Interfor builds value for employees by providing a career where they contribute, grow and prosper.
We bring out the best in our employees by offering long-term, rewarding careers supported by training and education, opportunities for promotion, and great benefits.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented many new and unprecedented challenges in 2020. At Interfor, we took several steps to support and promote the health and well-being of our employees through this difficult time. Please see COVID-19 in our safety chapter for more detail.
We paid a total of $2.9 million in bonuses to our front-line employees as a gesture of our appreciation and to recognize their grit and tenacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recognizing the Value of Strategic, Targeted Training
Through our learning and development program, we:
- complete analysis and internal evaluations to understand our people and their training needs;
- set short-, medium- and long-term targets for training and development of our employees;
- evaluate training programs for continuous improvement using feedback from employees; and
- anchor key learnings from training and education programs by requiring homework, follow-up questions, and manager sign-off on new skills.
Supporting Employee Development and Internal Promotion
Getting employees started off on the right foot is critical. All salaried employees are given an individual onboarding plan based on their background and role. In 2017, we launched a robust onboarding process for our 2,000+ hourly employees. Once new employees complete the onboarding process, they meet with their supervisor to discuss the various programs available to help them progress in their careers.
Some of our internal employee development programs include:
- BCIT Industrial Wood Processing Program — A one-year program focused on teaching employees all aspects of sawmill operations so they can grow their lumber manufacturing career at Interfor.
- BCIT Business of Sawmilling Program — A one-year program focused on teaching employees how to generate profit in sawmill operations. This program was developed in 2020 and the first cohort of trainees began their studies in October 2020.
- Maintenance Training Program — Interfor offers maintenance training programs, such as the Millwright Apprenticeship Program, for employees who are eager to earn while they learn a skilled trade and grow their career with our Company.
- LEAD-X— A four-step program focused on developing the leadership skills of our supervisors and superintendents through in-class training, case studies, and on-the-job follow-up. The program is run company-wide.
Diversity of participants is a focus for our development program intakes. We set targets to increase participation of under-represented groups in a number of these programs.
Campus Recruiting and Development
We focus on building a talented and dynamic workforce through our campus recruiting program to grow future leaders at Interfor. We provide students with a defined plan for their success. Each student has a dedicated and knowledgeable mentor and completes a meaningful project that drives business value. Student positions are an excellent opportunity for students and Interfor to evaluate their potential for full-time employment in forestry and the lumber manufacturing industry. Students are encouraged to complete multiple work terms, often at different locations, to give a broader perspective on the industry and what good looks like. If Interfor is a fit, students are offered full-time work either in our Sawmill Operations Trainee program or other positions applicable to their career aspirations.
After we hire students into full-time positions, they participate in our ongoing employee development programs. Development programs provide employees the opportunity to hone their leadership skills and build their industry knowledge to grow their careers, enabling us to promote from within.
Offering Competitive Compensation and Benefits
We review the market competitiveness of our compensation and benefits annually. Our permanent salaried employees share directly in Interfor’s success through a short-term incentive program. Hourly employees at most of our mills also share financially in performance improvements through gain-sharing programs at their divisions.
We offer a fulsome benefits package to all employees, including medical, vision, disability, and life insurance. Our Employee Assistance Program provides professional and confidential counseling services to help employees deal with personal concerns and life issues such as depression, marital and family conflicts, job pressures, stress and anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, and grief and loss.
Ensuring a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace
Interfor is an equal opportunity employer with high ethical standards. Our Code of Conduct and Ethics goes beyond compliance with workplace laws in Canada and the United States to promote workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination. Our commitment is backed by a whistleblower hotline where employees can confidentially raise concerns.
At Interfor, we recognize the benefits of a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. We have goals and action plans in place to increase the representation of women and people of color in our workforce. In 2020, employees in Canada completed surveys to develop a more complete understanding of diversity in our workforce. In the US, we collect diversity data annually for our affirmative action plans. We are using this data to understand better where we currently stand relative to our diversity goals and to refine our current action plans and programs.
We have set targets for the engagement and participation of women and people of color in our campus and apprenticeship programs. We track our outreach activities to increase diversity, such as the number of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) we partner with for our campus program. In 2020, we reached out to eight HBCUs.
