Staff at top employers twice as engaged: Study

More employers offering maternity leave top-ups and three weeks’ vacation to start

Employees who work for Canada’s Top 100 Employers are happier and more satisfied than other Canadian employees, according to the president of the company behind the list.

Employers that applied this year had the option to participate in a free Towers Perrin employee engagement survey and submit the results back to the Top 100. While the scores weren’t used in the selection process, Towers Perrin compared the 9,000 scores for employees at Top 100 companies to a national sample and found employees at Top 100 companies had an average engagement score more than double that of the typical Canadian employee. Top 100 employers also had 60 per cent fewer disengaged employees.

“It means these employers that are doing the right things end up with a more engaged workforce,” said Anthony Meehan, president of Mediacorp Canada Inc., the company behind Canada’s Top 100 Employers. “It’s pretty good proof that if you do the things we’re talking about, you improve your engagement scores.”

For the past eight years, the list has been a catalogue of best practices at companies in different industries, not a measure of employee satisfaction, and employers and employees alike take note, said Meehan.

“It has the effect of raising the bar for all employers in the industry,” he said.

When deciding which employers will make the cut, editor Richard Yerehma and his team compare employers within the same industry.

“It’s very important for applicants to understand their immediate competitors and what they’re doing,” said Yerehma.

However, with the much-talked about labour shortage already affecting employers, they’re no longer competing within their own industry for employees, said Meehan.

“They’re competing with people in very different fields for the same type of talent,” he said.

So employers are learning from each other and using best practices from different industries to attract and retain talent, said Meehan.

This cross-pollination of practices has led to some interesting trends in offerings over the years. In 2004, about 40 per cent of employers on the list offered two weeks’ vacation to start. This year that proportion is down to 20 per cent, with most starting at three weeks, said Yerehma. For those that do offer two weeks to start, very few of them hold employees at that level for very long, he said.

Training and development also tops the list of must-haves for top employers.

“Virtually everybody offers a form of tuition subsidy if you take courses at outside institutions,” said Yerehma. “Roughly two-thirds of those also offer tuition for courses that aren’t necessarily related to specific job requirements.”

Technological advances have led to an explosion in e-learning, he said. In the early days of the list, fewer than 10 per cent of companies offered e-learning but this year that proportion is about 80 per cent.

Technology has also made it easier for companies to give employees more flexibility, said Yerehma.

The percentage of employers offering telecommuting has increased from 50 per cent five years ago to about 80 per cent this year.

Maternity, parental, adoption and compassionate care leave benefits also set top employers apart from the rest of the pack, said Meehan.

“We’re seeing a real substantial increase in the number of companies that are doing almost full maternity top-ups for an extended period of time. Two or three years ago that was still a rarity,” he said. “On this year’s list it’s almost becoming the rule.”

This year, about 80 per cent of employers offer top-ups for mothers and about 50 per cent offer top-ups for fathers, said Yerehma.

When it comes to maternity and paternity leave top-ups, the Office of the Auditor General Canada in Ottawa, which made the list for the first time this year, leads the pack, said Meehan.

“They have one of the best maternity leave policies in the country, not just their field,” he said.

The policy provides a 93-per-cent top up for the 17-week maternity leave and 35-week parental leave. So mothers can take up to 52 weeks off at 93 per cent of their salaries and fathers can take up to 35 weeks at 93 per cent of their salaries.

Another benefit that has begun showing up is adoption leave. Not only are companies topping up adoption leave like they do for maternity or parental leave, but some are also providing adoption benefits in the form of a lump-sum payment, said Meehan. Toronto-based accounting firm KPMG is one of the standouts in this, offering up to $20,000 to cover adoption expenses.

Meehan was happy to see these practices and benefits take the lead as other, flashier, trends have begun to die out.

“We’re not seeing goofy pool tables and foosball and all of the other kinds of things that used to grab the headlines,” he said. “The baubles and trinkets have almost all but disappeared.”

While some employers make the list year after year (PCL Construction in Edmonton has been on the list every year, Suncor Energy in Calgary has been on the list seven times and Vancouver’s Great Little Box Company has been on the list six times), about one-third of employers are first timers.

“It’s very, very hard to stay on the list for an extended period of time because those are the employers we look at the hardest,” said Meehan.

And sometimes not making the list is the best thing that can happen to an employer who has made it for several years, he said, because it can give HR the ammunition to ask the executive team for resources to upgrade the policies.

“Some of the best companies (on the list) are people who have come back from previous years, who didn’t make it, who went out and re-tooled things and got things fixed,” said Meehan.

A cut above

Canada’s top 100 employers

Mediacorp Canada Inc. invited 65,000 employers to participate in this year’s competition, of which 1,800 started and 484 ¬completed the application process. Here are the top 100 for 2008:

• Abebooks Inc., Victoria

• Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. / ALPAC, Boyle, Alta.

