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.

Quality Assurance/Continuous Improvement team – A team effort

Quality Assurance/Continuous Improvement team

Trevor Symons, Jodi Van Rees, Drew Stasila, Stacey Costa, Lesley Nightingale, Nancy Carignan and Carmela Webster are Quality Assurance/Continuous Improvement advisors whose team faced a large shakeup during COVID-19. Drew, Stacey, Lesley, Nancy and Carmela were redeployed to work as Case Managers, while Trevor and Jodi remained behind. 

The redeployed staff joined a team of frontline staff that was already facing high demands thanks to COVID-19.

“It was a challenging time for not just our team, but for the organization as a whole with the influx and large volumes of work coming in all at the same time,” Stacey says.

Having prior experience as case managers helped, they say. However, they had to adjust to new platforms and processes during a particularly demanding time. 

“It was a little bit of a curve to jump back in and get our feet wet,” Drew says. 

Stacey says it was helpful to take things “one step at time,” and they received praise for how quickly they were able to get involved and for their quality service from colleagues and clients alike. 

“It was a stressful period as there was a lot of unknown for everyone, with a new challenge in our work, combined with the uncertainty of what was ahead with the new world pandemic,” Nancy says. “But in the end, I was happy that our team was able to help.” 

Meanwhile, Jodi and Trevor had to continue to handle the QA/CI workload with the rest of their team redeployed. 

“We had to push ourselves, sometimes beyond what we thought we were capable of doing, but we also had massive amounts of support from the team,” Trevor says. 

This support along with the desire to not let their team down helped Jodi and Trevor focus through this time period. 

“I think it also comes down to not wanting to disappoint your team,” Trevor says. “The challenge was there, the anxiety was there, but it was also a matter of ‘I don’t want to disappoint these people and I’m just going to give everything . . . but beyond that as well.” 

Jodi echoed this sentiment, and she says she takes pride in the team’s abilities as a unit. 

“We have huge, diverse experience, which makes us a really unique team,” Jodi says. “We come from all different areas . . . We have so much diverse experience that as a whole, it makes us such a strong team.”

Tabassum Sarwar – Being supported while providing support

Tabassum Sarwar is a client care counsellor based in Glasgow, Scotland. She has been with Morneau Shepell since this past April, and she says she is impressed by the way the company supports its staff. For her, this support exists in many ways. One way is how supportive her colleagues are during tough times, from ensuring she takes some self-care and that she’s not too overwhelmed. 

As a client care counsellor, Tabassum makes sure she brings this attitude to her clients as well. “I support my clients in the same way my organization supports me,” she says.

Another way is the trust she feels from her colleagues to do her job successfully. 

“I think you’re given the space and time, and you’re given the support for your judgement to be able to do the best you can,” she says. “It’s reassured me a lot.” 

This support has allowed her to stay focused and do her job and give the best support she can to her clients. Tabassum feels they have her best interests in mind and this has been a large help for her. 

“They’re thinking about what’s good for your mental health,” she says. “Avoiding that extra stress and anxiety, that allows me to be there for clients.” 

Tabassum also says she has been impressed by how Morneau Shepell has brought out the best in people. It is a positive environment with “no second guessing” of different peoples’ actions, she says. 

“It’s not ‘Do as I say,’ it’s ‘What do you think?” she says. 

For Tabassum, one of the biggest shows of support has been the company’s welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. 

As a Muslim woman who wears a niqab, Tabassum says she has felt very welcome at Morneau Shepell since she started. She says there is a lot of stigma from employers towards people in niqabs, and she had experienced multiple rejections for jobs with other companies despite her qualifications and experience.  

None of this was an issue during her Morneau Shepell job interview. She says she was told “We’d love to have you.” 

“That was the first time I’d heard that,” she says.  

Ultimately, she says Morneau Shepell’s “concern for you as an individual” was what set the company apart from others. 

“They support everyone where they’re at,” she says.

Bobby Abraham and Alice Nkundwa-Chacha - Meeting unique client needs

Bobby Abraham and Alice Nkundwa-Chacha

Bobby Abraham and Alice Nkundwa-Chacha both work in Administrative Solutions in Toronto. Bobby is a senior client manager, and Alice is a client manager on his team.

During the pandemic, many clients have faced many unprecedented situations that require unique solutions.

Recently, Bobby and Alice took on a client who needed an entirely new type of employee leave status so employees could remain enrolled in benefits. Another client needed a way for laid off staff to maintain their benefits while they were unable to work.

Both projects had to deployed within incredibly tight time windows. These are tasks that might regularly take 6-8 weeks but were rolled out in a fraction of that time, they say. 

“The pandemic has called for an increasing level of reactivity and flexibility,” Bobby says. 

Alice says keys to success on these projects are good teamwork and a good understanding of the project need. 

“When we know exactly what they need, then we can implement it,” she says. 

Bobby says good communications with clients has been critical. It has helped in identifying the client need and delivering the ideal solution. He notes that this time has demanded a ton of flexibility, as project asks and client needs were shifting constantly. 

“As you’re having these conversations every day, the situation is evolving and changing,” he says. “It’s a very unique situation that we’ve been in.” 

“I think that’s where the big win is, that we were able to adapt and be flexible,” he adds. 

Alice also ensured she remained focused on delivering unique solutions for client needs, especially during such a difficult time period. 

“If they need this, then it’s important for them,” she says. “So I should be able to achieve it.” 

Ultimately, Bobby says these projects are a testament to the company’s ability to do exactly that. 

“It was an all-hands-on-deck approach to make sure that we did everything we could help the client through this period,” he says.

Linda Duong – Having a client’s point of view

Linda Duong

Linda Duong works in pension administration as an actuarial analyst. Based in Montreal, she has spent most of 2020 juggling her work with Morneau Shepell and working directly alongside a client with their ongoing critical projects. 

Linda was first approached about the project in January and was asked to suggest someone to take part. She chose to take on the project herself, as she wanted a chance to see things from the client point of view.

