Canada's 50 best employers (2013) from Maclean's

Canada’s 50 best employers

The best incentives, perks and groundbreaking initiatives inside Canada’s top employers

by

Jessica Darmanin; courtesy of Bennett Jones LLP

The Best Employers list, compiled by Aon Hewitt, a global HR consulting firm, is determined in large part by surveying employees. Their engagement is measured by their views on areas such as leadership excellence, manager effectiveness, supporting productivity, career development and recognition. Maclean’s asked all 50 organizations (listed alphabetically) what they think earned them such high marks from their staff. In addition, we’ve included the top areas where each company was rated strongest by its employees, as well as the number of years it has been on the list.

Here are the highlights:

Aecon Group Inc.
Toronto and Calgary
Construction and engineering
Years on list: 7

  • A rigorous “safety-first” culture is celebrated at an annual company-wide safety day.
  • An?ownership culture is developed through a share purchase plan and profit-sharing.
  • The annual employee conference features leading speakers, such as Chris Hadfield.

Allstate Insurance Co. of Canada
Markham, Ont.
Insurance
Years on list: 2

  • Work-life balance is enhanced by flexible hours and a work-from-home policy.
  • Volunteering in the community is encouraged; the firm matched employee donations for the Alberta floods and the Lac-Mégantic disaster.
  • Formal processes for career development and talent reviews at all levels.

ATB Financial
Edmonton
Financial services
Years on list: 5

  • Workplace 2.0 enables workers to use technology and virtual modes of collaborating to deliver results.
  • An intensive development process called Masterful Leadership is designed to sharpen managerial skills.
  • The employee recognition program is one of the firm’s highest-ranking drivers of engagement.

BBA Inc.
Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que.
Construction and engineering
Years on list: 4

  • Biannual town hall meetings with executives are held across the country for regular, open communication with all employees.
  • A team-centred environment encourages co-operative interactions among workers.
  • Engineers and project managers can gain experience and expertise by working on-site.

Bennett Jones LLP
Calgary
Legal services
Years on list: 13

  • A formal recognition program for service is enhanced by spot awards of gift certificates and concert tickets.
  • Professional development is augmented through internal training, external courses and conferences; the firm pays 100 per cent of tuition for job-related courses plus time off.
  • Staff pick a charity to be supported through fundraising each year and organize volunteers to work during business hours at food banks.

Birchwood Automotive Group
Winnipeg
Auto sales
Years on list: 3

  • On their 90th day at Birchwood, employees have lunch with a senior executive to discuss their experience at the automotive group.
  • Classes offered to workers include the firm’s eight-week course on management essentials.
  • Workers earn Birchwood Bucks by hitting financial targets, and can then use them at a live auction to bid on prizes such as iPads, big-screen TVs and gift certificates.

Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust
Toronto
Real estate investment trust
Years on list: 1

  • A promote-from-within culture means nearly every manager has risen from the ranks.
  • In addition to doubling contributions to the firm’s retirement planning program, it started an assistance program for family issues.
  • The peer-recognition program lets workers shine a spotlight on colleagues; managers are encouraged to show appreciation through handwritten thank-you cards.

Canadian Western Bank
Edmonton
Financial services
Years on list: 8

  • Personal development and career progression is helped by internal training, career planning and education assistance of up to 100 per cent of tuition.
  • The comprehensive benefits program, which encourages healthy living, is funded almost completely by the bank.
  • Grants of $250 are provided to charities of the employees’ choice for personal volunteer efforts.

Chubb Insurance Co. of Canada
Toronto
Insurance
Years on list: 14

  • The modular benefits plan includes a company RSP program that “double matches” employee contributions, up to four per cent of his or her salary.
  • An annual fitness allowance, subsidized social events and sports teams, as well as in-house yoga and massages, aid work-life balance.
  • Employees get up to five paid days off annually for volunteering, and the firm matches donations.

Cintas Canada Ltd.
Mississauga, Ont.
Commercial services
Years on list: 7

  • Training programs include a corporate-culture course for new managers and cross-training for plant workers.
  • Every location holds an annual Spirit Day to celebrate the firm’s unique character.
  • Through its national charity, Free the Children, the company adopted a village in Kenya and is collaborating to offer sweatshop-free apparel in Canada.

