Top 50 employers seeing higher engagement levels: Aon Hewitt

3 companies that rose in rankings tout people-focused initiatives
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/17/2012

Engagement levels were up slightly — one percentage point — among Aon Hewitt’s 50 Best Employers in Canada this year, with an average score of 79 per cent.

The primary requirement for making the annual list is creating and sustaining a highly engaged workforce, measured by surveying employees at these organizations. Overall, 280 employers and nearly 190,000 employees took part in the 2013 competition.

Engagement levels were up at three employers that offer various initiatives to keep employees happy: Coastal Community Credit Union, Federal Express Canada and Hatch. They all rose in the 2013 ranking.

Coastal Community gets employees involved

Coastal Community Credit Union, based in Nanaimo, B.C., reached the 15th spot, rising five places and cracking the top 20 for the second year in a row.

But five years ago, the 600-employee credit union had an engagement level of 60 per cent, said Bruno Dragani, senior vice-president of HR. So it developed a culture committee made up of employees to look at the survey results and come up with solutions.

“We picked two or three things every year that we could concentrate on as an organization and worked on those items — and we saw improvement.”

Engagement now sits at 82 per cent, he said, adding the Aon Hewitt competition helped reveal the drivers or issues that could help improve the score. And staff are encouraged to join one of several committees, focusing on areas such as engagement, culture and health and safety.

“We have well over 100 employees on different types of committees, so the organization moved to a much more collaborative organization where we really listen to what employees have to say, and we use the ideas that come from employees to move the organization forward,” said Dragani.

The credit union also offers a compensation plan for continuing education and important conferences.

“What we’re trying to do is recognize that all employees are at different levels,” he said, as some might be advancing their careers by pursuing an MBA while others are maintaining their credentials.

One element of the recognition program has a local flavour. Coastal Community developed a series of recognition cards that feature a photo of a scenic area of Vancouver Island, taken by employees. People can give the cards to one another, with a message written on the back.

“It becomes a real pride issue, having a recognition card,” said Dragani.

Going forward, the credit union is focusing on organizational areas, such as commercial vending or wealth management, to look at the drivers of engagement. The top three issues coming up are career development, recognition and performance management, he said.

“Being in that high-engagement level, it shifted things from trying to work on one or two items to more tweaking of specific areas.”

FedEx all about people, service, profit philosophy

Landing in the ninth spot, Federal Express Canada had its best rating ever in the latest 50 Best Employers in Canada list. It really starts and ends with a philosophy that drives the company’s culture, according to Lisa Lisson, president of the Toronto-based delivery services company.

“Culture is so critical to a company’s success and we spend a lot of time on what we call our ‘people, service, profit philosophy,’” she said. “If you treat your people with trust and respect and have open formats for them to give you open feedback and dialogue, they then feel valued, they feel that you care about them, they will go above and beyond to deliver service to your customers.”

One of FedEx’s open formats involves town halls in which the executive team visits each of the company’s 63 locations in Canada to discuss how the business is doing and answer questions.

“We will talk to them about what’s going on in the business, we will ask them for their comments, feedback, ideas,” she said.

“That also then sends a very positive message that we care about their feedback, we care about what’s on their minds. And we continue to hear very good feedback on some of these tools we’ve put in place — I think that they’ve been instrumental in helping us rise to where we are today.”

A Drive Your Career program is also helping staff at the 5,700-employee company manage their careers by giving them online tools and courses to help them excel.

“We always try to promote from within but what we’re doing even more so now is offering them specific programs,” said Lisson. “We’re putting more and more programs around our employees in helping them be more effective and helping them with their career.”

The company is also doing a better job of communicating and branding these programs.

“With social media, there’s a wonderful opportunity to reach employees, more so than we have in the past, so it’s a combination of launching more programs as well as making sure employees are aware of them,” she said.

Skills development at Hatch

Construction and engineering firm Hatch has many highly skilled employees working in a competitive industry, so the company works hard to keep them happy, which keeps clients happy, according to Pierre Olivier, global director of human resources at Hatch in Mississauga, Ont., which has 4,500 employees in Canada and 10,000 worldwide.

“We’re a professional services company and we deliver services to clients so you want people to be excited, you want people to be engaged to maintain our relationships with clients, and you can only do that if you have successfully engaged employees.”

It’s important to be regionally focused, he said, citing as an example one Hatch office with about 50 workers that had low engagement — but it also had issues that were vastly different from the rest.

“Not everybody has the same concerns,” said Olivier. “So we have to focus the right effort at the right place, at the right time. We’re a very empowered, flat organization so... in most regions, decisions get made quite easily. We’re not so much a policy-driven company, we’re more one that trusts our colleagues and because we’re employee-owned, it’s in everyone’s interest to make good decisions.”

Rising from 27th place in 2012 to 18th place in 2013 on the Aon Hewitt list, Hatch also has managers rotate from on-site work to office work.

“To keep us relevant, on a regular basis, we move people from a corporate role into a project role, where it’s directly facing with clients and directly delivering,” said Olivier. “That is a strategy we’ve always used and it’s very successful because it keeps everybody relevant with not only information but also with the networking.”

Hatch also has a career management program that includes mentoring, which is important for engineering professionals because their learning is ongoing, he said.

“You’re constantly learning about new things, new technologies and so on. So out of all the professions it’s probably the one that does that the most. So that mentoring, that process, that understanding, the ability to learn more — that’s something that we nurture, we talk about it often.”

There is also a corporate learning centre, with online courses giving people the tools, competencies and skills they need to do their jobs.

“We spend a lot of our revenue training individuals, so people see that as a real benefit,” said Olivier.

For the complete list of winners, see article #16495.