Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 6, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Agrium Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017) and Alberta's Top Employers (2017):
- As part of the company's 12-month health and wellness pilot program, Agrium recently opened a dedicated Wellness Centre at its head office, offering fitness classes and opportunities to consult with a registered dietician
- Agrium provides maternity leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers of up to 100% of salary for up to 8 weeks, depending on their position
- In addition to helping employees save for the longer term, Agrium offers retirement planning assistance, phased-in work options for employees approaching retirement and health benefits that extend to retirees (with no age limit)
Agrium employees help feed the world
With the world population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, global food production needs are projected to rise by 35 per cent. The key to sustainably meeting that demand is to increase agricultural yields on existing farm lands. In response, Agrium Inc., one of the largest global distributors of fertilizer, has made "help feed the world" part of its central mission statement.
Vinesh Kohli, manager of Agrium's nitrogen production plant in the southern Alberta hamlet of Carseland, has no trouble relating to that mission.
"From my office window, I can see combines working the fields," says Kohli. "I know that the product we're making here is helping farmers grow the food our society and the world needs. I can see it and I can touch it. For me, that's a tremendous connection."
At Agrium's head office in Calgary, Mike Webb, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, feels a similar connection.
Prior to joining Agrium in 2014, Webb worked in the financial services sector. He sometimes found it difficult to explain to his three young children what he did for a living. That's no longer a problem.
"Now, when I talk to my kids over dinner, I can tell them that, one way or another, Agrium had a role to play in producing the food that's on their plate," says Webb. "It's great when you can clearly articulate what your day's work ultimately accomplishes."
Agrium, already the largest agricultural retailer on three continents, may soon extend its global reach even further. Pending shareholder and regulatory approval, Agrium is set to merge with Saskatoon-based PotashCorp to create the world's largest crop nutrient company.
Webb says the proposed merger is about creating an enterprise that can invest in the growth and innovation needed to address the global food challenges of the 21st century.
The proposed merger could also open up new opportunities for employees to advance and diversify their careers.
"One of the things we hear from many employees is that they want to have one or more tours overseas during their career," says Webb. "If it happens, this new enterprise would be positioned to operate successfully in 18 different countries."
Career development is a top priority for Agrium. "We've taken mentorship to a new level," says Webb. "We call it sponsorship. New employees are each assigned a sponsor who provides more than traditional mentorship. They also act as the individual's champion when key decisions are being made about calibrating performance and considering promotions."
Even before the proposed merger, Agrium was on a significant growth curve. The company has evolved into a global leader in what is called precision agriculture, using satellite technology, drones and soil sampling to better manage and direct the application of fertilizer and seed.
But through all of that, says Webb, Agrium has never lost sight of its roots. "We are a large company, but also a very down-to-earth one. Our retail branches are part of the fabric of small towns and rural communities. When we do recruitment, often it's literally on a piece of paper pinned up on a notice board in a town hall, a church or an ice rink."
As Agrium continues to grow, adds Webb, those connections will be more important than ever. "A lot of it comes down to our work culture. When all is said and done, we are an agricultural company and our end user is the farmer. How can we help individual farmers do their job more efficiently, sustainably and at a lower cost? That's what keeps us on our toes and keeps our business moving forward."
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2017)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 9, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Agrium Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2017):
- Recent engineering grads can gain professional experience through Agrium's rotational 4-year Engineer-in-Training program, which includes mentoring from an experienced engineer and exposure to a variety of disciplines such as chemical, mechanical, process control, electrical, mining and mineral processing engineering
- Agrium offers a Marketers-in-Training program to help new grads combine their university or college knowledge with on-the-job training -- the program ranges between 2 to 4 years and features rotations in sales, marketing and logistics under the guidance of a personal mentor
- Agrium manages apprenticeships and skilled trades programs for instrumentation technicians, millwrights, steamfitters/pipefitters, heavy duty mechanics, industrial mechanics and welders -- the company pays for 8 to 9 weeks of training annually for a duration of 3 to 4 years with employees receiving full pay while they complete their training
Agrium cultivates a world of opportunity
Even before he arrived in Canada in 2011, Ankur Makanji had thought a lot about the kind of company he wanted to work for. He looked at top employer listings and noticed that Calgary-based Agrium Inc. - a global leader in agricultural products, services and solutions - was consistently ranked as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People. He was also deeply impressed that the company had made "help feed the world" part of its central mission statement.
"It's important to me because I want to contribute to the world in a positive way," says Makanji, 30, who was born and raised in India and later studied human resources and management in the United Kingdom. "Agriculture is a huge deal in India and so I've seen the direct impact of using good fertilizers and I've also seen the impact of putting bad products into your crops."
Hired in 2012, Makanji is currently an Analyst in Agrium's Talent and Mobility, Global Organizational Effectiveness, department. He helps provide support for employees in international locations as they navigate a wide range of issues, including immigration and taxation rules.
Makanji is also in charge of Agrium's employee engagement survey, which goes out to some 15,000 employees in North America, South America, Europe and Australia. And in 2016, Makanji became Chair of Agrium's Young Professionals Network (YPN), a grassroots initiative that represents the interests and concerns of employees ages 18 to 34, who make up 24 per cent of Agrium's workforce.
These are all impressive achievements for someone who has been with the company less than four years. Makanji credits Agrium's "culture of opportunity" and the strong guidance he's received from peers and leaders for helping him succeed so quickly.