Cisco Canada
Toronto
Communications equipment
Years on list: 6

  • As part of an inclusion and diversity program, executives and junior staff undergo role reversals, as the younger workers “reverse mentor” more experienced co-workers.
  • Workplace flexibility is promoted; 85 per cent of employees regularly work outside the office.
  • The firm invested more than $6.7 million in corporate social responsibility initiatives last year.

* Cisco was tops in four categories among all 50 organizations

Clark Builders
Edmonton
Construction and engineering
Years on list: 5

  • With 49 per cent of the firm employee-owned, workers can be investors in the future success of Clark Builders.
  • With workplaces that include construction sites as well as offices, safety training is provided on an ongoing basis and is of paramount concern.
  • Each branch selects a charity to support for the year through fundraising and volunteer activities.

Concept Group
Calgary
Energy services
Years on list: 1

  • A participative management culture where opinions of workers are valued and respected.
  • Training-tuition reimbursement aids current and future roles in the company.
  • Frequent social events include golf tournaments, a Stampede barbecue and holiday parties for adults and children.

Conexus Credit Union
Regina
Financial services
Years on list: 9

  • Open and transparent communication by senior leadership is encouraged through videos, blogging and personal visits.
  • Employees get both monthly and annual peer-to-peer recognition.
  • On top of the usual vacation allotment, workers receive 10 days of paid personal time each year.

The Co-operators
Guelph, Ont.
Insurance
Years on list: 11

  • Volunteer activities are encouraged through two paid days off annually.
  • Economic goals are tempered with consideration for the well-being of society and the environment.
  • Co-operative principles are reinforced through open communication.

Cossette Communication Inc.
Quebec City
Marketing communications
Years on list: 1

  • A flat management structure where it isn’t unusual to see a junior employee chatting with the CEO in his glass-walled office.
  • The firm is known for mixing fun with work; team building in Vancouver could mean a day tubing on a mountain; wine-tasting events occur in Montreal.
  • A company-wide training and development program includes the “digital you” initiative to help workers master complex digital communications.

Davis Automotive Group
Lethbridge, Alta.
Auto sales
Years on list: 1

  • A formal recognition program includes a trip to Hawaii for 20 years of service.
  • The comprehensive benefit plan includes company contributions to an RSP.
  • The founder and his three manager sons drove 1,500 km to all 12 locations in Alberta to hand out Christmas turkeys to workers.

Delta Hotels and Resorts
Toronto
Hotels, restaurants and leisure
Years on list: 14

  • As part of its wellness strategy, Delta recently launched a program specifically designed to address mental health issues within the workplace.
  • Proactive “stay interviews” start in the first six months of a tenure.
  • Leadership excellence is recognized through the Delta Celebrates program.

Earls Kitchens + Bar
Vancouver
Hotels, restaurants and leisure
Years on list: 6

  • Its Red Seal apprenticeship program pays the full cost of technical culinary training, books and knives; restaurant employees receive a minimum of 24 hours of training per year.
  • Awards include food and wine tours to destinations such as Bordeaux, London and Paris.
  • All staff get a discount of at least 30 per cent at restaurant locations.

Edward Jones
Mississauga, Ont.
Financial services
Years on list: 12

  • Profit-sharing is open to all.
  • A mentorship program lets workers learn development strategies from mentors in different areas of the firm.
  • A formal recognition program is in place for serving clients and fellow employees.

EllisDon Corp.
London, Ont.
Construction and engineering
Years on list: 13

  • Employees can pursue their own ideas; the virtual construction group is headed by a former co-op student.
  • At the AGM, the privately held firm shares its financials with employees, who are encouraged to question executives.
  • In addition to full tuition reimbursement, it offers courses and credits through EllisDon University.

Farm Credit Canada
Regina
Financial services
Years on list: 11

  • Training is offered on how to effectively coach fellow employees so they have the tools to speak up responsibly when problems arise.
  • A clearly defined internal culture is focused on partnership, accountability and building leadership on all levels.
  • Focusing on the agriculture and agri-food business, workers give back to the communities where they and their customers live and work.

Federal Express Canada Ltd.
Mississauga, Ont.
Delivery services
Years on list: 10

  • Employees are encouraged to voice their opinions and interact with executives through open-door programs, as well as town halls.
  • Feedback from an annual survey of employee attitudes helps shape changes and initiatives at FedEx.
  • FedEx offers a pension and benefits program that is flexible and market-competitive.

