Canada’s 50 best employers -

Canada’s 50 best employers

The top perks, programs and initiatives inside our best workplaces


Courtesy of Lush

At the core of the Best Employers list compiled by Aon Hewitt, a global HR consulting and outsourcing firm, is high employee engagement, which is driven by leadership quality, effective rewards, strong workplace culture and values, enabling productivity and the support of performance and development. The list is determined, in large part, by surveying employees. So Maclean’s asked all 50 organizations (listed alphabetically) what they think earned them such high marks from their staff. Here are the highlights:


Construction and engineering

  • Extensive training and development program includes a minimum of 40 hours per year in training and development, and 100 per cent tuition reimbursement
  • A team-centred environment, including a popular monthly “Above and Beyond” program that encourages employees to recognize other employees’ excellent work on the job
  • A comprehensive benefit program that is paid entirely by the employer



  • Flexible work hours help support a healthy work-life balance
  • Highly interactive town hall meetings with executives are held across the country to communicate results, to ensure employees understand Allstate’s business goals and priorities
  • An annual, formal talent pool review process is used to identify high potential employees and development needs


Construction and engineering

  • A loyalty program recognizes employees who have had decades of experience
  • The “career path program” gives employees an idea of how to gain traction in the company and go forward
  • Engineers work in the office but are challenged to take part in on-site work to gain more experience and expertise on both ends


Medical service

  •  Yoga classes and lunch hour learning sessions are available to workers
  • Yearly employee awards recognize certain workers with a dinner with managers, partners, and the CEO
  • The “Go Green Team” educates staff members on green initiatives, and the “Giving Back” committee holds fundraisers for local charities


Legal services

  • The firms holds an annual staff appreciation week
  • Monthly lunch-and-learn sessions are held on various professional and personal development topics, from financial wellness to personal relationships
  • A charity committee plans activities and dedicates collected funds for an annual organization (chosen by the employees), and employees have opportunities to volunteer during firm hours


Auto sales

  • In-house management training, known as “Birchwood U,” arms employees with new skills, and a promote-from-within culture saw 40 internal promotions last year
  • On their 90th day at Birchwood, employees are invited to have lunch with a senior executive to discuss their experience at the automotive group
  • Employee recognition programs include Winnipeg Jets tickets; the top sales producers every month are listed in the Winnipeg Free Press


Financial services

  • Wellness benefit to spend on items that encourage healthy living, such as sports equipment or dance lessons
  • “Volunteer Spirit” grant of $250, which will be sent to the charity of the employee’s choice, for employees who volunteer over 50 hours
  • 100 per cent reimbursement for relevant post-secondary programs, as well as an online learning centre and opportunities for in-house training



  • A care initiative provides up to five paid days off for volunteering, a matching gift program and time and financial support for outreach efforts
  • A program that gives employees up to $300 annually for fitness club fees and equipment is combined with wellness activities such as on-site massages and yoga
  • The company takes a promote-from-within approach to career development


Construction and engineering

  • A partnership program allows every employee to buy shares in the company
  • Perks include a tuition reimbursement program and an in-house dry cleaner
  • Every Friday work ends at noon, and employees can work flexible hours


Communications equipment

  • Flexible work schedules
  • Opportunity to be part of cross-border teams of experts working on specific initiatives
  • Leadership encouraged on boards, business strategy councils and work-life initiatives


Construction & engineering

  • Focused on long-term training of high-performing employees
  • Frequent employee recognition at barbecues and celebrations
  • Significant career advancement opportunities; the company largely promotes from within


Financial services

  • Every employee is a member of a committee that takes on one of a range of topics, from healthy living to corporate culture
  • There is a compensation plan for continuing education and important conferences
  • Staff are recognized often through company prizes and activities


Financial services

  • Employees get 10 days of personal time a year, enabling them to do personal business outside of vacation days
  • Employees get monthly and annual peer-to-peer recognition
  • Employees are accountable for their career development by sharing their goals and having regular discussions with their leaders about performance



  • Staff wellness initiatives include a head office with a gym and fitness classes, and discounts on GoodLife memberships for employees at other locations
  • An annual succession planning process ensures that future leaders have the right skills and experience needed for the job
  • Every year, staff members participate in a three-part performance plan called Achieve—employees list goals they want to achieve, and could receive bonuses if they meet their targets