She says working both on the client side and the Morneau Shepell side was ultimately “really, really fun.” It took some adjusting to get used to the higher workload and new processes, particularly during a pandemic, but she has worked hard to get the job done. 

“It’s funny to feel like you’re in both places at the same time,” she says. “That was fun because I feel like I had backdoor access on both sides.” 

From this vantage point, Linda says she gained a lot of new insight into how things work on the client side. She says she has learned a lot about why clients may make specific requests, the importance of strong two-way communication, and she has been applying this knowledge to her day-to-day work. 

This opportunity has also allowed Linda a chance to further refine the relationship between her and the client. 

“It’s really a partnership, we find,” she says. 

This project made for a much heavier workload, and Linda says the support of her colleagues helped her stay focused. 

“I love my team, they’re always there and always really understanding,” she says. “If I need anything, they’re always there.” 

Not only did this help professionally, but Linda says it helped her personally as well with everyone adjusting to working remotely. 

“We don’t see each other, but we still feel each other,” she says.

James Mulholland – Transitioning to remote work

James Mulholland

For many, the switch to remote working seemed like a daunting task. But James Mulholland, a care access centre operations supervisor based out of Montreal, was there to make it easier.  

Throughout the pandemic, James has been instrumental in helping colleagues transition to working from home. He has been praised for his work in getting people set up for remote working, assisting others if problems came up, and providing documents to help people troubleshoot any issues they face.

“It’s something that I would do again in a heartbeat,” he says. “It’s not something I really thought about, I just did it.” 

James attributes his success to his strong knowledge and experience with the different systems and his experience training others. However, perhaps the biggest key has been the strong relationships he has built with his colleagues and his desire to help them succeed. 

“After 17 years, I still feel that what we do is important, and that we have such a fantastic team of people that I really care about my colleagues and I do care about the work that we do,” he adds. “My door is always open.” 

James says working with Morneau Shepell has introduced him to a large network of friends and even his spouse. It is a group of people that he does not hesitate in describing as “extended family,” and says they are a key part in why he has been with Morneau Shepell for so long. 

“I feel that I have a personal stake making sure that we’re all successful,” he adds.

Adrienne Shoffner – A catalyst for change

Adrienne Shoffner

Adrienne Shoffner is a customer success manager based in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has been with LifeWorks for roughly 11 years.

Her role is about “forming the relationship with our client contacts.” From here, Adrienne says she uses that partnership to develop unique solutions to make sure clients are taken care of, and works to ensure Morneau Shepell is “retaining happy clients.” Of special note, Adrienne is in a unique position as a CSM in that Morneau Shepell is one of her clients too.

Her work during the pandemic has involved liaising with client contacts to help provide training, support and resources for our clients to use with their own employees. These include providing client material about working virtually, mental health support for employees, returning to the office features, along with how to communicate effectively about racial justice in the United States.

She ultimately describes her role as being a “catalyst” for clients. Morneau Shepell’s impact comes through helping to spark these discussions, provide guidance and offer solutions, she says. Whether it’s providing information on mental health or responding to social unrest, Adrienne says she is proud of the way Morneau Shepell has been able to contribute to improving client situations.

“They’re leaning on us to provide specific resources and specific tools,” she says. “The ability to say ‘Yes we can do that, for you and with you,’ that’s where that impact comes into play.”

Adrienne says she also makes sure to practice what she preaches, and does her best to keep a close eye on her own wellbeing and mental health. She says she takes time to regroup when she needs to, and strives to be “honest” with herself about how she is feeling. If she needs to step away, she steps away.

“I’ve allowed myself moments to feel fully and process the events of the world,” she says. “I’ve claimed my emotions.”

For Adrienne, this has been a time period where the impact of Morneau Shepell has been more apparent than ever.

“I 100 per cent fully believe that we do important work,” she says. “I know the impact that our services can have on people. I know the lifesaving impact it can have almost immediately.”

Marilyn Goffinet – Help is always available

Marilyn Goffinet

Marilyn Goffinet is a trauma coordinator based in Houston, Texas. As part of the Global Critical Incidents line of business, she has seen first-hand the types of incidents clients have had to face over the last few months.

Marilyn has heard from retail workers who struggle with customers refusing to wear masks, where situations have sometime escalated to needing police assistance. As well, she has heard from workers whose stores were damaged by rioting, along with a variety of different COVID-19 incidents.

As she reflects on what her clients have to deal with: “It just makes their every day work just difficult for them,” she says. “They really shouldn’t have to work under those conditions.

As a trauma coordinator, Marilyn responds to requests for support through these challenges. She will help coordinate the GCI response, and follow up with clients to see how they are doing.

These check-ins with clients have been much-needed and appreciated so far, Marilyn says.

“A lot of [clients’] employees were just under a lot of stress, they were having anxiety,” she says. “They just needed to talk to someone.”

Marilyn says she would constantly remind clients to feel free to call anytime, and to not be afraid to ask for help

“I just felt like it was uplifting for me to be able to let them know . . . that they could always give us a call,” she says. “Whether it was in the morning, day or night, if they’re feeling some sort of way, don’t hesitate to give us a call.”

“I think they need to hear that,” she adds. “When you work in a certain type of work environment, it can be very, very difficult,” she says.

This support was something clients needed, Marilyn says.

“Each time that I relayed that information to them, they would always tell me ‘Thank you so much,’” she says. “Some of them didn’t even know that these EAP services were available to them.”

She adds too that she takes pride in the ways she has been able to help, especially during a time where people badly need this support.

 “It just makes me feel good and confident that my work means something, that it’s impacting people’s lives,” she says.

Stuart Morgan – Weathering the storm in style

Stuart Morgan

Stuart Morgan is a senior pension consultant in the Retirement Solutions line of business. Based in Vancouver, he has mainly been focused on guiding his clients through the extremely uncertain market conditions of the past six months.

