Case Study | Deserving Alberta NEOC winner fills a crucial community role by striving for organizational excellence

publication date: Jul 3, 2019
author/source: Marlena McCarthy

Does the thought of retirement cause you to worry about losing the identity your career gives you, and contact with your network of colleagues? Do you fret about what you’ll do to fill endless days, and losing health benefits when you’ll need them most?

If you live in Alberta and work as a teacher or in certain public or private sector jobs, you’d be facing your retirement with anticipation and optimism because the Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association (ARTA) has your back. For 56 years, it has made retiring an experience Albertans can truly enjoy.

ARTA’s membership – which tops 23,000 ¬– continues to experience tremendous annual growth. Members take advantage of affordable health benefits, feature travel opportunities, wellness programs, preferred insurance rates, community-based social activities, networking opportunities, and scholarships for family members. ARTA also acts as a respected advocate and spokesperson on issues affecting its members.

ARTA’s small but mighty team of 13 full-time and 4 part-time staff manage all of this ably, and do so with joy and passion. Building a dedicated, talented and knowledgeable staff team is a result of ARTA being strategically committed to supporting its own staff equally as well as its members.

Two years ago, ARTA already demonstrated its respect for staff by promoting a work/life balance by not requiring them to work during personal time. Staff enjoy open channels of communication, pleasant activities like picnics and cooking classes, matched RRSP contributions, robust health benefits, insurance and so much more. Yet ARTA felt it could do more.

Amanda Shaw, ARTA’s Director of Marketing, said, “One of ARTA’s four strategic goals is Organizational Excellence and we strive to be a recognized employer of choice. We applied for the Non-Profit Employer of Choice Award because NEOC is a reputable organization that focuses on non-profits and their unique business challenges. Unlike other employer of choice awards, NEOC allows small organizations like ours to enter.

“By going through NEOC’s leadership review and HR inventory in 2017 and 2018, NEOC’s anonymous member survey identified areas in which we were not fully supporting our employees. In particular, we felt we needed to more heavily promote staff training and development.”

Although every staff person is educated on their role and how it impacts ARTA’s mission, goals and objectives, ARTA formalized an annual performance review practice that requires staff to research and identify future training opportunities to fill knowledge gaps and make ARTA more efficient at serving its members.

Since then, ARTA covered costs for staff at all levels to attend several training opportunities, including ITIC New Orleans, a conference that provides critical information to people working in health insurance and travel sectors; the Grey Matters conference to learn more about the supports, services, advocacy, education, training, networking and resources development needed by Alberta’s seniors; and the Nonprofit Technology conference to learn more about technologies that allow ARTA to operate more efficiently and provide better services.

Says Amanda, “Because of the respect executive leadership has for our staff, our employees are fully motivated to work hard to achieve the goals and priorities of the organization. They also check in with one another and lend a hand if one staff member seems busier than others.

“We will continue to roll out NEOC-inspired changes as our budget allows, including an employee wellness program to be rolled out July 1st, and a scheduled ergonomic assessment of our workplace.

“I’d highly recommend the NEOC process to other non-profits who like ARTA, want to continue to grow as an organization and be a place where staff love to work.”

Marlena McCarthy celebrates 20 years of working with charities as a fundraising consultant and writer in her company Done Write Communications. She loves marrying the science of fundraising with the art of storytelling to inspire generosity. If you need tips on how to keep your non-profit’s staff happy and productive, look for Marlena’s articles on NEOC winners in the coming months.

NEOC – helping non-profits to better attract and retain staff Since 2014, non-profits have strived to strengthen their corporate culture using the Non-Profit Employer of Choice™ (NEOC) Award as a tool to help make them better places to work. By carefully analyzing an organization’s human resources and leadership practices and by anonymously surveying employees, the NEOC program comprehensively evaluates markers including compensation and benefits, worker morale, employee engagement and more. The follow-up report and continuous improvement action plan template help organizations build on good practices and address challenges, lowering turnover and helping them better fulfill their mission. For more information visit or Mary Singleton (416) 267-1287

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