Meet Denis Desaulniers, the new Vice president of Human resources at Le Groupe Maurice!
In his role for just a few weeks, Denis Desaulniers has graciously agreed to share a bit about his personal and professional life with us. Enjoying a wealth of experience in various Quebec, Canadian and international companies, this humble and generous man, now serving as the Vice President of Human Resources at Le Groupe Maurice, expresses his privilege in contributing to the well-being of seniors.
Denis, your professional journey is rich with diverse experiences in various fields. How did you come to choose Le Groupe Maurice to continue your career?
It’s true that I’ve worked for large, prominent companies, and these experiences will be valuable for taking on this new challenge here. In my view, professional success is an important factor, but it is also essential to maintain the right balance. Work is a part of the whole, just like health, family, friends, and the pleasures of life.
I worked at Quebecor, Colabor and PepsiCo over a period of 15 years, where I had the chance to collaborate with Alain Champagne. Beyond a pleasant working relationship, Alain and I share common values, which has motivated us to maintain a strong professional connection over time. Of course, when I learned that he would become the president of Le Groupe Maurice, I was genuinely happy for him, as well as for the organization, knowing his immense talent and expertise. Since then, I’ve become a follower of Le Groupe Maurice on social media. I vividly remember Luc Maurice’s post in the fall of 2022 announcing Alain’s presidency. I found his approach to be very inspiring.
On my end, everything was going well in my previous position in the mining sector. I had exciting challenges ahead, enjoyed my team and liked the company. However, when the opportunity to work at Le Groupe Maurice came my way, I just couldn’t let it pass. So, I embarked on the application process, and to my great delight, I got the position!
So what was it that drew you to Le Groupe Maurice?
Firstly, the private seniors’ residences (RPA) sector has always interested me. Every day, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the elderly. I am a caregiver for my father, who lives with Alzheimer’s. He actually resides in an assisted living facility. I’m familiar with the reality of this environment and what it takes for families and loved ones to feel at ease. The people who care for my father are veritable angels to me. What Le Groupe Maurice has accomplished in 25 years is truly remarkable. The pride in contributing to a strong organization that embodies honourable values is crucial to me.
Furthermore, throughout the recruitment process, I met remarkable individuals who significantly influenced my decision. I want to work for a growing Quebec-based company with a positive culture that strives to make a difference in people’s lives. All of this has convinced me to choose Le Groupe Maurice to continue my career.
What areas of responsibility will you be focusing on in the weeks ahead?
Beginning in a new company involves embarking on a 100-day integration plan. Firstly, I need to thoroughly understand the corporate culture and get to know the people who work here. This is foundational for a good start. Since the corporate vision and HR needs don’t pause just because there’s a new VP in place, it’s essential to keep moving forward; there are directions to set and decisions to take. Anne Grenier, my predecessor, has provided invaluable support during my onboarding. She will be with me for some time to ensure a smooth transition before enjoying a well-deserved retirement.
To provide a thorough assessment at the end of the 100-day plan, I’ll sit down with the executive committee to collect their insights on the development of the HR processes. I will do the same with members of my team, known for their strength and competence. All of this will assist me in gaining clarity and planning the next steps with a firm foundation.
The strategic reflection that took place in 2023 by the leadership team will also serve as a foundation for establishing our HR priorities in 2024. I’m already considering several courses of action. For instance, attracting a skilled workforce and effectively mobilizing them will be crucial. Our training plans are also vital: we need to foster leadership by adequately supporting our employees in this endeavour.
Moreover, I will give particular attention to Change Management, as there are significant projects on the horizon in this regard. The primary role of HR is to take good care of our people. Anne and the team have implemented programs that we wish to continue nurturing, such as facilitating a work-life balance, providing access to telemedicine services, or using the employee assistance program. I’ll begin by familiarizing myself with the existing practices and, if necessary, develop suggestions. That said, I’m confident: I see that we have the right tools, proper systems, effective working methods… our people are enthusiastic, engaged, and open-minded. I believe we have everything we need to succeed, and that motivates me a great deal.
Is there a distinction for you between working with humans vs a “more concrete” product?
