Mark Lang – Making The New Normal for Employees Better!

Small Business Canada

CanadianSME recently had a chat with Mark Lang, Vice President, People Services, Canada + Global Shared Services, Colliers. We talked about his journey as a VP of the company. Also, as Covid-19 mandates are slowly getting lifted, we talked about what his approach would be, from Colliers, to make returning to work safe for people. We also took his opinion on the statement made by Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario, on the lifting mandates over Covid-19 rules. We also took his advice on what he thinks about the government’s mandate on Covid-19.

As Vice President, People Services, Canada + Global Shared Services, Mark Lang is critical to developing, retaining, and rewarding our people, as well as attracting new talent in Canada. His primary responsibility is to oversee employee programs and practices that help enable a sustainable culture for success across all our service lines. Mark is a service-oriented human resources professional with over 20 years of experience in the human resources field. Prior to joining Colliers in 2009, Mark spent over 6 years in various Human Resources leadership roles at a perennial Top 50 Employer in Canada.


How will you describe your journey as the VP of People Services, Canada + Global Shared Services at Colliers, which is Canada’s leading commercial real estate services and investment management firm?

As Vice President, People Services, Canada + Global Shared Services, I am responsible for developing, retaining, and rewarding our people, as well as attracting new talent in Canada. I oversee employee programs and practices that help enable a sustainable culture for success across all our service lines. I am also a part of the Senior Leadership Team in Canada, a coordinator of our Pandemic Response Team and oversee our Return to Office strategy.

I have over 20 years of experience in the human resources field.  Prior to joining Colliers in 2009, I worked in various Human Resources leadership roles at a perennial Top 50 Employer in Canada.


 Even as experts warn of an increase in infections and hospitalizations in the coming weeks, as a result, is the lifting of the mask mandate by the province a good decision?

The mask policy in our corporate offices remains in line with provincial recommendations. We remain mask friendly and encourage our people to be empathetic and respectful of personal choices regarding mask usage.

We can appreciate that the government has had many difficult decisions to make throughout Covid and believe our role is to monitor and ensure we are in compliance with the evolving provincial guidelines and requirements.  

We have been very cautious throughout the pandemic and have been closely following Provincial health authority guidance across our locations in Canada.  That has been our commitment to our people through the entire journey. Although most provinces have lifted masking mandates, we continue to have our offices be mask-friendly environments and are encouraging mask use.


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With all of these mandates being lifted and people returning to work, what is Colliers’ approach to employee wellbeing and safety, and how companies can adapt to the changing health requirements?

As we have done throughout the entire pandemic, Colliers is following all provincial, public health and safety regulations and guidelines in returning people more fully to the office in a safe and responsible manner. 

To help ensure wellbeing and safety we are continuing our vaccination policy for employees and visitors who attend our offices. 98% of our people are vaccinated and our understanding is high vaccination rates both reduce the likelihood of transmission and also the likelihood of more severe outcomes.

Even with the changing masking requirements in most provinces, Colliers continues to be mask-friendly by encouraging mask use and continuing to maintain a limited supply of N95 masks (and rapid tests) available for employees.  We also continue to emphasize not to come into the workplace if people feel unwell or have any symptoms.

Adapting to the continuously changing health requirements is an ongoing challenge. Our advice is to lead with empathy and have continuous communication with the people in the organization as you navigate this next phase together.


 What is your opinion about the statement of Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario, who said that “lifting of mandates   does not signal that Covid-19 has disappeared or that the pandemic is over, it does mean that we have come to a place where we know what we need to do to manage this virus and to keep each other safe.”

It can of course be tempting to believe the pandemic is over, everyone wants that. But we all must continue to be cautious, learn and adapt as necessary.  Our focus is on reopening our offices safely and responsibly and creating and maintaining an environment that considers the range of expectations and needs people have in return.


Will people in the province be quick to shed their face coverings, which have become such a part of their daily lives?

I think it will be individual, some we know have been quick to stop use but many have continued to use them.  I think the individual preference on this is very fluid.  I believe the majority will bounce back and forth between wearing them and not wearing them depending on their current comfort level.  


Even with the changing masking requirements in most provinces, Colliers continues to be mask-friendly by encouraging mask use and continuing to maintain a limited supply of N95 masks (and rapid tests) available for employees.  We also continue to emphasize not to come into the workplace if people feel unwell or have any symptoms.

What specific advice you would like to give to our audience regarding this initiative of the government?

Our advice is to focus on leading with empathy. Do what you can to ensure you are fostering a work environment that is supportive of all employees.  Recognize and respect that people have different personal comfort levels and will make their own personal decisions.  Remain nimble and keep in close communication with your professionals as you navigate this next phase together.


Colliers’ journey through COVID:

As an organization, we were tasked with leading our people through this unprecedented situation.  We immediately created a cross-functional COVID Task Force to establish playbooks and protocols and make recommendations on adapting to the ever-changing dynamics of the pandemic. 

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We very swiftly moved 2600 people to work remotely except our dedicated onsite employees who continued to service buildings for Colliers and our clients.  Our IT team and our operations teams did a fantastic job of making the transition as seamless as possible. We established an early communication cadence where we communicated often ensuring people were well informed and polled on different questions.

In response to the initial school closures, we partnered with a company called Ciirve to offer live online small classes for children 5-12 at no cost to our employees.  We also have continued regular wellness communications throughout each business. line.  We encouraged teams to have virtual social time together and promoted our employee and family assistance program for anyone who may be struggling personally with the impacts of the pandemic.

As a designated essential service, we opened our offices safely in July 2020 so that those who needed to come in could still come in on a limited basis and in line with provincial health restrictions. And of course, our dedicated client site employees have been keeping our client’s buildings running all through the pandemic.

In August of 2021, we announced our vaccination policy which had overwhelming support from our professionals – with 98% reporting they are fully vaccinated.  Our planned January re-opening was postponed out of an abundance of caution in response to the Omicron variant.  We have recently announced a May 2 return to office date and many of our employees will be returning to a flexible hybrid work arrangement.  Our focus currently is on the more fulsome reopening of our offices and welcoming our teams back in person.

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