold due to new laws in the United States. 

With some effective coordination with the U.S. team, the situation was quickly resolved. Within a day, Umesh was able to process the retirement kit. Ultimately, Umesh was praised for his ability to gain the participant’s trust and for his quick work in handling the situation. 

For Umesh, understanding issues from the client’s perspective is a critical part of doing his job successfully.  

“My story is about understanding the customer need, and how we can fulfill it by delivering unique solutions,” he says. 

As someone who works with pension-related requests, Umesh says understanding the situations of retirees is also very important, especially during COVID-19. 

“There might be a few situations where they are going through a financial crisis,” he says. “Or there might be situation where COVID-19 is all around.” 

As Umesh continues to handle different requests, he takes pride in his ability to deliver “unique” solutions and help them out. 

“Ultimately, we are all working for the participant, and we are all working for the client,” he says.  

Dora Newcombe – A rapid crisis response

Dora Newcombe

Dora Newcombe has seen a lot in her 25 years with Morneau Shepell. However, she says one thing that has stayed consistent is the company’s ability to respond quickly to customer needs during a crisis. 

As a director of customer success in LifeWorks, Dora’s focus has been helping customers with COVID-19 needs. She and her teams have faced customers who needed information and resources on the disease itself along with customers who needed to adjust quickly to working from home.   

“Those first 3-4 weeks were very, very intense,” she says. “I don’t think we’ve ever experienced a situation like that before.” 

As a team leader, ensuring the well-being of her team has been very important over the last few months for Dora. As their volume of work has grown, she has been doing regular check-ins once a week where staff can share tips with each other, have a little fun and “feel connected,” she says. 

“I feel like this has actually brought us closer,” she says. “We’ve done various things on our Friday afternoon check-ins to have some fun, maybe blow off a little steam, release the stress of the week.” 

Dora has worked on response teams for disasters such as the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and she notes that Morneau Shepell has always been very strong when it comes to quickly mobilizing to help people facing a crisis. 

While Dora says handling COVID-19 has been a completely new challenge, her team’s hard work has been hugely appreciated by clients.   

“We’re hearing from customers who are just saying ‘Thank you, thank you! You’ve helped us out!’” she says.  

Dora also says “the people and the opportunities” have kept her with Morneau Shepell for over two decades.  

"I believe in what we do,” she says. “It is the people that I work with that make me proud to be part of this organization.” 

Vivian Choi – Keeping it light

Vivian Choi

COVID-19 has made for a challenging few months, but Vivian Choi, a client care administrator based out of the Toronto Bay Street office, does her best to keep the mood light and fun. 

As a client care administrator, she helps counsellors by providing administrative support and answering any questions they have. She works hard to provide that support for colleagues, from constantly staying on top of policies and procedures, to thoroughly investigating problems she can’t fix right away. 

“Early on into this position, I realized my work impacts clients, and it’s still my driving force today to take my work seriously,” she says.  

Her hard work has not gone unnoticed, as Vivian has received praise from colleagues for her positive and supportive attitude. Vivian makes sure she returns the favour as well, and always makes sure to praise other colleagues for their work as well, particularly to new hires.  

“I’m excited to answer their questions because I feel lucky that they trust my work and my work ethic,” she says.   

Vivian has also been praised for her sense of humour during the pandemic. One of her specialties is sending memes in her task distribution emails.  

“I do put in a good amount of time to find the perfect meme for that day or occasion,” she says. “That’s just one way I try to stay light and funny.” 

Ultimately, Vivian says she feels she’s part of a “tightly-knit” community, and that she’s part of a friendly and welcoming team. 

“I just feel supported all the time, and that others care for my well-being,” she says.