BlackBerry maker pick of the crop

Research in Motion offers fun, novel rewards

Research in Motion (RIM) knows how to throw a birthday bash. In April 2004, the Waterloo, Ont.-based tech company, best known as the maker of the BlackBerry, invited its 5,200 full-time workers, plus one guest each, to a concert at a local auditorium to mark its 20th anniversary.

Employees didn’t know who would be taking the stage, so there was plenty of built-up excitement as the curtain rose and the Barenaked Ladies and Aerosmith performed a special private concert.

It’s that kind of novelty and fun that has helped put RIM on Canada’s Top 100 Employers list, published by Mediacorp Canada Inc., for 2007 and 2008.

“We try to find unique things of interest to employees, something completely out of the ordinary, for fun,” said Elizabeth Roe Pfeiffer, vice-president of HR at RIM.

“It’s another way of bringing people together and getting them away from their desks and having time as teams. We don’t always do the same things. We try to incorporate new ideas as well to keep it interesting.”

In 2005, the company bused employees to Toronto for the opening of the latest Star Wars movie. This summer, employees were treated to ice cream on Fridays. And an employee social committee helps by sponsoring a variety of events throughout the year.

Every employee also receives a free BlackBerry, with fees covered, on their first day and Pfeiffer said the device allows for greater flexibility when it comes to working remotely and staying in touch.

RIM employees also enjoy three weeks of vacation to start, four weeks after five years, a paid holiday shutdown at Christmas and flexibility when it comes to personal and sick days.

“Essentially we don’t tie employees to a specific number, we just manage that on an as-needed basis,” said Pfeiffer.

The company offers tuition subsidies and its 21-building headquarters are a short walk to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

As further incentive, all employees are given a RIM VIP or “variable incentive plan” that rewards them annually with a bonus based on the company’s success. And there is a group RSP that allows employees to contribute up to three per cent of their salary, with matching employer contributions. RIM also pays 100 per cent of the premiums for health benefits for employees and their family members in Canada.

Away from their desks, employees can take part in monthly lunch-and-learn sessions, on-site massage services, flu shot clinics and discounted gym memberships.

The RIM buildings also feature shower facilities, lounge and rest areas and subsidized cafeteria meals. There’s a park and walking trail nearby, and the company sponsors a variety of sports teams, including softball, badminton, tennis and hockey.

“We’ve had to be creative in terms of how we bring attention to ourselves and what we do to help bring people to work for us and how we’re recruiting them and how we retain them,” said Pfeiffer.

“It’s this recognition from the very top that employees are so important and employees really feel that through the organization, through working, how they’re treated in the workplace, how we try to provide a better work-life balance.”

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