"From day one, I've been given plenty of opportunities," he says. "I've also been given responsibility and the trust of my leaders that I will make the right decisions. Like a lot of other millennials, that kind of support and recognition is very important to me."
Makanji was paired with a more senior employee who acts as a champion when key decisions are being made about promotions and new opportunities. Mike Webb, Agrium's Senior Vice President of Human Resources, says this kind of sponsorship is invaluable.
"We look to these personal champions to tell us what a written employee profile often cannot, namely what drives the individual and makes him or her uniquely qualified for the opportunity at hand," says Webb. "Quite frankly, in an organization as large as ours you need the ability to connect on that level or else you can end up making blind decisions. This way, we're much better positioned to help advance careers to the benefit of all concerned."
Depending on their field of interest, Agrium also offers new recruits a comprehensive set of rotational, on-the-job training programs for engineers, marketers, managers and trades people.
Webb says attracting younger employees is critical for a company like Agrium, which is increasingly focused on high-tech practices like precision agriculture and uses satellite imaging, drones and soil sampling to better manage and direct the application of fertilizer and seed.
"Our industry is changing in some pretty dynamic ways and these are things young people naturally get," he adds.
The opportunity to work abroad is another clear draw for young people, something that promises to be an even bigger factor going forward. Pending regulatory approval, Agrium is set to merge with Saskatoon-based PotashCorp to create a world-class integrated global supplier of crop inputs - one that operates in 18 different countries.
Finally, there's the company's mission to "help feed the world." Webb says that, while young employees want to make a good living, "they increasingly tell us they want their jobs to also have a clear meaning and ultimate benefit to society. We believe we can help them achieve that balance and it's something that gives me great hope for the future."
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 27, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Agrium Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017):
- The company operates the Agrium Women's Inclusion Network, an in-house initiative that provides female employees with opportunities to participate in professional development workshops and events such as lunch and learn sessions and speed networking -- additionally, the network maintains multiple chapters across the country and offers leadership and volunteer positions to engage employees
- Agrium recently piloted a Women's Leadership Development program to cultivate high potential female candidates for senior management positions -- participants are matched with a mentor as well as a group of potential sponsors from the senior leadership team -- the company also maintains a dedicated mentorship program for women and has created over 200 mentoring relationships
"Being involved in the Agrium Women's Inclusion Network (WIN) has opened doors to new networks and provided opportunities to take on step-up projects. Both have had tremendous impact on my career growth." Heini Oguike, Compliance Coordinator and WIN Chapter Co-Lead
Diversity and inclusion enhance Agrium's global reach
As a global leader in agricultural products, services and solutions, Calgary-based Agrium Inc. is already a highly diversified company both operationally and geographically. So it makes good business sense for the company's workforce to be as diverse and inclusive as possible.
"As a retailer, you want to be able to present a clear benefit to your clients, wherever they reside globally," says Mike Webb, Agrium's Senior Vice President of Human Resources. "So having employees who can relate to cultures around the world and see business challenges through their eyes is what will ultimately make you successful."
Diversity has long been a priority for Agrium, reflected in the fact that 2017 marks the eighth consecutive year the company has been recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers. But over the past year, Agrium has taken its commitment to a new level by setting goals and strategies for further diversifying its workforce.
Key to that effort is getting a clearer understanding of Agrium's existing employee profile. In 2016, the company asked its nearly 13,000 North American employees to voluntarily self-disclose their race/ethnicity and military status. A significant number of employees offered their information, which, in turn, helped the organization better understand the diversity of their employee base.
"We learned a lot of new information about our Canadian employees," says Webb. "With this comes the possibility of establishing new employee resource groups, driven by employee interest, focused on Aboriginal Peoples, visible minorities and veterans."
When it comes to gender parity the company has made significant progress. Over the past two years, the representation of women on Agrium's board of directors grew from 15 per cent to 30 per cent - the highest proportion in the company's 85-year history. The next step is to increase representation among senior executives below the board level. The current goal is to have 15 per cent female representation at that senior level by 2019 - an objective that at first blush, Webb admits, might appear somewhat modest.
"What you need to realize is the industry we work in has tended to be male-dominated for many years," says Webb. "Given the level we are starting from and the labour markets we draw from, we believe this is a realistic goal. I hope someday pretty soon we'll be talking about something well in excess of 15 per cent representation."
Nurturing a strong succession pool of young professionals is another priority being pursued by Brent Smith, who, in addition to being Agrium's Vice President of Proprietary Technology and Innovation, was recently appointed Chair of the company's Diversity and Inclusion Council.
"We've already hit our objective of having 25 per cent of our workforce under the age of 35," says Smith. "The next step is to ensure we have programs to retain those employees and to keep them engaged and excited to build their careers at Agrium."
To that end, Agrium will work closely with their two existing employee resource groups - the Young Professionals Network and the Women's Inclusion Network - to have diversity and inclusion more visible and tangible across the workplace culture.
Yet another driver for diversity is that, pending regulatory approval, Agrium is set to merge with Saskatoon-based PotashCorp, making the new company the largest crop nutrient company in the world and the third-largest natural resource company in Canada.
"This new merged company would operate in 18 countries," says Webb. "We will need to relate to the entire world and the only way you can do that is to have a strong organization built on diversity and inclusion."