The best of the West – top employers

3 firms show how less expensive benefits can make employees happy

Though 2009 was a rocky year for many firms, the companies that made top employer lists remained focused on doing their best to keep employees engaged and happy. And the winners of Mediacorp Canada’s regional competitions — including B.C.’s Top 55 Employers, Alberta’s Top 50 Employers, Saskatchewan’s Top 20 Employers and Manitoba’s Top 25 Employers — show it’s not necessarily the most expensive benefits that make employees happiest, it has more to do with fostering the right atmosphere.

Great Little Box touts transparency

“We all have the same needs and wants and the number one thing people want is recognition,” said Robert Meggy, president and chief executive officer of the Great Little Box Company. The Richmond, B.C.-based company employs 220 people involved in packaging and other shipping services.

One way the company offers that recognition is by making its financial situation completely transparent to employees. They are regularly shown the company’s income statement, balance sheet and net profit before taxes. And when the company makes money, the employees benefit. It offers profit-sharing on a monthly basis and the employees all receive an equal share, regardless of what job they do.

“Letting people know what’s happening financially makes people invested in the company and trust the company,” said Meggy.

Employees who enjoy socializing with each other will also be more committed to the company, he said. So the Great Little Box Company holds regular social events and Meggy said he is proud nearly 100 per cent of employees attend events such as the annual Christmas party.

Attendance at social events is a good barometer of the company and how happy its employees are, he said.

Some of that socializing also takes place at the office, which is equipped with a sand volleyball court, a horseshoe pit and an employee vegetable garden.

As well as the social benefits, health benefits are important, said Meggy. The company has a gym on-site — open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and employees can earn points for exercising, which they can trade in for prizes.

“If you create a better place to work people are happy and more motivated,” said Meggy.

Work-life balance key at EISI

At Emerging Information Systems (EISI) in Winnipeg, creating a healthy work-life balance is the key to creating happy and motivated employees.

“People have said they feel very supported by the organization and are allowed to take the time to deal with the things in life that really matter,” such as an illness in the family, said Judy Borus, vice-president of human resources and training.

EISI is a software development company that caters to financial institutions. Since Borus started working for the firm nine years ago, it has grown from a small start-up and now employs 285 people. When she arrived, there wasn’t even an HR department.

One of the initiatives she’s most proud of introducing is an employee assistance program (EAP). When it was introduced, the company held workshops to make sure employees were aware of the program and how it worked — and to stress there was no stigma attached to using it.

Some companies worry it’s a bad sign when an EAP system gets a lot of use, said Borus, but she’s pleased EISI employees are taking advantage of the offering and it has reduced the amount of short-term disability claims.

“We live in a very complex world and it’s a rare person who doesn’t have to reach out for help sometimes,” she said.

EISI also works to reduce stress on a daily basis with flexible work hours and a casual dress code. And another benefit offered by the company is two rooms that allow employees to take time out during a stressful day. One is a “noisy room” equipped with games, including a pool table, big screen TV and video games. The other is a “quiet room” with comfy couches and low lights.

The company also makes employees feel valuable by reducing the distance between staff and management and minimizing hierarchy. Founder and CEO Mark Evans is a former professor at the University of Manitoba and that background shows in the way he deals with employees.

“It’s not unusual to see him in a meeting with his sleeves rolled up, standing at the whiteboard working through things,” said Borus.

Trican eases stress to help retain much-needed workers

The nearly 1,400 employees at Trican Well Services in Calgary also benefit from working at a company that stresses work-life balance. Many of the employees at the company work in the field, where conditions are less-than-ideal, said Steve Redmond, Trican’s vice-president of human resources and health, safety and environment. That means it can be a tough industry in which to retain employees, so benefits that address the stresses of the work are especially important.

“A lot of people come back to us and are very appreciative that we’ve stood behind them when they’ve had a tough time, be it medical or emotional,” said Redmond.

One of the areas where the company is especially supportive is in parental leave. It offers 100 per cent maternity leave top-up for 52 weeks. And it offers support to dads and adoptive parents as well, with 100 per cent top-up for 36 weeks. And to make life easier for parents and other workers, the company offers flexible work hours and telecommuting.

Employees also benefit from tuition support and educational leave. Field staff can take up to four years off to attend college or university and their jobs will be guaranteed when they come back.

The education program helps the company as well as the employees, said Dale Dusterhoft, Trican’s CEO.

“We’re in a service business, which means that you do well when you provide better service and you provide the best service when you have the best people.”

Caitlin Gaudet is a freelance writer.