Stuart describes his role as supporting clients in maintaining a sustainable pension plan for their employees. He helps them to manage their risks, and works to ensure they have the right infrastructure in place to make the right decisions.

Lately, Stuart says clients have been particularly concerned with the market volatility resulting from COVID-19.

While Stuart says the long-term nature of pension plans can give them time to recover from market volatility, the sheer uncertainty of the market conditions prompted many to take action in response.

“It’s been really interesting in 2020. Since all the turmoil has come about, it’s been a real test of the governance that our clients have in place,” he says.

He and his colleagues have been there to help clients, who have been regularly seeking advice during this time period. Stuart says it was also important to keep clients up to date on new pension regulations and emerging developments.

“A lot of our work that we were doing was keeping clients up to date with what’s happening and to interpret what it means for their unique circumstances,” he says.

Stuart says the desire to be there for to support the financial wellbeing of the people who rely on pensions keeps him focused and able to do his job successfully.

“The pension plans that we advise have thousands of members and billions of dollars worth of assets,” he says. “If we don’t advise the decision makers appropriately, then the number of people who are going to be impacted is significant.”

“It’s really incumbent on us to provide clear advice in simple terms to allow them to make those decisions,” he adds.

Stuart adds that he was thrilled to see his team working just as hard, and praises them for “growing and uniting and coming together in these extraordinary times.”

“I think everybody really wants to do a good job for each other and their clients, I couldn’t be more proud of the team that we have here at Morneau Shepell” he says.

Cathy Everett – Staying connected in good times and bad

Cathy Everett

Cathy Everett is a client care administrator based in Calgary, Alberta. As a CCA, Cathy’s main roles include assigning clients to counsellors, answering counsellor questions and providing information on clients.

“Our first priority is supporting the counsellors,” she says.

Cathy’s background includes working in customer service and teaching. She says this experience has been a big help in shaping her into a “people person.”

“You meet a lot of people, a lot of different people,” she says. “I believe I’m in tune to different people’s comfort levels, different people’s approach, and I think I can relate to them accordingly.”

This experience has carried over nicely to her role to Morneau Shepell, which she has held since 2018. Not only with her colleagues in their day-to-day work, but lately, Cathy has made a point of staying connected with Morneau Shepell colleagues, even ones she has never met before.

“Even though you can’t see me, we don’t work side by side, and even though I’m in Calgary, I’m still here,” she says. “Just reach out and feel free to ask me any questions.”

“During this quiet time, we’ve got the time to reach out to everybody and touch base,” she says.

She says she enjoys taking time to share her experience with others, and values opportunities to support her team

For example, she noticed a co-worker had been off the grid on Microsoft Teams, and her first instinct was to reach out and ask how they were doing.

 “It’s important to keep them in the loop because you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes,” she adds. “Especially when everyone’s working from home.”

For Cathy, a lot of this stems from a genuine love of working with other people, and she is particularly complimentary towards her current team.

“It’s something that comes naturally to me and it’s really easy,” she says. “There’s not a shy bone in my body.”

Liliana Judic-Mosquera – Keys to leadership

Liliana Judic-Mosquera

Liliana Judic-Mosquera had “many lives” before joining Morneau Shepell. She held a number of different roles working in Canada, France and the Middle East. Now, she is a trauma supervisor in the Global Critical Incidents line of business in Toronto, and she brings this wide range of influences to her own leadership style.

As a trauma supervisor, Liliana works with her team to respond to clients who need support after a traumatic incident. It’s an environment filled with urgent requests from people in difficult situations, she says.

“It’s a lot of dealing with people and the emotions that they’re facing,” she says. “It’s exactly why I joined the department. I’m really feeling that every day I’m making a difference in their lives.”

As a leader, Liliana says she believes in “working in collaboration and taking everybody’s opinions.”.

“Of course you have to make decisions where maybe people are not comfortable, but you need to try and find a consensus where everyone is agreeing,” she adds.

Liliana brought leadership experience with her to Morneau Shepell, but she still embraced opportunities to learn from her own supervisors and directors. She says she was particularly impressed by their dedication to their staff, and their ability to always be there for their teams.

Her past experience in leadership roles taught her valuable lessons in great customer service, and attention to small details. Another key detail is positive communication, especially “the way you speak and the impact you want to have on people,” she says.

With a team that regularly handles heavier issues and works with clients facing tough situations, it is important to be mindful of the emotional toll it can take on staff, she says.

Ultimately, she is full of praise for the work her team can do.

“I really think this is the best team I’ve ever worked on,” she says. “I think the purpose that we have fills a big need in people’s lives.”

Koreen Narrainen – Managing mental stress

Koreen Narrainen

Koreen Narrainen has spent several years helping clients who have experienced serious trauma at work, and one thing she has learned is the importance of work-life separation. 

As a trauma specialist based in Montreal, Koreen works with clients in need of counselling support for workplace terminations, traumatic incidents, organizational change and more. She provides consultations with customers and helps with the logistics of service setup. 

Koreen says it’s important to maintain a good level of detachment from her work, especially since her callers are people going through serious events. You have to work to make sure it does not take an emotional or physical toll on you, she says. 

“You definitely, definitely need that separation because work will definitely seep into your personal life,” she says. “It’ll eat you up.” 

“There are always those certain cases that impact you more than others,” she adds. “I won’t say I’m never affected . . . We’re all human, it impacts us in different ways.” 

For Koreen, her main stress outlet was the gym. 

“That’s where anything that has built up during the day is released,” she says. 

However, during the pandemic, things became a little more challenging. Faced with gym closures due to COVID-19, she admits that it was a challenge at first to adjust  

“It was a struggle for me because that routine was gone,” she says. “Getting dressed, leaving the house, that travel from home to the gym, having that transition to think about what happened during the day and leaving that all at the gym.” 

Koreen instead turned to yoga, online workouts, and walks with her dogs as ways to detach herself from work. She is fond of nature walks, and says that was a meaningful outlet as well. 

“It was really about going outside . . . away from computers, away from TV, away from just sitting down with four walls,” she says.” 

