Prosper at Work

April Barcier, Director of Talent at Ratehub

April Barcier is the Director of Talent at Ratehub,  a Toronto-based firm founded in 2010.  Ratehub is an online portal that allows visitors to compare several financial products online including mortgage rates, credit cards, high-interest savings accounts, insurance products, and so on.  April is committed to accelerating growth by creating a hiring process that reflects the team’s commitment to their clients.

April lives in Toronto, and particularly enjoys spending time in her favourite Toronto neighbourhoods  - Kensington Market, Harbourfront Centre, and High Park.  Her passions range from being a fashion lover to acting as cheerleader at her son’s soccer games. 

Welcome, April! Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and what brought you to Ratehub?

I began my career at a boutique staffing agency.  Like so many people, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but hoped to blend my studies in addiction and mental health with the experience I had working in sales.  My interviewer there saw certain qualities in me and she thought the combination of counseling along with having a strong track record in sales was a great combination for a recruiter.

I started working at the staffing agency and ended up successfully growing the team.  After two years, I segued back into the social service sector where I worked with a not-for-profit.  I really loved helping newcomers to Canada understand the expectations of larger corporations. I focused on helping new immigrants understand how they needed to present themselves while identifying any skill gaps they needed to address in order to be competitive in the market. This was a really fulfilling opportunity.    

Eventually I found myself in a corporate position, working to grow the agent roster at Zoocasa, a sister company to Ratehub.  Overtime, because of the hiring needs at Ratehub, I came over here on loan and ended up staying. I moved into the Director of Talent role here while continuing to provide support to Zoocasa.  At Ratehub, we're still on a steep growth trajectory, which I find particularly exciting.

An "average day" seems to be a thing of the past, so tell us more about the types of activities you’re leading at Ratehub.

You're right -  no day is the same, but there are some standard things that I tend to expect when I come to the office. Each quarter, our department sets up our priorities in terms of goals or as we call them rocks. Within this framework, it is very clear to me where I need to spend my time each day.

This past quarter, I've been focusing on implementing training and development programs for our team.  It's been a huge initiative that has been very time consuming. I've also been evaluating our annual compensation benchmarking to ensure that our salary ranges stay competitive.  I'm also responsible for everything recruitment-related - specifically looking at our corporate culture to make sure our candidates are receiving a great experience throughout the hiring process. 

When you think about hiring, what are some of the things that you look for in a new team member? 

We always keep our values in mind when hiring. This starts when my team creates a clear job description that describes what that person is going to do.  We're not so particular around requiring a certain number of years experience, or graduating from specific schools with a specific degree. We focus on whether or not the candidate has the right competencies to do the job and is it simply the right person.

Determining who is the right person requires us to look carefully at how they go about getting things done.  We look to see if their process aligns with our values as a company; the way we like to get things done. I think having a focus around values helps us to eliminate bias that can sometimes creep into the recruitment process.  This approach has allowed us to build a really diverse workforce.

The second thing we look for are people who are analytical problem solvers. I think you'll find that characteristic in every single person here, from our product managers to our HR managers and to our accountants.

We've also learned that people who tend to be very entrepreneurial do well here.  Our CEO is very inspiring and an impressive entrepreneur. She's got a grand vision that allows for other individuals who are also very entrepreneurial to come in and get creative while making a big impact within the company.  Growth mindset, which is one of our values, coupled with having the right competencies tend to make people a really good fit here. 

Scaling a company is challenging on all fronts, how does your team ensure Ratehub's core values are intact as you continue to scale?

Growing and reinforcing our culture is something that we are very intentional about.  For us to be successful, our leadership team sets the example and embodies our cultural values.  Expectations are clear and everyone at each level is held accountable to those expectations. We do this by building in feedback loops throughout the organization.  For example, we conduct annual engagement surveys to find out how our team members are feeling about certain topics. Feedback gets reviewed and then put into action so that our team knows their input is taken seriously.

You talked about one of your top priorities for this quarter being training and development.  How do you approach career development and growth?

Right now, we're focused on building out company-wide career progression plans. We're launching programs for new managers to make sure they’re equipped to support their teams in the best way, aligned to our culture and values.  We're also focused on investing in our upcoming leaders, as well as providing technical skills training for our individual contributors - there's a lot on the go! 

We do regular reviews at year end, along with half year check-ins to get a pulse on how our company is doing.  Throughout the year, managers ask for feedback on what their teams want, what they love doing, and what they hope to get involved with in the future.  As opportunities come up, we've naturally been able to help individuals move into new opportunities since our managers have taken the time to really get to know their team. 

Some of our people want to manage others, and we've been able to promote them.  Other times, people want to move laterally to expand their experience and grow their technical skillset.  We use case studies to determine if they have the competencies required for the new role to ensure we are setting them up for success.  

Stress and burnout are on the rise in the modern workforce.  How do you handle these important issues at Ratehub?  

Good question.  I think the emphasis needs to be on burnout prevention.  That’s why we spend so much time making sure we have the right people in the right jobs.  Stress can come from doing something you hate doing, or are not equipped to do properly. At Ratehub, we do our best to keep those situations from arising.   Regular leadership meetings keep our managers aware of what each team member has on their plate - so we can avoid burning our people out.

We are firm believers in transparency, so that our employees are not left guessing about the company’s future.  We also have measures in place to protect our employees from various forms of abuse within the workplace. Our HR office is always open and available to anyone who wishes to speak with us, and all our employees have access to an employee assistance program as part of their benefits package.  By working hard to protect our team members, we protect our healthy team culture.  

Last question, if you were to give some coaching to your younger self, what would you say?

It's such an interesting question!  I did a lot of "right" things purely by accident in my career.  But if I were to think back to what helped me the most in my career, I would have to say that it was cultivating the right mindset. Secondly, I'd say it was that I developed a healthy dose of personal humility. I realized early on that I'm not entitled to anything and that I need to put in the work upfront to be recognized and get ahead.

The last thing I'd say is to make yourself valuable to your employer. If you are a new employee, focus on solving problems for other people that will make an impact to them.  I've observed that new opportunities will naturally present themselves to those kinds of people. Do this with authenticity. You'll find that you enjoy work a lot more when you can just be yourself. Being yourself will help you build trust with others, it'll take you far and be a big support in your career progression.

Thank you, April, for your story and your perspective!  To hear more from April, you can follow her on social media, on Twitter and LinkedIn.