We recognize that, in addition to our recruitment strategy, physical barriers may also influence our ability to attract a diverse workforce. In 2020, we conducted audits of workspaces to identify and address potential physical barriers that may impact the inclusion of some employees, to encourage diverse candidates to apply to work at our mills.
We use training programs and workshops to further awareness and understanding regarding diversity and promote a professional and inclusive work environment. Bullying and harassment prevention is covered in our leadership training and reinforced through respectful workplace training and regular employee discussions.
2020 Operational Changes
In 2020 Interfor sold our specialty sawmill located in Gilchrist, Oregon, to Neiman Enterprises Inc. After a careful review of the potential future options for the mill, we believed that the sale to Neiman offered the best long-term outcome for the employees and the surrounding communities. As a result of the sale, employees were offered employment by the new owner and those who wished to continue working there were able to do so.
In 2020 we also closed our small remanufacturing plant at our Perry Division. The shutdown was completed safely and all employees were re-deployed to new roles within Interfor.
Meeting our Operational Changes Obligations
Across the Company, Interfor provides employees affected by operational changes with a notice period in accordance with employment standards regulations and collective agreements.
Respecting Freedom of Association
Interfor respects workers’ rights, including freedom of peaceful assembly and association, collective bargaining, fair working hours and conditions, and fair compensation. Interfor is committed to constructive engagement and stable relationships with our employees and, where applicable, bargaining in good faith with the organizations that represent them.
Meaningful engagement of our employees is part of our core values. We provide regular updates, stories and announcements for employees through our Company website, intranet and social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn). This includes information about Company initiatives and community programs across our operating regions. We use these platforms to help our employees share accomplishments and hear about the initiatives underway in other parts of the Company.
Our quarterly employee communication session provides an opportunity for employees to understand the strategic direction of the Company. Through this forum, our CEO and other members of the executive team provide an overview of the quarter, including performance, accomplishments, and challenges. After the presentation, employees are encouraged to ask questions directly to the CEO and the executive team.
We recognize the value of engaging our people in strategic planning and setting objectives. On an annual basis senior leaders come together with the executive group to discuss the Company’s strategic plan and develop annual objectives. A report on performance relative to the strategic plan and annual objectives is provided to all senior leaders quarterly. Having an opportunity to develop and refine objectives at the strategic level empowers the senior leaders to play a significant role in achieving their outcomes.
Culture and Retention
Our operations utilize culture and retention dashboards to track employee satisfaction, engagement, and turnover. The dashboard includes metrics for participation, interactions, and retention, which are measured and reported monthly.
Our goal is to ensure continued focus on the actions and initiatives that make our employees feel proud to work for Interfor and valued for their contributions. Engagement efforts with employees and into the broader community are also tracked and measured to ensure we reach our goal.
One of the ways in which we demonstrate the value we see in our employees is our internal hiring strategy. Our commitment to internal promotions exists at all levels of our Company.
This was demonstrated in the changes to our senior executive in 2020, in which four key roles were filled through internal promotion—our CEO, CFO, Vice President Western Operations and Vice President, Southern Operations. Across
the Company we have set a target of filling 70% of our permanent salaried openings with internal hires. We continue to track our performance towards this goal and are working towards a similar approach for our hourly openings.
African American History Training
In 2020 our senior executives completed a multi-session education program to develop their understanding of African-American history and how it contributes to the social issues and challenges of the present day. The training was delivered by Akinyele Omowale Umoja, a respected author, activist and professor at Georgia State University. It covered early history, major challenges, and the post-civil rights continuing legacy of oppression. In the first quarter of 2021, over 100 senior leaders in the Company also completed this training. Completing this program with our executive and senior leaders sets us up to expand this diversity and inclusion training topic throughout our workforce in a meaningful way. This training will help us to work towards a common platform of understanding, enabling us to better support and engage all of our employees.
Women in Wood
We recognize that our industry has not historically seen strong participation from women in operational roles and we are working to change this trend. As part of our diversity strategy, we have set targets and are taking action to increase representation of women in our operational and front-line leadership positions. For example, in December 2020, we held a Women in Wood virtual hiring expo. We completed targeted outreach with the goal of increasing female participation in our industry. The event had more than 200 participants and was a great opportunity to break down some of the myths and barriers that may prevent women from pursuing a rewarding career in sawmilling.