Best of British Columbia

B.C.’s Top 55 Employers

An alphabetical list of the best employers in British Columbia.

• 6S Marketing

• airG

• BC Housing Management Commission

• BC Hydro

• BC Public Service

• British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch

• British Columbia Lottery Corporation

• British Columbia
Public School Employers’ Association

• British Columbia Safety Authority

• British Columbia’s
Children’s Hospital Foundation

• Cactus Restaurants

• Certified General Accountants Association of Canada

• Clearly Contacts

• Club Intrawest

• Coast Mountain Bus Company

• Davis

• Dayton & Knight

• Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada

• EDS Advanced Solutions

• FinancialCAD

• Fraser Health Authority

• Goldcorp

• Golder Associates

• Great Little Box Company

• GrowthWorks Capital

• Harbour Air

• HSBC Bank Canada

• Kwantlen Polytechnic University

• Ledcor Industries

• Mountain Equipment Co-op

• Next Level Games

• Nicola Valley Institute of Technology

• Nintendo of Canada

• Parklane Homes

• Progressive Solutions

• Providence Health Care

• Provincial Health Services Authority

• Rescan Environmental Services

• Royal British Columbia Museum

• Schneider Electric PMC Victoria

• Sierra Systems Group

• Simon Fraser University

• Sophos

• Surrey, City of

• Telus

• University of British Columbia

• University of Victoria

• Vancity Group

• Vancouver Coastal Health Authority

• Vancouver International Airport Authority

• Vancouver Island Health Authority

• Vancouver, City of

• Vision Critical Communications

• Whistler, Resort Municipality of

• Wickaninnish Inn, The

Best of Alberta

Alberta’s Top 50 Employers

An alphabetical list of the best employers in Alberta.

• Agriculture Financial Services

• Agrium

• Alberta Blue Cross

• Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries

• AltaGas

• ATB Financial

• Athabasca University

• Bayer CropScience Canada

• Bethany Care Society

• Big Rock Brewery Income Trust

• BioWare

• Calgary Laboratory Services

• Calgary R.C. Separate School District 1

• Canada Safeway

• Canadian Western Bank

• Collins Barrow Calgary

• Edmonton Regional Airports Authority

• ENABIL Solutions

• Enbridge

• Enerflex Systems

• Energy Resources Conservation Board

• Enmax

• EPCOR Utilities

• First Calgary Savings & Credit Union

• Focus Corporation, The

• Graham Group

• Kellogg Brown & Root (Canada)

• Mammoet

• Matrikon

• Medicine Hat, City of

• Micralyne

• Midwest Surveys

• National Energy Board

• Nexen

• PCL Constructors

• RedPoint Media Group

• Rogers Insurance

• SAIT Polytechnic

• Shell Canada

• Spruceland Millworks

• Stantec Consulting

• Syncrude Canada

• Talisman Energy

• TAQA North

• TransCanada

• Trican Well Service

• University of Alberta

• Upside Software

• WestJet Airlines

•Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta

Best of Manitoba

Manitoba’s Top 25 Employers

An alphabetical list of the best employers in Manitoba.

• Aboriginal Peoples Television Network

• Boeing Canada

• Brandon Regional Health Authority

• Canad Inns

• Canadian Tool & Die

• Canadian Wheat Board

• Cargill

• Ceridian Canada

• Emerging Information Systems

• Hayhurst Elias Dudek

• Manitoba Blue Cross

• Manitoba Liquor Control Commission

• Manitoba Lotteries

• MIG Insurance Group

• Monsanto Canada

• MTS Allstream

• New Flyer Industries Canada

• SecuriCan General Insurance

• Seven Oaks General Hospital

• St. John’s-Ravenscourt School

• STRATA Benefits Consulting

• True North Sports & Entertainment

• Wardrop Engineering

• Winnipeg Airports Authority

• Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

Best of Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s Top 20 Employers

An alphabetical list of the best employers in Saskatchewan.

• Airline Hotels & Resorts

• Cameco

• Co-operators Life Insurance

• Crestline Coach

• Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan

• Information Services (Saskatchewan)

• ISM Canada

• Magna Electric

• Point2 Technologies

• Regina Police Service

• Saskatchewan Gaming

• Saskatchewan Government Insurance

• Saskatchewan Institute
of Applied Science & Technology

• Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club

• Saskatoon Health Region

• SaskEnergy

• SaskPower

• SaskTel

• University of Saskatchewan

• Workers’ Compensation Board
of Saskatchewan

Source: Canada’s Top 100 Employers, Mediacorp Canada

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