People and purpose. It takes just a short amount of time with Misty Fonseca, Compassion Canada’s Chief People Officer, to see how much those two things are on her heart.
Misty has been leading human resources at Compassion Canada for nine years. We sat down with Misty to talk about being a People and Culture leader, what that means to her and how Compassion Canada invests in its people and culture.
If you’ve ever wondered what life is like working at Compassion Canada, this is a valuable look behind the scenes with one of our key executive leaders in this space!
Q: Hi, Misty! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you love most about being a People and Culture leader. (And of course, a Compassion Canada introduction wouldn’t be complete without you telling us your favourite snack!)
A: When people ask me about what it’s like to work for Compassion, I often say, “I still can’t believe I get paid to do this!” It’s a dream role and a dream team for me. I grew up in the church and went to Bible college so that I could do full-time ministry but spent most of my career in the finance industry. It’s amazing how God has brought all those things together in one place for me!
I have always loved human resources and people development and love that I get to pray with staff and support them in their spiritual and personal growth, as well as their professional and career development.
I live in Burlington, Ontario, and recently got married to my incredible husband Mike, and now have a daughter who is almost 11! Her name is Alice. Life is fun, and we have a big extended family on both sides, so we spend lots of time with our people! I take personal health seriously and love doing workout classes, either in a local studio or in my basement.
Favourite snack… hmm, depends on my mood, but I love veggies and dip or hummus. And chocolate-covered anything is difficult to turn down!
Q: This is a big question, but what does workplace culture mean to you? Practically, what types of things do you and your team work on under the umbrella of “workplace culture”?
A: That is a big question! To me, culture is the ethos of your organization. It’s both the tangible and intangible aspects that shape the employee experience or how people feel being a part of Compassion.
Those things could include work hours, benefits, or fun perks we offer, like a fitness benefit or gift time off on special occasions. Almost everything you do impacts workplace culture: who you hire, how you lead, your brand as an employer, how you communicate, what you communicate, what you offer, how you relate, how you manage performance… the list is endless!
“How can we care for our staff as whole human beings, knowing we bring our whole selves to work?”
One of the things I’m proud that Compassion does to intentionally bolster culture is that we’ve set up a lot of feedback loops to encourage ideas and feedback from staff—and then we work hard to respond to each thing. I often say, “Hey, we made this change because of your feedback!” It matters, and it helps make Compassion an even better place to work. We really listen to our staff and learn from them.
We continually evaluate our programs and our offerings, like Employee Assistance Programs, benefits, professional development, spiritual retreats, all staff gatherings and a generous vacation and time away from work offering. There are lots of things, but I think the feedback loops and accessibility to leadership are some of my favourite things.
Q: Of course, the last few years have been really unique when it comes to what it looks like to care for staff and foster culture. What’s one thing Compassion did to care for staff over the past three years that you think was particularly impactful and important?
A: I’d love to ask our staff this question! From my perspective, we worked intentionally to care personally for our staff. For all of us, this was a really challenging season, both personally and professionally. We rolled out a full flexible workplace program that allows staff to manage their best work from a variety of places and at different times and in different ways.
We had a saying once we went almost fully remote that there is space in our culture for “food, family, fitness, pets… and of course the Amazon delivery person” because so many of us were on Zoom! We were suddenly in each other’s homes (virtually!), and there were kids and pets and food and often a doorbell with some kind of delivery! We encourage staff to have walk-and-talk meetings and get some fresh air or hop on their treadmill or bikes when they don’t need to type or take notes. I love seeing people riding their bikes or walking on a treadmill when we are in meetings!
“I believe laughter is God’s gift to us, and deep joy and appreciation for each other and the ability to laugh are so vital when the work you do can be very serious and heavy.”
We also have various staff-led committees that focus on culture and connections, wellness, and prayer. Each of these committees has volunteer leaders and team members who plan different events, learning, opportunities to connect and ways to experience the culture uniquely. Our committees are continuously growing and evolving as we respond to our staff’s needs; I appreciate them so much.
The bottom line is this: How can we care for our staff as whole human beings, knowing we bring our whole selves to work? We are all here because we want to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name, so the better we care for our people, the more able we are to accomplish the mission together.
Q: What does it look like for us at Compassion to provide staff with a “flexible” workplace in healthy and effective ways?