Construction and engineering

  • A tuition reimbursement program allows employees to seek outside education and learning opportunities
  • Career progression programs based on mentorship and skill development allow employees to grow within the company
  • Multiple award and recognition platforms recognize individual accomplishments and key milestones


Hotels, restaurants and leisure

  • A grow-talent-from-within leadership development program that includes succession planning and constant feedback
  • Delta Helps, the firm’s corporate social responsibility program, financially supports charitable partners but also allows employees to volunteer in community initiatives
  • Travel destinations discount program for employees


Professional services

  • Learning and development opportunities through “Dillon U” and a formal mentoring program
  • A corporate sustainability program that promotes community and environmental initiatives
  • 100 per cent employee ownership


Financial services

  • Profit sharing is available for those who have shown significant contributions to the company
  • New financial advisers get training to help those from different backgrounds succeed in their new roles
  • Flexible work arrangements allow employees to balance their work with their personal lives


Construction and engineering

  • Company president Geoff Smith meets with every new employee to answer their questions and offer insights on the company
  • A tuition rebate program reimburses some tuition if employees want to update their education
  • EllisDon matches donations made by employees


Financial services

  • Training is offered on how to effectively coach fellow employees, including managers and senior executives
  • The company is deeply engaged in agricultural and rural communities
  • A fair compensation and benefits program is offered to employees


Delivery services

  • Employee remuneration packages include travel discounts and education subsidies
  • Employees who have gone above and beyond what is expected receive awards or even financial remuneration
  • The executive team visits every location in Canada to discuss how the business is doing and answer questions


Travel services

  • A year-end black-tie ball is held to recognize top employees
  • Employees have access to in-house fitness and nutrition consultants, and get discounted health club memberships
  • In-house financial consultants help employees manage their personal finances


Textile manufacturing

  • Eighty-five per cent of management positions are filled from within the company
  • Employees are offered tuition reimbursements, in-house training and online learning opportunities
  • Employees are offered discounted home and car insurance, discounted automobile purchase programs and discounted movie passes



  • Employee charitable donations are matched by the firm’s foundation, while workers get a paid volunteer day off each year
  • On-site fitness centre and massage therapist, fitness subsidies plus healthy cafeteria options promote well-being
  • A formal learning curriculum, personal development tools and assessments are part of a large training and development program


Construction and engineering

  • All workers can buy into the employee-owned firm through a payroll deduction plan
  • Though a large company, it has a small, family feel
  • Career opportunities are enhanced through “Golder U,” while many workers move around the firm to pursue internal opportunities


Legal services

  • A fitness program reimburses employees for 50 per cent of the cost of gym memberships and home fitness equipment
  • There are regular, formal progress reviews and competency reports
  • Each employee receives thousands of discounts through “work perk” coupons that can be used at local or brand name businesses and restaurants


Construction and engineering

  • Employees are supported and motivated to contribute and play a direct part in the company’s success
  • An extremely high regard for workplace safety makes employees feel safe working on supervised project sites
  • Volunteer programs and donations foster deep roots in all communities in which employees live and work



  • Lots of opportunity to advance careers in an organization that has doubled in the last five years
  • Generous benefits, a bundle of paid days off (including birthdays) and free coffee
  • Frequent and open communications with all staff through team meetings, town halls and breakfast forums


Auto sales

  • A university tuition bursary program helps employees pay for the cost of their children’s education
  • Employees are encouraged to share their opinions in order to constantly improve their work
  • A respectful and transparent workplace is promoted


Construction and engineering

  • Career management program gives feedback to employees to make sure leaders are connected with employees
  • A corporate learning centre looks after training of employees
  • Managers rotate from on-site work to office work so they have a greater understanding of the company and its employees


Post-secondary education

  • Department heads are given significant leadership over budgetary and day-to-day decisions and there is minimal micromanaging by executives
  • Any staff member can submit a new company-wide initiative, which can be implemented after they are scored by multi-department committees
  • Monthly and annual employee recognition


Financial services

  • Employees are offered weekly training and ongoing education
  • Feedback, recognition and fun are promoted through regular peer recognition and an annual banquet
  • Community involvement is encouraged through volunteer work and community partnerships