Flight Centre
Vancouver
Hotels, restaurants and leisure
Years on list: 13

  • Health programs feature classes such as yoga and boot camp.
  • A “promote from within” culture means more than 90 per cent of executives started as travel consultants.
  • Top achievers attend global gatherings; last year’s event in Cancún featured Pitbull and Michael Phelps.

G&K Services Canada Inc.
Mississauga, Ont.
Commercial services
Years on list: 10

  • Tuition reimbursements help employees with their continued education.
  • Annual trips are awarded to top performers and a guest each.
  • Eighty-five per cent of promotions come from within the firm.

Gibson Energy Inc.
Calgary
Energy services
Years on list: 1

  • A flexible benefits plan includes a vacation-purchase program and personal spending accounts.
  • The company matches worker contributions in the employee-share ownership plan.
  • Corporate social responsibility means supporting organizations that make a difference in communities where Gibson operates.

Gowling, Lafleur, Henderson LLP
Toronto
Legal services
Years on list: 5

  • A fitness plan reimburses 50 per cent of the cost of gym memberships, fitness classes and home exercise equipment.
  • Regular performance reviews and employee recognition events include annual holiday-themed gatherings.
  • Generous benefits include employee kitchens and lounges with complimentary beverages and thousands of deals and discounts at brand-name companies.

Hatch Ltd.
Mississauga, Ont.
Construction and engineering
Years on list: 4

  • Career management is a collaborative effort.
  • The work environment is designed for professionals.
  • The firm is people-focused by proactively caring for employee health and safety.

Island Savings Credit Union
Duncan, B.C.
Financial services
Years on list: 4

  • Recognition, including peer recognition at an annual extravaganza, is part of the credit union’s culture.
  • All managers receive leadership and coaching training.
  • Island Savings has given more than $1 million since 2010 to family-focused initiatives on Vancouver Island.

JTI-Macdonald Corp.
Mississauga, Ont.
Tobacco
Years on list: 11

  • Customized talent and development programs create a talent pool that fills 95 per cent of promotions internally.
  • Short-term assigments in Canada and abroad allow employees to enhance their skills.
  • The firm matches employees’ charitable donations, up to $5,000.

Keg Restaurants Ltd.
Richmond, B.C.
Hotels, restaurants and leisure
Years on list: 12

  • The Keg has a promote-from-within policy.
  • In addition to staff ski races and parties, workers and their guests are given a 40 per cent discount on food.
  • Donations of nearly $7 million have been made in the past decade to youth-mentorship groups.

Geo. A. Kelson Co. Ltd.
Sharon, Ont.
Construction and engineering
Years on list: 1

  • The employee-owned firm gives its shareholders a financial reward for their hard work.
  • Kelson University has been recently created to support training initiatives.
  • Monthly rewards for innovative ideas are implemented in the company.

La Capitale Financial Group
Quebec City
Insurance
Years on list: 2

  • A focus on employee well-being includes physical-activity-fee refunds and chair massages at work.
  • An informal, approachable leadership emphasizes open communication.
  • Innovation committees formed by employees consider co-workers’ opinions and suggestions.

LoyaltyOne Inc.
Toronto
Marketing
Years on list: 5

  • A robust learning curriculum includes instructor-led classes and more than 6,000 online courses.
  • A “manager-once-removed” program enables workers to talk with their bosses’ bosses.
  • A green strategy includes waste reduction and an AutoShare car fleet.

Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics
Vancouver
Retail
Years on list: 3

  • Employees help pick ethical causes, such as an anti-bullying campaign, that are run through the firm.
  • Volunteering with local and international charities is encouraged; this year’s total is 4,000 hours.
  • Activities for staff include a community garden and a soup exchange.

Marriott Hotels of Canada Ltd.
Mississauga, Ont.
Hotels, restaurants and leisure
Years on list: 9

  • A focus on ongoing education means associates average 78 hours of training and 34 hours of professional development annually.
  • Communications are emphasized; in addition to daily packets, there are monthly and quarterly gatherings.
  • Staff and families get discounted stays.

McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd.
Toronto
Hotels, restaurants and leisure
Years on list: 12

  • After 10 years of continuous service, full-time workers get an eight-week sabbatical on top of vacation.
  • The firm matches charitable donations of up to $3,000.
  • Employees across the globe can compete to win $25,000 in prize money and be named the “Voice of McDonald’s,” as judged by music industry professionals.