• AltaGas Ltd., Calgary

• Appleby College, Oakville, Ont.

• Arcis Corporation, Calgary

• Assiniboine Credit Union Limited, Winnipeg

• Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario / AMAPCEO, Toronto

• Bayer Inc., Toronto

• BioWare Corp., Edmonton

• BitHeads, Inc., Ottawa

• Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Toronto

• Boeing Canada Technology Ltd., Winnipeg Division, Winnipeg

• British Columbia Safety Authority / BCSA, New Westminster, B.C.

• Business Development Bank of Canada / BDC, Montreal

• CAE Inc., Saint-Laurent, Que.

• Canada Post Corporation, Ottawa

• Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Toronto

• Cementation Canada Inc., North Bay, Ont.

• Ceridian Canada Ltd., Winnipeg

• Certified General Accountants Association of Canada /
CGA-Canada, Vancouver

• Christie Digital Systems Inc., Kitchener, Ont.

• Deloitte & Touche LLP, Toronto

• Diagnostic Chemicals Limited / DCL, Charlottetown

• Durham Regional Police Service, Whitby, Ont.

• EPCOR Utilities Inc., Edmonton

• Emergis Inc., Longueuil, Que.

• Enbridge Inc., Calgary

• Export Development Canada / EDC, Ottawa

• Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Toronto

• Farm Credit Canada / FCC, Regina

• Fidelity Investments Canada Limited, Toronto

• General Dynamics Canada, Ltd., Ottawa

• Golder Associates Ltd., Burnaby, B.C.

• Great Little Box Company Ltd., Vancouver

• HSBC Bank Canada, Vancouver

• Halifax Herald Limited, Halifax

• Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton

• Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co., Mississauga, Ont.

• Hill & Knowlton Canada, Toronto

• I Love Rewards Inc., Toronto

• IKEA Canada Limited Partnership, Burlington, Ont.

• Jacques Whitford Ltd., Dartmouth, N.S.

• KPMG LLP, Toronto

• Keane Canada Inc., Halifax

• L’Oréal Canada Inc., Montreal

• Laurentide Controls Ltd., Kirkland, Que.

• MBNA Canada Bank, Ottawa

• Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, Winnipeg

• Mars Canada Inc., Bolton, Ont.

• Marsh Canada Limited, Toronto

• McGill University Health Centre / MUHC, Montreal

• Microsoft Canada Co., Mississauga, Ont.

• Mintz & Partners LLP, Toronto

• Monsanto Canada Inc., Winnipeg

• N.B. Power Holding Corporation, Fredericton

• National Arts Centre, Ottawa

• New Flyer Industries Ltd., Winnipeg

• Next Level Games Inc., Vancouver

• North Atlantic Refining Ltd., Come By Chance, Nfld.

• Nycomed Canada Inc., Oakville, Ont.

• OPSEU Pension Trust, Toronto

• Office of the Auditor General of Canada, Ottawa

• Ontario Power Generation Inc., Toronto

• PCL Construction Group Inc., Edmonton

• Patient News Publishing Inc., Haliburton, Ont.

• PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Toronto

• Procter & Gamble Inc., Toronto

• Progressive Solutions Inc., Vernon, B.C.

• Radical Entertainment Inc., Vancouver

• Research In Motion Limited / RIM, Waterloo, Ont.

• Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation, Victoria

• Royal Canadian Mint, Ottawa

• Russell Investments Canada Limited, Toronto

• SAS Institute (Canada) Inc., Toronto

• Sapient Canada, Inc., Toronto

• SaskTel, Regina

• Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, Regina

• Saskatchewan Government Insurance / SGI, Regina

• Shell Canada Limited, Calgary

• Sierra Systems Group Inc., Vancouver

• Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.

• Spruceland Millworks Inc., Acheson, Alta.

• Suncor Energy Inc., Calgary

• Swiss Reinsurance Company Canada, Toronto

• Sybase iAnywhere Solutions, Inc., Waterloo, Ont.

• Syngenta Crop Protection Canada, Inc., Guelph, Ont.

• TD Bank Financial Group, Toronto

• Toronto Hydro Corporation, Toronto

• Toronto International Film Festival Inc., Toronto

• Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc., Cambridge, Ont.

• Trican Well Service Ltd., Calgary

• University Health Network / UHN, Toronto

• University of Toronto, Toronto

• Urban Systems Ltd., Kamloops, B.C.

• Vancouver City Savings Credit Union / VanCity, Vancouver

• Veer Incorporated, Calgary

• Wardrop Engineering Inc., Winnipeg

• Whistler, Resort Municipality of, Whistler, B.C.

• Yellow Pages Group, Verdun, Que.

• York, Regional Municipality of, Newmarket, Ont.

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