Hotels, restaurants and leisure

  • Staff restaurant discounts are also offered to friends
  • Social events for employees include ski competitions, baseball and golf tournaments
  • “Keg Oscars” honour the company’s best and brightest every year


Professional services

  • Nearly half of call centre employees are able to work from home
  • The firm offers a “manager-once-removed” career development program, as well as 3,000 online training courses
  • Environmental sustainability programs include an extensive waste-reduction program, an AutoShare Smart car fleet and educational lunch-and-learn sessions


Personal products

  • Staff boxes are sent to employees several times a year with new products
  • Lush offers community gardens, staff sales for charity and themed parties
  • The company gives employees a voice to communicate issues that matter to them and their communities


Hotels, restaurants and leisure

  • Associates average 78 hours of training and 34 hours of professional development each year to ensure growth and development throughout their careers
  • Employees are offered travel discounts year-round—and deeper discounts during the holiday season—and tuition reimbursements
  • An open-door policy allows associates to talk to their manager or supervisor any time


Hotels, restaurants and leisure

  • Long-term rewards include an eight-week sabbatical for full-time staff after 10 years of service
  • Learning support includes educational reimbursements and employer-paid courses at the company’s “Hamburger University”
  • A corporate dollar-for-dollar charitable donation matching program up to $3,000 a year



  • Professional development programming, regular performance feedback and career-planning discussions put a strong focus on career development
  • A wide range of career opportunities is available and employees have the flexibility to branch into a variety of industries
  • Promotions are based on merit, not seniority


Financial services

  • A women’s leadership network promotes the advancement of female leaders
  • Leadership profiles give employees specifics on what’s expected from them
  • Employees have direct communication with the president through lunches, branch visits, conference calls and meetings


Hotels, restaurants and leisure

  • Employees are encouraged to speak directly and openly to managers at all levels of the company through an open-door policy
  • Novotel has hotels in 60 countries, and employees drawn to international opportunities are supported in their efforts to work abroad
  • Every employee has a clear development path tailored to individual needs; many employees who have started in junior positions have moved on to senior positions within the company


Financial services

  • An in-house mentoring program
  • Individualized employee development plans
  • An educational program that includes time off for study


Construction and engineering

  • 100 per cent employee owned
  • Investment in specific areas of employee development through a job college with specialized curriculum
  • A work-hard, play-hard mentality; the company holds regular events to raise money for charity, including talent night and Family Feud night, as well as an annual year-end celebration


Hotels, restaurants and leisure

  • Outstanding employees are recognized and receive a customized award to suit their own needs, be it mortgage payments, a special vacation, or contributions to an RESP
  • Top executives visit all locations in an annual “road show” where all employees have the chance to meet with upper management, give feedback and ask questions
  • The company sponsors various local sports teams and helps employees enrol their own children in sports by providing equipment and helping to pay fees


Information technology

  • On-site cafeterias and fitness facilities for employees
  • The Vancouver office has a community garden while the Toronto office boasts gardens, walking trails and a putting green
  • A peer-to-peer recognition program lets employees get recognition from their co-workers


Fire protection

  • Employees get complete insurance coverage and company contributions to their RRSPs
  • Continuous training enables employees to work on state-of-the-art projects
  • There are global employment opportunities


Hotels, restaurants and leisure

  • Reward and recognition programs include discounted stays at Starwood properties in more than 100 countries
  • Extensive training and development opportunities, including mentorship programs and management trainees
  • Encourage employee engagement through the firm’s three promises: do the right thing, go the extra step and play as a team


Legal services

  • Pro bono initiatives, environmental sustainability and community involvement are part of the firm’s social responsibility
  • Continuous learning, development and mentorship ensures members have the resources they need to do their jobs
  • Focus on timely, effective and ethical service to clients


Financial services

  • Significant training and development opportunities, with opportunity to take on multiple careers within the bank
  • Formal worker recognition programs include an annual employee appreciation week
  • Internal social media platforms support candid discussions, collaboration and networking among staff


Financial services

  • Employees are offered a $2,400 tuition reimbursement
  • Quarterly performance check-ins and mid-year reviews ensure professional development
  • A fitness program provides in-house Pilates and bike programs


Financial services

  • Highly competitive employee benefit and retirement programs are offered
  • There is a strong commitment to helping employees achieve better balance financially and in life
  •  Regular CEO luncheons for employees

Rewards: Staff retention

The high salaries promised by Alberta’s oil and gas sector have left the rest of the province’s employers scrambling to secure what remains of an increasingly fickle and empowered labour force. Successful businesses are finding that staff retention is about a lot more than money.

