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Leadership Matters | “Let’s reinvent the world of work”



This week, Geneviève Fortier, CEO of Promutuel Insurance, who was recently the guest of the Canadian Club of Montreal, answers our questions about leadership.

Q. You offer leaders of all industries a moral pact that commits its signatories not to hire workers aged 12 to 14 to fill vacancies. Who do you want to reach with this pact? And why is this cause important to you?

R. I am concerned to see that a growing number of teenagers are working between 10 and 20 hours a week. Legally, there is no minimum age to work in Quebec. The youngest member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union is only 11 years old! To me, that doesn’t make sense. I do not agree that young people under the age of 15 become the remedy for the problem of vacancies on weekends, much less a solution to the labor shortage. Do we really want to demolish what we have taken so many years to create? A society that places education at the top of its priorities does not have the right to risk the future of its youth to solve a specific problem.

Q. You want to make room for young people on boards of directors. This idea would have greatly appealed to Generation X in the 1990s. Why is it relevant to have young people in CAs?

R. The answer is simple: as long as we leave them a world in worse shape than the one we inherited, we might as well invite them to the table right away so that they can question what we are doing and propose new solutions. What credibility do we have to make decisive choices for the future if we do not involve those who will live with the consequences of our decisions?

My generation has been too patient. We talked a lot, but did little. In the fight against climate change, we have contented ourselves with setting targets. Those who follow us understand better than us the meaning of the word emergency. Their passion, their candor will serve as an electric shock.

Q. As leader, you also say to protect the French language. How do you do it?

R. Our first obligation is and will always remain the same: to respect the language by speaking it and writing it correctly in our communications, in our company names, in the names of our products. Our duty is to make it evolve, to update its technical or specialized vocabulary and to refuse linguistic shortcuts on the pretext that we want everyone to understand us. This is even truer for a company with 170 years of history. We have a responsibility to preserve our roots and promote what sets us apart.

Q. What are the key issues at the start of 2023 for business and organizational leaders?

R. The fight against climate change and for the reduction of GHGs is in itself a nine-headed hydra that has unsuspected repercussions. Take the field of insurance: the dizzying frequency of natural disasters has caused claims to quadruple in 15 years. We must do more and better, with less!

We must also identify the elements of the supply chain that put us at risk and invest in infrastructures that will allow us to control more locally the supply, production and circulation of goods and foodstuffs.

Finally, we cannot see the future without a real solution to the labor shortage. Immigration, yes. Automation, absolutely. But it will take more. What if, rather than recruiting from our competitors, we got together to reinvent the world of work? To redesign ways of doing things.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to use our power of influence to take concrete action to change things. I am convinced that our role and our influence must go beyond ourselves and our organisations.

This interview has been edited for brevity.

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