By working to “compartmentalize,” Koreen says it helps her “to really let the information sink in and just continue on with my role of supporting the individual in whatever way I can.” 

“My focus is on the customer and the reason they’re calling in,” she says. 

George Burke – Teamwork and communication

George Burke

Since the pandemic started, George Burke says three things have been major keys to success for him: healthy living, coffee and strong teamwork and communication. 

George is a benefits analyst based in Pittsburgh, PA. He has a finance background and says he enjoys roles involving lots of “crunching numbers.” 

He says he finds it rewarding to work on different accounts, look for billing errors and find ways to correct any issues.

“I’ve always been good at finding workarounds to get around those errors, to make it work,” he says. 

For George, the transition to remote working was a “weird adjustment at first.” To cope with stress and anxiety, he says focusing on exercise and healthy eating helped. 

“I feel like when I’m living healthy, it helps me focus a lot more in every aspect of life,” he says.  

“Lots of coffee is another secret,” he adds with a laugh. 

Another key to success for George was “great communication with everyone.” His heavy use of Microsoft Teams helped with problem solving and getting work done, he says. 

“The more we talk to each other, the more we realize where the issues are and what solutions we can create to fix multiple issues that can help everyone on the team and help the company run better for the client,” he says. 

Over the past few months, George has also helped to train new benefits analysts, and he tries to be available for everyone to answer questions, and to be someone people can rely on for help with their issues. 

“If they ask me a question, I can get back to them right away,” he says. 

“It’s not always super easy for them to get trained, so I always make myself super available for questions and make sure everyone is on the same page,” he adds. 

Ultimately, George has embraced all the new assignments he’s had to deal with, from new clients to new responsibilities. 

“I really like that, I like being challenged,” he says.

Adrienne Churchill – “I believe in what we are doing”

Adrienne Churchill

Adrienne Churchill has held multiple roles within Morneau Shepell and in the Health and Productivity Solutions line of business. With team leadership experience along with experience training staff and auditing products, she has been able to use her unique perspectives to help contribute during COVID-19. 

Adrienne is currently a supervisor for HPS program coordinators based in the Greater Toronto Area, and she was brought in to help assist in the development and administration of the Pandemic Leave Management product which was created in response to the increased absenteeism and uncertainty clients faced in early 2020. This product helps employers deal with short duration absences related to COVID-19 by monitoring and tracking employees during self-isolation or quarantine. 

Adrienne’s role was comprehensive, and included creating training materials, hiring and training staff, identifying gaps in the program, working with the team to get the service up and running, administering the program, and fielding internal and external questions regarding the service. 

She described her experience as “jumping in the boat and paddling along with everyone else.” 

The product came together in two weeks. A lot of hard work was needed, but it was an “exciting” period, she says.  

“It was a whirlwind time, but it was really exciting knowing that we were going to be able to help organizations through this time,” she says.  

The team took an “iterative design” approach when developing the product, constantly refining the product even when it was live. Adrienne was a key part in helping to adjust and improve the service,  

“As you actually get into it, you find things that need to be changed,” she says. “I really enjoyed the problem solving in it.” 

As a supervisor, Adrienne strives to always be there for her colleagues, and to help them succeed. 

“At time it felt quite overwhelming, but we made it by all working together,” she says. 

“I truly believe in doing the best you can, whenever you can,” she adds. 

Adrienne also values opportunities to help her colleagues and clients, and this is an important key to her work. 

“I believe in Morneau Shepell, I believe in what we’re doing,” she says. 

Emilie Morasse – Building an online school

Emilie Morasse

Like many parents, Emilie Morasse from Quebec City faced a difficult challenge when COVID-19 forced schools to close. However, the clinician supervisor in the Children Support Solutions line of business was able to come up with a unique solution; one that helped many other parents in the process. 

Her solution was to develop an online school program. She says it took some time and a lot of effort to pull it all together, but effective collaboration across different departments made it all happen, she says. 

The program was a free service built for all grades of Quebec elementary school students. For two months, teachers would go on camera to lead classes, with a particular focus on French and math, she says. 

“We had entire schools and classrooms . . . providing the code to the children in their class so everybody could benefit from those classes,” Emilie says. 

The feedback for the online school’s programming was very positive, Emilie says. They received praise from both parents and kids alike. 

“Most of them were tired of being online in front of the computer, but for our classes it was very dynamic and fun,” she says. “We made the child participate in the classes, they could ask questions, they could do homework and we would share it with everyone online.” 

As well, parents who struggled to balance homeschooling with their own work responsibilities were grateful for the program, Emilie says. 

“It was really nice to see that it made a difference for a lot of parents that were able to still work from home and get rid of the guilty feeling of not teaching their kids at the same time,” she says. “It’s nice that we were able to just help the kids and the parents at the same time.” 

While Emilie is proud that she was able to help provide this service, she was even more pleased to see how well different teams and stakeholders came together for this project. 

“It meant more to me that everyone just came together as a group to make this happen,” she says.  

Olanrewaju Adebiyi – Managing our Microsoft Digital Workplace rollout

Larry Adebiyi

Morneau Shepell has been adopting Microsoft Office 365 since late 2019 as part of an IT strategy to build a Digital Workplace. However, when COVID-19 hit North America, the organization looked to accelerate the implementation of the project, and in particular – the Microsoft Teams work stream. 

With 94 per cent of Morneau Shepell employees working from home by the end of March, the Digital Workplace program became essential to promote employee engagement, productivity and collaboration. Olanrewaju (Larry) Adebiyi, a Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft 365 specialist in the Toronto Don Mills office, was a key player in making sure the program rolled out successfully within the accelerated timeline. 

The original project timeline was to have Microsoft Teams rolled out by the end of June 2020, but that was shortened to just a few weeks within March and April. The team had to quickly coordinate with multiple stakeholders internally and work with external consultants to assist with change management, onboarding and training. 