“In Alberta, there are not enough qualified people to fill all our vacancies,” says Mike Olsson, a regional HR manager for Edmonton-based PCL Construction. The company attributes a large part of its low turnover to the fact that all of its permanent staff of about 3,600 workers own part of the company through an employee stock plan. Olsson says PCL benefits from large-scale recruitment efforts, “but people stay because they know they are a part of something special. Our staff value coming to work.”

Along with its share program, the company puts an emphasis on training and an open-door policy for workers to approach their managers. The focus on employees appears to be paying off. Of PCL’s last 500 hires last year, one-third came from referrals.

At Clark Builders, another Edmonton construction firm, an employee stock plan is also used to retain and reward employees. Of its 800 staff, about 200 own shares in the company and reap the rewards of dividends. “Every day, headhunters are trying to compete for our people. And many of our competitors have had struggles,” says Gerald Clark, the firm’s manager of human resources. The company also puts an emphasis on training, recognizing its top employees and promoting from within. “You can spend up to 80 per cent of your life at work, so why not enjoy it?” says Clark. “We have excellent values and we know our people.”

Management: Why perks don’t work

Boosting productivity with less staff is the Holy Grail of most businesses, recession or not. With Canada’s skilled labour shortage expected to get worse before it gets better, employers and HR professionals are taking stock of their current staff and trying to figure out how to keep employees both happy and loyal.

Trading generous perks for productivity might seem like the obvious answer, but experts say workplace happiness isn’t about things like free food in the cafeteria or a foosball table in the break room.

Dean Sockett, director of HR for Keg Restaurants Ltd., says the real key to winning over workers is effective management and a friendly, respectful workplace. About 8,000 people work at the Keg, and it boasts one of the lowest turnover rates in a service industry typically beleaguered by a revolving door of employees.

“We are big on ‘work hard and play hard,’ ” he says. “We host many annual events: Keg Oscars, a ski race, volleyball and baseball tournaments and a lip-synch contest—the winner of which receives tickets to a warm destination,” he said. “We have never formulated any premeditated strategies to retain staff; they all evolved naturally.”

Several top Keg executives started with the company as serving staff, a testament to a business climate that respects all of its staff as potential leaders, says Sockett, who also climbed up the ranks from waiting tables. “It’s just how we run our company.”

Frivolous perks don’t work, agrees David Clarkson, vice-president of strategy and planning for Cisco Canada, a company that gives all of its 1,300 employees the option to work from home. Competitive salaries combined with the reduction in travel costs and the flexibility inherent in working from home has made it a successful initiative with employees, he says.

Neil Crawford, a partner with Aon Hewitt, says businesses implementing 11th-hour perks to increase productivity may not get the intended results. “The key is great leadership and highly effective front-line managers. Employees value this more than perks because it is about them, as individuals.”

Finance: Happy bankers

Greg Newman was walking past New York City’s Zuccotti Park in March when an Occupy Wall Street protester started shouting at him. The man in his 20s was ranting about the one per cent’s conspiracy to crush the middle class, and Newman, who was sight-seeing with his wife, decided to hear him out. After listening for a few minutes, the senior wealth adviser at ScotiaMcLeod Inc. asked: “Want to hear what somebody from Bay Street has to say?”

Over the past few years, the finance sector’s reputation has taken a beating. Whether they’re the target of a global grassroots movement or are being blamed for causing the worst recession since the Great Depression or for producing high-profile crooks such as Bernie Madoff, the “suits” are used to defending their profession. At a time when 64 per cent of Americans say it’s harder for U.S. companies to gain their trust today than it was a few years ago, why are those working in finance so happy?

While critics may claim a big paycheque would keep anyone smiling, Newman insists thatcompared to his work in another lucrative field, civil litigation, finance is more fulfilling: “Law is a bit of a zero-sum game, with winners and losers; whereas in finance, there is a bit of a win-win. You can make a living from helping your clients with such an important part of their life.”