Yes, tremendously. It’s much more rewarding. I feel that we can truly make a difference in people’s lives, and you see it as soon as you step into the residences. The elderly have shaped the Quebec of today. That’s significant! They have my utmost respect, and the least we can do is invest ourselves to ensure their well-being; actually, it’s our responsibility. It will be a significant learning adventure for me, as managing residences involves so many aspects of the human experience, in addition to issues that impact society as a whole. I have a lot to learn!
The mistake people sometimes make, is not taking the time to fully understand the essence of the industry they are in. I have a firm grasp of fundamental HR concepts such as recruitment, compensation, talent development and labour relations. Yet, dealing with operations, on-site dynamics, values—each fundamental pillars supporting the mission—is a whole different ballgame. So, I’m committed to fully grasping this reality to tackle the challenges that come my way.
What is the role of HR today, in 2024? Has it changed significantly over the past five years, for example?
Yes, of course. COVID-19 has changed the game on several fronts. It’s strange to say, but the pandemic has had some positive aspects to it. In terms of the labour market, it shattered taboos and old ways of doing things. Before, it was unthinkable to expect a company to perform well with employees working remotely. Today, we see that it’s entirely possible.
Another element causing significant changes is the substantial decrease of baby boomers in the labour market. In 2024, it will be the first year where this generation is no longer the majority. This will change a lot in terms of approaches and thinking. Our workplaces are also becoming more and more diverse, and it is vital to adjust to this new reality to create more inclusive environments. Today, aspects such as employees’ sense of fulfilment, a healthy corporate culture, or work-life balance must also be prioritized at all costs. If a company does not adjust in this direction, it misses the boat.
What are the priorities to stay abreast of these new requirements and remain an employer of choice?
It’s essential to stay current and recognize the importance of prioritizing a holistic work-life balance. The focus is no longer on working an excessive number of hours, but rather working smarter and being adept at prioritization. This shift aligns with people’s evolving priorities, emphasizing the significance of a balanced life that includes family, friends, and leisure. A pivotal factor in selecting a workplace is the alignment of one’s personal values with those of the company. Social responsibility, environmental considerations in decision-making and community engagement—incorporating these into the recognized ESG framework—is not only acknowledged but also crucial. To attract and retain employees today, you have to remain dynamic, modern, and creative.
To achieve this, managers have a very important role to play. They must act as catalysts for their teams. People are no longer seeking bosses; they are seeking mentors. The employees of tomorrow will have a range of options in the job market. Therefore, it is essential to provide a workplace where individuals can empower themselves.
And as a leader, what defines you?
Respect, engagement, and the development of individuals form the bedrock of my priorities. Throughout my life, I’ve been involved in sports, and even though I may appear calm, I’m quite intense on the inside. Whether it’s skiing or cycling, I relish establishing personal goals and pushing my limits. This mindset translates somewhat into my professional role. I have aspirations, and I want the teams to deliver results, but never at the expense of enjoyment or balance. So I empower them a great deal and encourage their development. Recognizing talents and fostering their growth is crucial to me. I support professional fulfillment, opinions, ideas, and autonomy. I also strongly believe in collaborative work and the complementary strengths of each individual in a team.
And who is Denis Desaulniers outside of work?
My family holds a special place in my life. I’m the father of two wonderful daughters; Laurie, who is 24, and Anne-Marie, who is 30. Both work in information technology. My partner Annie and I love the outdoors and enjoy walking along the forest trails in the Eastern Townships with our Australian shepherd. We take great pleasure in organizing family gatherings and get-togethers with friends.
What can we wish you for this new professional journey?
To feel that I’ll make a difference in the company’s growth, but above all, in people’s lives. I believe it will bring me increased validation, a more precise sense of purpose and an even greater meaning to what I do. In a way, it’s also a field that will gradually prepare me for the next stage of my life. I trust that when I’m 85 I will still be curious, learning and evolving – and importantly, have the societal space to do so. I don’t see myself stopping working, just transitioning to a different calling. But for that, good health needs to persist. I hope to be fortunate in the lottery of life!
Our sincere wishes to you, Denis! Thank you for this interview and may your journey with us at Le Groupe Maurice be a long and successful one!