Larry says the project was a “chaotic” period. There was a big need for “prioritizing” and balancing the Teams rollout with other time-bound projects and ongoing daily tasks. 

“You’re fighting against time,” he says. “It was an interesting time, I must say.” 

Larry says he has always had a “just get it done” mentality, and the secret to his success was to stay focused on the project goals and work hard to meet them. With this pride in his work, Larry was frequently responding to emails late at night and on weekends, to deliver this project.  

“In that regard, everything boiled down to staying calm, and just taking it one step at a time,” he says. 

The use of Microsoft Teams in our Digital Workplace combines the features of different tools like chat, video meetings, telephony, document collaboration and integration of other approved third-party apps into one platform. Larry says this was a key factor in its adoption. 

“Bringing all these together was what Teams brought on the table for everyone, which is why we are promoting it to be used as the essential tool for collaboration in the organization,” he says. 

So far, Larry is pleased with the project outcome. There has been positive feedback and a good rate of adoption across the business. 

“We had some roadblocks . . . but in the end, everything was successful within the planned timeline,” he says, even if the timeline was considerably shorter than originally planned before the pandemic.

Gaurav Baloni – The importance of empathy

Gaurav Baloni

Morneau Shepell professionals often have to deal with callers going through very difficult challenges in their lives. This is something Gaurav Baloni understands as well as anyone. 

Gaurav, a process developer from India, recently faced a situation with a life insurance claim. There were concerns about a potential escalation with this situation, and Gaurav jumped in to help out. 

Sensing this need for resolution, Gaurav quickly reviewed the case and connected with other team members to handle the situation. With some effective coordination, the claim was promptly settled within only a few hours, and the family was informed shortly afterward.

Gaurav’s proactive coordination with this case earned him very positive feedback from other colleagues. He was praised for helping to build client trust and strengthening their relationship. 

“This is exactly the type of attentiveness and empathy we need towards our retirees to be truly successful as a team,” says one colleague. 

“He showed that he truly cares,” says another. “In this instance, it really reflected his understanding to the sensitivity of the matter and his mindfulness of what he was doing, and this kind of teamwork is very much appreciated. Kudos to Gaurav and a big thanks for being so mindful!” 

Gaurav says this empathy and sensitivity helps guide him to find creative solutions for different cases. 

“I personally feel the participant,” he says. “If I was there, how would I feel?” 

He also says he feels a personal connection with the clients he works with, and uses that empathy to do his job.  

“That’s why I took initiative,” he says. “I strongly believe that we are directly helping human beings.” 

Darrell Bailey and Perry Moreau – The need to help

Darrell Bailey and Perry Moreau

As GameSense Advisors, Darrell Bailey and Perry Moreau specialized in helping people with responsible gambling. With COVID-19 and the closure of casinos, they brought their skills of helping others to other teams in the LifeWorks line of business.  

Before their transfer, Darrell and Perry worked to share resources and services to help people be responsible gamblers. They would discuss good practices and the possible “pitfalls” of gambling, Perry says.

“In a nutshell, we try to give people the right information so they can help themselves,” Perry says.   

“We’re more like a referral and a resource,” adds Darrell. “We don’t do any counselling per se, however if there is a time where someone is in immediate crisis, we’ll probably intervene and add a little counselling.”   

Even with their backgrounds as GameSense advisors, it was still a bit of a transition. The two are based in Winnipeg, and had to adjust to helping American clients and colleagues dealing with other counselling needs, including COVID-19.  

“It started out like gangbusters,” Darrell says. “I felt like a deer in headlights.”  

Despite this, Darrell says the great support from their teammates and their desire to help others in need allowed them to adjust quickly and jump right into their new roles.  

“People have a lot of issues to deal with right now,” Perry says. “There are many that are homeless, there are many that need medical care, there are many that need diapers for their children, there are many that need shelter.”  

“All of these things, this is basic human need.” he adds. “We’re being trusted to give the right information to people, so that they can go get the help they need in order to survive.”  

Darrell and Perry say they felt very fortunate to remain employed and in a position to help people out during the pandemic.   

“We’re looking at what is concerning the various individuals we talk to . . . Some people are scared to pieces about what’s going on with their lives,” Perry says.  

“The bottom line is we’re here to give people the help they need,” Perry adds.

Vanessa Sandoval – Helping our clients one person at a time

Vanessa Sandoval

Like many Morneau Shepell employees, Vanessa Sandoval has seen first-hand the impact of stress and anxiety on our clients’ employees over the last few months. 

As a trauma specialist based out of Chicago, Vanessa works as a “middle person” to connect clients with different forms of counselling services. With so much going on, including a global pandemic along with the racial protests, she says there is a lot of client demand for employee support. 

“People were just dealing with stress and a lot of grief,” she says. “So, I was privileged enough to help them through this.” 

This counselling comes in different forms, from in-person consultations, to sessions over the phone or online. It comes down to each employee’s individual needs, she says. 

“Everyone deals with things in different ways,” she says. “Some people may just have that need to talk with someone for 15 minutes or just let that release out of what they’re holding in.” 

So far, clients have been responding very well, Vanessa says. The virtual and telephonic options have been well received, and there has been a “sense of relief” from our corporate clients knowing their staff have these support options available. 

Vanessa values her role in providing these counselling options for clients and helping their staff through a challenging time, and she takes pride in being able to meet client needs during a tough time period, she says. 

“What keeps me focused is knowing that I’m going to be helping a company out,” she says. “I’m not only going to be helping one person . . . I think that’s the biggest accomplishment for me.”

Marc-Antoine Dagenais – A musical journey

Marc-Antoine Dagenais

Marc-Antoine Dagenais is a trauma specialist with Morneau Shepell. Based in Montreal, he joined the company roughly six months ago with a unique background: social work and music. 

As a trauma specialist, Marc-Antoine and his colleagues respond to calls regarding traumatic incidents in the workplace. When a client company experiences a traumatic event, Marc-Antoine works to locate counsellors to help their employees, and will also go on-site himself to conduct post-traumatic debriefing sessions. 