According to a survey by Aon Hewitt, employees of commercial banks, insurance companies and credit unions reported an engagement level of around 70 per cent or higher. Over 87 per cent felt their organization was socially and environmentally responsible. The high level of job satisfaction is in part because finance professionals don’t see their work as greedy and emotionless. “Our business is not about selling a stock, a bond, a mutual fund and insurance,” says David Lane, managing principal of the investment firm Edward Jones Canada. “It’s about helping people put their kids and grandkids through university and achieving financial independence in retirement.”

At the end of their 10-minute conversation in New York, Newman may not have sold the Occupy protester on the benefits of capitalism, but the wealth adviser’s willingness to engage with him was disarming. The young man asked for Newman’s business card so that the next time he was in Toronto they could grab a beer.

Management: Healthy benefits

There are few industries where keeping employees happy matters more than in heath care: 70 per cent of the total cost of health care is people costs. And as the health care industry grows and prepares for an aging population, hospitals across Canada are finding that improving employee engagement is one of the clearest strategies to improving health care delivery.

This is a lesson that Jack Kitts, president and CEO of the Ottawa Hospital, has learned. In 2009 the leadership of his hospital grew concerned that patient satisfaction wasn’t as good as it could be. From then on, the hospital decided, every patient would be treated as if they were a loved one. “We learned quickly,” Kitts says, “that in order to even think about success in our goals we needed a very active and engaged workforce that included all 12,000 employees and 1,300 physicians.”

That year the hospital undertook its first employee and physician engagement survey. Seventy-five per cent of employees responded saying they wanted the hospital to improve performance management, to make employee wellness a priority and to provide further career opportunities. The hospital set up committees to address these concerns. Since 2009, Kitts says the hospital has seen significant improvement in these areas, but there is still work to be done.

“If we can improve employee engagement,” Kitts says, “we have no doubt that our patient satisfaction scores will go up, our quality and safety indicators will go up and we’ll become one of the top performing hospitals.”

St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg took a similar approach to engagement by first surveying its employees and asking what they needed. They reported a need for more active management, says Dave Leschasin, the head of human resources. St. Bonifice initiated a culture shift to help employees know where they stand in the organization. Their management engagement indicators have since gone from 65 per cent in the first year to 88 per cent currently.

“Employees like working for engaged managers,” he says. “The number one reason why employees leave their organization is because of their manager.”

METHODOLOGY: 280 Canadian employers took part in this year’s Best Employers studies. Aon Hewitt identified the Best Employers based primarily on survey responses from more than 168,000 Canadian employees at these organizations, gauging employee engagement levels and work environment factors. Participating employers were also required to survey their executive teams. According to Aon Hewitt’s definition, employees are engaged when they “say, stay and strive”: they speak positively about their employer to others, are committed to staying with their current employer, and are motivated by their organization’s leaders and culture to go “above and beyond” to contribute to business success. On average, 79 per cent of employees were engaged at Best Employers this year, up from 78 per cent last year.

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Canada’s 50 best employers

  1. We’re number…hey! I don’t see Mark’s on this list, and we offer lots of health/wellness/recognition/development/discount/social opportunities. That’s it – I am going to get us a nap/quiet room. We are going to win next year for sure!!!!
    Otherwise, I’m glad to see Lush on the list – that is a company i love to buy from.

    • Heather, the list is the best companies to WORK for, not ‘brown nose’ for, we already know who they are and they are a plenty!!!

  2. If lush is on here then they need to make sure all there managers are fair. the one i.worked for hired alot of people for a past christmas and it seemed like the only people she kept on were her friends, and the people they didnt keep on were not even thanoed for helping out we judt never heard from the manager or anyone from lush again its like we didnt matter at all

  3. it’s hard to be, when the environmental power trippers get in your business, especially when working in the automotive industry, they treat you as the bad guy that is responsible for all of the pollution of the earth. the fees they impose on us are astronomical. Jobs have been created by the gov’t around the env. movement: 40 hr/ weeks jobs, now these guys go around businesses, and they have the power and authority to tell you what to do with your business or else. When you show concern, and ask for help, they just don’t care and shut their door in your face! Compassion and Empathy is non-existant with these people.
    it goes like that:
    for the environmentalist is a well-intentioned movement,
    for the person who established the movement it’s a cult, and,
    for the governments, it’s a cash cow !!!
    it’s always worth having a look at the other version of it all

  4. I just started working as a sysadmin at LoyaltyOne…and I can easily say that these guys are a FANTASTIC company to work for. Hell, my second day on the job involved a Lake Ontario Boat Cruise!