A: We’ve been building a unified cultural experience for all staff—whether they are onsite, hybrid or remote—that promotes autonomy and agility. Our aim is to optimize organizational culture and performance and staff well-being and satisfaction by building a flexible and dynamic work environment.
We have core working hours, and flexible arrangements that are unique to each person’s role and responsibilities. Leaders and staff co-create unique working patterns that determine when, where and how each of us works most effectively to achieve our shared objectives.
“We cannot truly live out our mission, our Core Values or our Cultural Behaviours unless we pursue, value and embrace the diversity that makes up our workforce and those that we serve.”
Of course, some roles inherently allow for more flexibility than others, and each of us is responsible for ensuring we are meeting the high standards of performance expectations and calling we have in our work. Offering flexibility wherever we can is important not only to our staff but to our leaders.
Being able to recruit talent across Canada and becoming a fully distributed workforce has also allowed us to access talent more broadly, and that means varying working hours across the time zones in our country.
Q: We often say that we take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Can you share some ways we have fun together as Compassion Canada staff?
A: Oh, we have so much fun. We are fun people! If I have to say that, that doesn’t make me fun, right? In all seriousness, we laugh a lot. You have to! I believe laughter is God’s gift to us, and deep joy and appreciation for each other and the ability to laugh are so vital when the work you do can be very serious and heavy.
We have lots of staff challenges, games, ‘guess who’s coming for coffee’ (where we sign up for a 30-minute virtual coffee and get to know others in our organization), themed chat groups, and of course, a steady flow of memes and jokes. We’re a child-focused organization, so embracing child-like play comes with the territory.
Q: Shifting to something we do take seriously: The past few years have also really highlighted the importance and complexity of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. What’s one thing you are learning about DEI that you can share with us?
A: I’ve learned we have so much to learn still and so much to do.
At Compassion Canada, Diversity and Inclusion is an ongoing effort to create a safe, inclusive and productive work environment where everyone is empowered to contribute their unique gifts, talents and experiences toward serving our neighbours, advancing the Kingdom and fulfilling our mission together.
We’ve spent time as an Executive Team, as a full leadership team and as an all-staff group working with an external consultant helping us walk through the theological underpinnings of Diversity and Inclusion, what some unconscious (or conscious) biases are and how to meaningfully stand with our peers who face different forms of discrimination in our world. We will continue to seek out and celebrate the differences each of us brings to the ministry—this is something that is rooted in our organizational Core Values and Cultural Behaviours.
“For 2023, we want to continue to grow a vibrant, healthy and holistic work culture where all staff feel they belong and feel they can contribute their best work.”
To me, I want us to represent Christ’s love and belonging. It’s deeply important to me that everyone feels safe to contribute, challenge and connect (psychological safety) and that each staff member feels they belong. We cannot truly live out our mission, our Core Values or our Cultural Behaviours unless we pursue, value and embrace the diversity that makes up our workforce and those that we serve.
I am very passionate about this, and I am still learning. I’m grateful our staff are on this journey together!
Q: What’s a goal you have for Compassion Canada’s workplace culture in 2023?
A: As a staff community, we aim to be real and relational, fostering vulnerability, authenticity and deep connection. We are candid, and we are compassionate. We celebrate together, and we mourn together. We are optimistic, and we are realistic. We work hard, and we play hard (and laugh a lot!).
As leaders, we are committed to being a Jesus-centred and authentic community that invests in:
- Loving God: Growing in our relationship with and dependence on God
- Loving Others: Growing in our relationship with others in the organization
- Loving Ourselves: Growing in our personal holistic well-being
For 2023, we want to continue to grow a vibrant, healthy and holistic work culture where all staff feel they belong and feel they can contribute their best work. Personally, I would love to see us continue to mature in our ability to lead innovatively, grow in our agility and continue to demonstrate deep resiliency as we navigate continual changes in the economic, societal and faith landscape.
Q: If you had to describe Compassion’s culture in ten words or less, what would you say?
A: We are authentic, imperfect and real people, working together towards the same mission. We are learning, growing and driving forward in new and exciting ways. It’s amazing. What more can I say!
Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying for a job at Compassion Canada?
A: Do it! We always looking for top talent who can get on board with our mission and are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. Compassion Canada has an incredible culture, and it is people choosing to join wholeheartedly in the mission that makes up that culture!