Marc-Antoine says it has always been important for him and his colleagues to support each other when trying to help callers with these situations, especially during COVID-19.

“We cannot see each other anymore, we cannot have social interactions as often,” he says. “On a daily basis, we’re receiving phone calls and emails with such traumatic events that can weigh really heavily. So we had to develop ways between the team to support each other through this.” 

To help keep morale up among team members, he says people have been sharing pictures of their garden and their pets, or even sharing recipes. For Marc-Antoine, he jumped back into his passion for music and started sharing clips of himself playing saxophone, piano and guitar. 

“Getting back in touch with my first passion was so beneficial,” he says. “I just found things that the pandemic could not take away from me.” 

This passion for music was a big part of what brought him to Morneau Shepell in the first place.  

Before becoming a trauma specialist, Marc-Antoine spent several years as a professional musician. He studied music in university, and then spent six years playing with bands on cruise ships. He says he loved the opportunity to make people dance and make their vacation more fun.  

“I played everything from Frank Sinatra up to Lady Gaga and everything in the middle like polka, death metal, rock and roll, you name it,” he says.  

Marc-Antoine says it was while he was working on cruise ships that he had an “epiphany.” On cruise ships, he was constantly surrounded by people of different backgrounds from around the world, and he heard their stories of struggles with racism, sexism and more. He says this experience and this insight into problems so many people face spurred him to return to school to become a social worker. 

Whether it was “trying to bring happiness” to peoples’ cruise experience or helping clients through their most difficult moments, Marc-Antoine has brought his love of helping others wherever he goes. 

“When I finish helping people, I feel so uplifted,” he says. “It can be tiring, but to me it creates meaning in this world.”

Katie Monsma – A new supporting role

Katie Monsma

Katie Monsma had the unique fortune of joining Morneau Shepell just as the pandemic was getting underway. She is a client care administrator based in Gravenhurst, Ontario and she started in mid-March.  

For her, the transition to remote working was remarkably smooth. Given her location, she was already planning to work from home, and she says her colleagues were incredibly supportive of her needs early on.

“Morneau Shepell has been the most accommodating and outwardly appreciative of their employees of all the jobs I’ve worked,” she says. 

“And I’ve worked a lot of jobs,” she adds with a laugh. 

Her main roles including supporting counsellors with any needs that they may have, answering their questions and providing needed information. She admits it was “intimidating” early on, but it has been an “exciting” process as well.  

Katie says the support of her team helped. They have been very responsive to her questions and helped her jump in to handling calls and requests right away. 

“I know I can do it because even though we’re all working remotely, our team is really involved and active,” she says. 

Before joining Morneau Shepell, Katie worked with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) where she provided administrative support to front line officers. There, Katie found she enjoyed that kind of support work and notes there a number of similarities between these two jobs. 

Perhaps the most significant similarity is the opportunity to provide support and direction for her colleagues. 

“You can hear the counsellor’s tone of voice when you’ve helped them and hear the relief when they’ve got their questions answered,” she says. 

Although she does not directly interact with clients, Katie finds it gratifying to know she was an important part in the process of them getting help. 

“I’ve had counsellors take note of my name and say ‘Thank you Katie. You’ve been really, really helpful,’” she says. 

“It makes it feel more than I’m just another voice on the end of the line, like they’re appreciative of what I am personally doing,” she adds. “That feels really nice.”

Irene Stanciu – Working against the clock

Irene Stanciu

A common challenge for many people during COVID-19 has been needing to adjust to extremely tight deadlines with their work, something Irene Stanciu experienced first-hand. 

Recently, the director of Administrative Solutions in the Toronto Don Mills office and her teams worked to help clients in adjusting their benefits setups during COVID-19. To achieve this, they helped develop a new work status so client employees were still able to access their health benefits during the pandemic, all in a very tight time window.

“It had to be turned around very quickly in order to accommodate their needs and make sure everyone continued their benefits and kept their coverage during a time where they needed it the most,” she says. 

It took some long hours and a lot of hard work from many different people, but Irene says she is pleased with the work of her team. 

“It’s a higher level of stress than usual, so being able to provide work that adds value and makes an impact, I think is the most important thing,” she says. 

Irene says the biggest key to success is using time efficiently, or “eliminating dead time,” as she calls it.  

“At every point in time, some value-adding activity takes place,” she says. 

Irene adds too that the tighter deadlines helped in a way, and enabled herself and her team members to work more effectively. 

“Sometimes it brings out the best in you,” she says. “It makes you look for new solutions; it makes you get out of your comfort zone.” 

As well, the desire to assist people in a tough situation helped drive Irene during this hectic period. 

“Beyond everything, it’s people who need it and people who are going through difficult situations,” she says. “Even if we never meet them face to face or we don’t know them, the work that we are doing behind the scenes has an impact.”

Julia Dasilveira – Supporting clients and colleagues

Julia Dasilveira

Working under tight deadlines to help clients during COVID-19 can be very stressful, and overwhelming at times. While Julia Dasilveira has been working hard to meet her client needs, she has also been working hard to help keep morale up among her colleagues. 

As a family support specialist based out of Montreal, Julia’s role involves supporting clients with child care or elder care needs. Her work days involve collecting information for packages, connecting with clients and handling their requests, along with updating existing resources.

“A lot of times, people call us because they’re not sure where to go next,” she says. “We sometimes act a bit like counsellors because we want to make sure the person receives the correct information.” 

Lately, she has helped develop packages of resources for clients in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. featuring tips on child care, working from home with kids, homeschooling, and more. 

Julia says that it has been “all hands on deck” to make sure client needs are met, and that it was a challenge to adjust to working under COVID-19. 

“It’s always go, go, go,” she says.  

Even if a request comes in late in the day, “tomorrow might be too late,” she says.  

“We have to think of the client first,” she says. “Whatever is needed, we have to do.” 