    • That should inspire loyalty!

  5. I notice Telus is not even mentioned. This corp cut their own throat when they decided to decimate the company with horendous lay-offs of their most experienced and trusted employees. Not by age or training but by seniority only. What you have left is just a bloated
    burocracy that sometimes provides dial tone if the person at the desk that day happens to know how punch computer keys. The word customer service is not allowed anymore. Just try them and you will see. hilly

  6. Finally Macleans includes towns and villages on their top 50 list! I was getting afraid I should get rid of my subscription!

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  8. BCAA claims it is on the list and it is not. They are a bad company to work for and have too much management period and bad incompentent management on top of that. 1 manager for every 3 staff in the IT department… people in the department that lie are rewarded and many people are bullied.

  9. Id love to see a list of the 50 worst employers. It would be an interesting perspective and comparative analysis to the 50 best employers. Plus we would know where not to apply.

  10. How does a company and/or its employees get included in Aon Hewitt’s survey for best employer?

  11. These rankings are a complete joke. Employers apply to be on the list so they put their Marketing department to work to put together an impressive presentation. I don’t think the people who make the selections even visit the sites to talk to average employees for their opinions. When they get on the list, management pats themselves on the back and tells employees that they should just be glad that they work for such a great company. They don’t try to create a better workplace because why should they – they’re on the list.

    I worked for one of the companies that made the list for 2013. I was bullied, threatened, insulted, and was finally let go for absolutely no reason other than the fact that my new manager hated me. My experience wasn’t unique – other people went through it too and I’ve never worked for a company will worse employee morale. Investors and potential employees – take these ratings with a grain of salt because they’re bogus.

  12. Please dont believe everything you read about Loyalty One. They will lure you into their “Cult” enviroment and then you will become a robot with going along with saying that everything is fine in fear of being fired. They are trying to get rid of all their tenure employees. The VP of the Customer Service is a backstabber

    • I work for LoyaltyOne in IT. Not customer service. And buddy, I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked for some SHITTY companies who have tossed me to the curb after a few months without a valid reason. Here though, I actually feel as if I matter. My opinions matter here. They genuinely care about my well-being. As a thank you for a recent project which just wrapped up, they took a bunch of us out to a swanky italian restaurant (the kind with a ‘prix fixe’ menu option), and just said “yeah, order anything you want. It’s on us.”, Hell, these guys are paying $300 of my yearly Weight Watchers fees, and beyond all the fringe benefits, the technology I get to work with here is beyond anything I’ve ever seen! So yeah, don’t believe everything you read indeed. You had a bad experience? Sorry to hear, because my experience working for this company is nothing but fantastic.

  13. I would love to move to Canada but the employment is the main worry, i was going to open a travel store called scratch map Canada

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  15. This list is absolutely terrible. I think Bullied in BC hit it on the nail. The company I work for on this list (maybe the same one!) is great to work for ONLY if you are a manager as they almost are guaranteed a bonus and raise each year while the rest (the workers) have to fight for measly percent of an increase. And those are the lucky ones, because more than have do not receive one. People are leaving much more frequently than ever before. There is much distaste everywhere this I can assure you…yet time and time again this company makes the list? There has to be to some sort of Berlusconi type politics going on here because no way in hell this company should be here and in a short time I will hope not be here either.

  16. I think it is great to post the top 50 employers. However, it would be good to see the bottom 50 employers.

    I know of a very competent employee who worked for OSFI in the Risk Surveillance Dept. As soon as they found out his wife required major surgery, they let him go. He was there for 15 years.

    I also understand that the best of employees left OSFI. The organization is focussed on reading news alerts and analyst reports to track housing stats. OSFI created an entire mortgage insurance group that really does not quite get it.

    OSFI is not a good place for a recent grad as they will sell there career short dealing with issues that are not really real.