Employees appreciate the hometown vibe at Wawanesa

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Every day, Eman Agpalza goes to work for Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Co. with the pride and confidence that he has the tools and trust he needs to get the job done.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/03/2022 (264 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Every day, Eman Agpalza goes to work for Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Co. with the pride and confidence that he has the tools and trust he needs to get the job done.

“The company puts a lot of trust in employees to do the right thing and gives us the resources we need to succeed,” says Agpalza, senior community affairs specialist. “I know I have everything I need and that’s because there’s a culture of caring that permeates Wawanesa.”

Wawanesa is one of the largest property and casualty insurers in Canada. Founded 126 years ago in the village of Wawanesa, Man., by a group of 20 local farmers, the company has grown to operate across Canada and in the U.S. Still connected to its rural roots, the company has its corporate offices in Winnipeg, but its head office is still officially in Wawanesa.

Employee Kate Urquhart stands in front of where Wawanesa Insurance began 125 years ago.

That history and tradition continues to inform how Wawanesa treats its employees and partners. It’s a welcoming culture where, prior to the pandemic, Winnipeg employees would regularly chat with the CEO while getting a coffee in the lunch room.

“We still have that Prairie hometown feel at the core of the culture we’ve created – we are here to look after one another. That’s what Wawanesa culture is,” says Jodi Carradice, senior vice president and chief people and culture officer. “It’s like small-town service in a big-city industry.”

For Agpalza and his fellow employees, that sprit of mutual support was never more evident than when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the company shifted to working remotely. It was a process he describes as seamless and it has had some unexpected benefits. Thanks to the company’s enhanced emphasis on communications, employees share ideas and information across Wawanesa operations more than ever, leading to creative solutions as well as virtual socialization.

Wawanesa has also maintained a high level of customer service through the pandemic, responding to accidents, severe weather and natural catastrophes.

The company also responded by putting more emphasis on mental health and overall wellness. In addition to their extensive range of health and wellness resources, Wawanesa introduced totally flexible work options to empower people to work in the way that’s best for them and added new resources, such as mental health first-aid training and tripling mental health coverage for employees.

“Wellness is a top priority and I really appreciate how flexible Wawanesa is in not just letting us work from home, but to have flexible hours for better life-work balance,” says Agpalza.

“We have so much information available to us through our employee portal and management really encourages you to take time off when you need it, so resource-wise everything is there.”

Wawanesa also actively supports the communities where their employees live and work. In recent years, the company has given $3.5 million annually to charitable and community groups. Last year it raised that amount to meet the increased need in communities posed by the pandemic.

While it contributes in a big way monetarily, Wawanesa still hasn’t lost that small-town, take-care-of-the-little-things approach. When the pandemic threw a wrench into large-scale community engagement events, the company continued its My Community Day program, which offers paid time off for employees to volunteer, and expanded it to encourage Random Acts of Kindness, such as shovelling a neighbour’s driveway, reading to residents of care homes or baking them a batch of cookies.

“We’re a humble group,” says Carradice. “We may be a big, coast-to-coast and into the U.S. organization, but you’re not a number here – you’re a person. You’re an important person and I think that sums us up.”

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