It has been a challenging period for Julia and her colleagues, and she says it has been “easy to get overwhelmed at times,” which means keeping morale up has been a crucial part of team success.  

“It’s important to keep the team motivated, and to help them realize that we’re all in the same boat,” she says.  

To do this, Julia likes to send out uplifting emails to colleagues and encourage them to reach out if they need help. She says keeping things light has been a good tactic to maintain morale.  

Julia also says she owes a lot of her own success to her team, and takes pride in the work they are all able to do together. 

“The important thing is that we’re all here to help each other, and we’re here to help the clients as well,” she says.

Linda Naranjit – Creating clinical content

Linda Naranjit

COVID-19 has been a period where many people are in need of mental health support. Linda Naranjit has been working to make sure clients are supported through this time, and can face their mental health challenges head-on.  

As a Clinical Director based in Ontario, one of Linda’s main responsibilities include overseeing content development for the AbilitiCBT program, Morneau Shepell’s virtual therapy platform.    

Linda was tasked with creating new clinical content for pandemic-related issues, including change & anxiety management, resiliency building, isolation and stigma, uncertainty and return to work issues. The content had to be created quickly to support clients, and Linda committed to working evenings and weekends to help pull it all together in the pandemic’s early days.

“It was of utmost importance to understand and consider all possible impacts on the client during a pandemic while trying to take a holistic perspective,” Linda says.  

“There are so many different mental health issues and emotions that emerge during a pandemic,” she adds. “I am so proud that we are able to deliver the pandemic program with highly skilled therapists that are client centered and enthusiastic about the modality. It is the therapists that make this successful.”   

By the end of May, over 3,000 people had accessed the program.  Linda admits she still hasn’t quite processed the positive feedback or how many people have been impacted by her contributions to the program.    

“It was just me jumping in, doing what was needed in the moment so that we could support those in need,” she says.   

“I’m just really honoured and humbled by the fact that we’re able to reach so many people,” she adds. “For me, that what’s really meaningful.”   

Linda says the biggest key to her work is focusing on the client experience and striving to make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals that need support and access to mental health programs.   

“My secret is that I love the work that I do because I am helping people in some way and that translates into my dedication and passion for mental health support,” she says. 

“It’s always knowing that what I’m developing, whatever I do, really does benefit the client at the end and that is what matters,” Linda adds.

Carol Belshaw – The office mum

Carol Belshaw

While the staff in Morneau Shepell’s Glasgow office have been working from home, Carol Belshaw has been a steady supporting presence for all our teams. 

As the Operational Support Manager, Carol describes her work as dealing with all the “non-clinical” tasks. She works directly with our research, referral and administrations teams along with dealing with office facilities.

“There’s not one specific little thing that I do,” she says. “Just a mass of different things.” 

“Jack-of-all-trades, master of none, I suppose is one way to put it,” she adds.   

Lately, Carol has been working hard to support the team as they work from home. This has included ensuring everyone has what they need, from computer monitors to desk chairs to full sets of equipment for new hires. She has been there to make sure that people have a collection point, or she will sometimes handle home deliveries herself. 

As a result, Carol has often been the only person around the office, and she jokes that it has been a “blissful” experience at times. 

Over and above her normal duties the “new norm for me is doing what I can to make sure the rest of the team can actually function, which keeps the U.K. and Ireland going,” she says. 

In her role, Carol remarks that she is almost like “the mummy of the office,” and takes pride in her ability to look after all the teams with their work needs and beyond. On top of that, Carol enjoys cooking and baking for the staff, not that this has happened for some time now. She says she hopes there can be a “good old feast” once everyone can safely return. 

What is important for Carol is the “fantastic people” she works with and wanting to see them succeed. 

“I like to make sure that they have got what they need to do their job and that they don’t need to stress or worry,” she says. “If I can make a difference in that, I’m very happy.”

Megan Casey – Normalizing mental health

Megan Casey

If there is one thing Megan Casey is passionate about, it’s mental health awareness, a topic she feels is very relevant during COVID-19. 

The customer success manager from Sydney, Australia with a background in psychology says she has noticed a growing sense of awareness of mental health as an issue that has “the potential to impact every single person regardless of where you are on the well-being continuum,” especially with all the global challenges this year.

“It’s been a really rubbish year, particularly in Australia,” she says. “We had those awful bushfires . . . that really took up a lot of the country’s resources and emotions. Just after the bushfires, COVID-19 hit, so it’s been a rough 2020.” 

Lately, Megan has been focused on helping clients return to work and ensuring they have support and resources to transition successfully. Her psychology knowledge has been quite handy in her recent work, helping her in debunking myths about mental health along with breaking down the reactions of client employees from a mental well-being point of view as they return to work.  

“It’s great that we’ll soon be returning to the new normal, but that’s still a challenge in itself,” she says. 

Megan points to her own personal experience of living with mental health issues as a reason behind her passion. A self-described “ball of anxiety,” she often brings up her own experiences to help normalize challenges people may face with their own mental health. 

Megan also says she ultimately aims to use her own lived experience and academic background to share her knowledge and help clients improve the well-being of their own staff. 

“My passion is improving well-being, both individually and organisationally,” Megan says.

Patrice Valade – Leadership during COVID-19

Patrice Valade

Patrice Valade is the vice president in charge of the Hartford, Connecticut office, where he oversees roughly 100 staff members. Patrice’s main responsibility is to lead service delivery of Defined Benefit administrative services to approximately 200 clients of Prudential Financial, and he works to ensure the needs of Prudential and their clients get met and that his staff have what they need to succeed.  

His COVID-19 leadership has earned him tons of applause from his employees.

Patrice Valade is the vice president in charge of the Hartford, Connecticut office, where he oversees roughly 100 staff members. Patrice’s main responsibility is to lead service delivery of Defined Benefit administrative services to approximately 200 clients of Prudential Financial, and he works to ensure the needs of Prudential and their clients get met and that his staff have what they need to succeed.  

His COVID-19 leadership has earned him tons of applause from his employees. 