MNP LLP
Calgary
Professional services
Years on list: 6

  • The fast-growing firm allows for expedited career opportunities.
  • Hard work is balanced by fun, including staff sports teams and holiday parties.
  • A give-back ethos means support of local initiatives such as flood-relief efforts.

National Bank of Canada
Montreal
Financial services
Years on list: 9

  • Green practices include LEED certification and a head office going carbon-neutral.
  • A generous benefit plan includes a defined-benefit pension plan and preferred mortgage rates.
  • Career development includes an e-training centre, in-house apprenticeships and job rotations.

Novotel Canada
Mississauga, Ont.
Hotels, restaurants and leisure
Years on list: 5

  • Annual employee appreciation week includes staff having cars washed by managers, who also serve them lunch.
  • A skills competition for young employees culminates in Paris.
  • Workers get clear and customized progressive career paths.

OMERS Administration Corp.
Toronto
Financial services
Years on list: 6

  • Employee well-being is supported by generous benefits, including flexible work options.
  • A culture of giving includes planting 2,000 trees, assembling 100 bicycles and making sandwiches for the hungry.
  • Leadership training is emphasized.

PCL Constructors Inc.
Edmonton
Construction and engineering
Years on list: 14

  • The firm is 100 per cent employee-owned.
  • To promote health and wellness, a fitness reimbursement is available to all staff.
  • The firm and its employees are leading contributors to the United Way.

Purdys Chocolatier
Vancouver
Retail
Years on list: 5

  • All staff are trained through its Chocolate University.
  • Larger shops have a “Manager on the Bench” position that enables staff to learn the ropes under a seasoned manager.
  • Communications are emphasized through regular production meetings.

SAP Canada Inc.
Toronto
Information technology
Years on list: 8

  • The social sabbatical program lets participants work in emerging markets, such as Brazil and India.
  • Staff become personal grant-makers through a matching gift program that distributed more than $450,000 last year.
  • An inclusive culture features a pilot program to have autistic adults comprise one per cent of the firm’s talent.

Sifton Properties Ltd.
London, Ont.
Real estate management
Years on list: 1

  • The family-owned firm supports employee initiatives in the community and donated more than $325,000 last year.
  • Its recognition program includes more than $40,000 in personalized rewards.
  • Twenty-four-hour direct communication gives employees convenience in accessing cross-divisional information and recognition.

Starwood Hotels & resorts Worldwide Inc. (Canada)
Toronto
Hotels, restaurants and leisure
Years on list: 12

  • Extensive training opportunities include internships and task-force assignments.
  • Staff and immediate family enjoy discounted rates at locales around the world.
  • The firm is a member of Pride at Work, which aims to improve the inclusiveness of LGBT staff in the workplace.

Stikeman Elliott LLP
Toronto
Legal services
Years on list: 5

  • Wellness goes beyond the gym to include sessions on parenting and financial management.
  • In addition to matching employee donations to charities, the company provided more than $635,500 in pro bono work.
  • To attract the best talent, it focuses on diversity and inclusiveness.

Toronto-Dominion Bank
Toronto
Financial services
Years on list: 6

  • TD provides more than four days of training per employee annually.
  • An online volunteer network helps match workers to local causes; when an employee volunteers more than 40 hours a year, the bank donates to that organization.
  • Employee Appreciation Week includes recognition events and activities.

Vancouver City Savings Credit Union
Vancouver
Financial services
Years on list: 4

  • The credit union is a certified Living Wage employer.
  • A regular orientation program for new and existing employees lets them connect with peers and community partners.
  • Financial literacy and technical expertise is shared within the community.

Westminster Savings Credit Union
New Westminster, B.C.
Financial services
Years on list: 2

  • Leadership regularly visits all branches and departments.
  • The recognition program helps engage and inspire workers to reward colleagues.
  • The company is a progressive organization that seeks to involve workers in its growth.

 

METHODOLOGY: A total of 282 Canadian employers took part in this year’s Best Employers studies. Aon Hewitt identified the Best Employers based primarily on survey responses from almost 280,000 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, 78 per cent of employees were engaged at Best Employers this year, down from 79 per cent last year.

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