“He inspires others within the department with how he handles and conducts himself,” says one colleague. “He checks in regularly, recognized I was working a lot of hours and really showed concern about my well-being,” says another. 

Patrice’s own description of his leadership style is quite simple. 

“I try to keep a human touch,” he says.   

One focus of his is being mindful of staff needs and how to accommodate them during different periods of uncertainty. 

“I’m not trying to solve any of their personal problems,” he says. “I’m trying at least to be human and recognize that we’re going through changes.”  

“I think if you want to get the most of the people, you need to be a good listener . . . show that you’re not panicking when there’s a situation, at least try to show you’re calm and in control even though I’m a very anxious person,” he adds.  

One challenge Patrice has had to face is all the uncertainty of COVID and having to make important decisions “without knowing everything.” He describes his approach this way: “let’s face challenges one at a time, let’s just jump in,” and works with his team of managers to solve any issues that come up. 

As well, Patrice organizes virtual cocktail hours for his staffs, and also tries to check in with as many different employees as he can. There is a diverse group of staff members in Hartford, he says, and he enjoys taking time to hear from them and see how they are doing. 

“You can vent, you can say you’re not feeling well or you need support,” he says. “That can be an open discussion.” 

Above all, Patrice says it’s critical to make decisions with his staff’s wellbeing in mind.  

“A big part of managing is judgement . . . what makes sense for the people, what makes sense for the company,” he says.

Jessie Kafyeke – Support among colleagues

Jessie Kafyeke

Jessie Kafyeke is a trauma coordinator for Morneau Shepell’s Global Critical Incidents network based in Montreal. When a serious incident happens in the workplace for clients, Jessie and her colleagues are the ones who respond. 

This can include everything from employee termination to bank robberies to medical emergencies to witnessing car accidents, she says. Whatever the incident, Jessie works to make sure specialists are on-site as quickly as possible to help clients who need it.  

“Basically, they call us in a panic and we call them back with ‘this person will be there in two hours,’” she says.  

A key factor in our response is to “make them feel like everything is under control and that they will be supported,” Jessie adds. 

During the pandemic, Jessie says there was a lot of demand for coronavirus support. 

“People are overwhelmed,” she says. “Normally you can separate work and home but now there’s no more barriers.” 

Not only that, but looking forward, Jessie also says she anticipates a higher volume of work as more people return to the workforce. 

Facing this current work situation, Jessie and her colleagues have been working extra hard to keep morale up and support each other. 

This has involved co-workers updating each other on their gardens, knitting projects, along with pyjama days. People will bring their pets to team meetings, and one colleague has been sharing updates on a family of birds near their home, Jessie says. 

“On the trauma team, we deal with heavy stuff all the time,” she says. “So sometimes just keeping it light really helps.” 

Ultimately, Jessie is full of praise for the hard work of her colleagues as they work through this stressful time, calling them “troopers” 

“We’re getting through it during a worldwide pandemic,” she says.  

Jori Sisk – Health and wellness coaching

Jori Sisk

As a health and wellness coach for Morneau Shepell based in Springfield, Illinois, Jori Sisk’s approach when working with clients is simple. 

“I don’t tell them what to do,” Jori explains.  

“Our process is truly collaborative and our conversations really revolve around me listening, reflecting back what I hear and then asking questions that help the individual learn something new about themselves,” she adds.

“I help them recognize their strengths, use the tools they already have and support them in developing new tools.”

Jori works alongside clients to help them develop healthy ways to manage their stress, weight, sleep habits and more. She also helps with diabetes prevention and helps people who are trying to quit using tobacco.  

During the pandemic, the idea of “meeting the client where they are” has been super important for Jori. It’s important to recognize the challenges and stress clients are facing, and not force them to talk about issues they aren’t comfortable discussing, she says. At the same time, if the client needs to talk about a different topic than planned, as long as it’s within the scope of health and wellness coaching, anything is on the table. 

An important part of this for Jori is helping clients understand that it’s “okay to not be okay.” 

“It’s important to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable because we’re human,” she says. “Things are going to be uncomfortable and not okay at times.”  

Another key part of Jori’s approach is to help guide clients to wanting to make positive change in their lives. For example, with someone trying to lose weight, telling them to just start exercising or eating healthier is not nearly as effective as helping the client “key into living a life that’s true to themselves,” Jori says.  

It’s important for the client to understand their values in order to see whether their habits are reflective of what they stand for and how they want to live, she adds. 

Jori ultimately doesn’t see herself as a problem solver, but someone who helps clients reach small “aha moments” on their journey towards making lasting positive change. 

“I truly believe that every client I work with is their own expert,” she says. 

Curtis Simms – The trainer

Curtis Simms

How can you train new staff when you aren’t in the same room? Curtis Simms, a North American client care administrator centre of excellence trainer based in Montreal experienced that first-hand. 

Curtis trains new hires across North America to do client care work for Morneau Shepell. This involves some theory and lots of practical work, and Curtis strives to keep it from being a “sleep session.” 

“I like to create an environment that’s engaging, light and fun,” he says.  

Due to the pandemic, Curtis worked to create strong virtual training experiences. He encourages people to join via video instead of calling in to create a “social” learning environment.  

“It’s more of a personable approach to training,” he says.  

Curtis says a virtual environment has made some aspects of training more difficult, as it’s harder for new hires to shadow agents or get experience in taking inbound calls. Here, he enlisted the help of more experienced agents as guest speakers to help and share their expertise. 

On top of his training duties, Curtis has constantly helped others with tech issues or any issues related to working remotely. 

For Curtis, his favourite part about training others has been the opportunity to “connect with people.” He also embraces the opportunity to create an environment “where they feel safe to make mistakes, grow, ask questions, be engaged, laugh; you know, that sort of thing.” 

“I just have such a great and wonderful opportunity to be involved in making an impact on our new agents,” Curtis says. 

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.  

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.” 

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.  

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.

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.

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.” 

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”