Leadership

Canada's Smartest Employers 2013

If you'd like your firm to enjoy the financial benefits of high employee engagement, follow the lead of the 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada

Written by Deborah Aarts

Attracting and retaining good people is good business. Engaging those people is even better business—way better.

Engaged employees are those dream staffers who not only do good work every day, but also go above and beyond the call of duty without being asked, search for better ways to do their jobs, collaborate with others to benefit the business, recommend their company to jobseekers and are loyal to their employer. Research shows that if you build a highly engaged workforce, your company is far more likely to enjoy higher growth rates and shareholder returns, with lower absenteeism and voluntary turnover, than companies with only moderately engaged workers.

But unlike other areas of HR that favour big companies and their big budgets, high engagement can be achieved by companies of any size. Case in point: the 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada profiled below, whose tactics and strategies prove that the organizations need not be huge to be world-class workplaces.

Produced by AonHewitt and the Queen’s School of Business Centre for Business Venturing in partnership with PROFIT Magazine and PROFITguide.com, the Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada program ranks participating companies by their employee-engagement scores and other factors, as measured by surveys of each firm’s employees, HR team and executives. The program is open to companies with 50 to 399 Canadian employees. More information about the program is available at bsmestudycanada.com

Employee counts listed below reflect “full-time equivalent” (FTE) employees, with one FTE equalling one full-time employee or two part-time employees.

Watch for full coverage of the 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada in the March issue of PROFIT and online at PROFITguide.com, in early February 2013.

1. DLGL Ltd.

Blainville, Que.
Human-resources software
FTE employees: 87
Chief executive: Jacques Guénette

The concept of mutual respect goes a long way at DLGL. Managers start with the assumption that employees are both competent and honest; that translates to a work environment in which staffers feel empowered and accountable, and micromanagement is kept to a minimum. Reasonable work schedules—a rarity in the burn-the-candle-at-both-ends software sector—and fair contracts provide additional incentives. As a result, workers are content to stay put: DLGL’s employee tenure averages 15 years, and its voluntary turnover rate is negligible.

2. Arrow Group of Companies (Arrow Professional Services)

Toronto
Staffing and human-resources services
FTE employees: 200
Chief executives: Sam Ibrahim and Shaemin Ukani

Management transparency is very important at Arrow. All financial results are shared freely with employees, and senior managers invite staff to ask questions and air concerns about the company’s direction. These and other empowerment-boosting policies—such as having employees choose which charities the firm supports—gives staffers a sense of ownership that translates into high job satisfaction. Benefits and perks, including subsidies for gym memberships, paid cell phones and staff barbeques, are icing on the cake.

3. Habanero Consulting Group

Vancouver
Information-technology consulting
FTE employees: 83
Chief executive: Steven Fitzgerald

Starting with the hiring process, Habanero makes sure employees at all levels understand the “why” of their work—that is, how their efforts contribute to the firm’s overall success. Regular events like all-hands-on-deck Monday morning update meetings help to make staff feel connected. In addition, management regularly supports employee-initiated changes to the way it operates. For instance, when staff requested a review of the existing RRSP program, managers encouraged a small group of volunteers to research alternatives—and ultimately accepted that group’s recommendation for a better provider.

4. DevFacto (DevFacto Technologies Inc.)

Edmonton
Information-technology consulting
FTE employees: 70
Chief executives: David Cronin and Christians Izquierdo

DevFacto has strived to create the kind of team atmosphere that drives staff engagement. At the Edmonton headquarters, employees are encouraged to collaborate in both traditional work settings and in more casual environs, such as the fully stocked kitchen and the board game area. And to keep the ties strong with its satellite operations, DevFacto has invested in a company-wide instant-messaging program, an internal social network and slick videoconferencing equipment. Coupled with a progressive approach to education that allots each employee three weeks per year for training, these initiatives have helped keep the staff turnover rate at zero throughout DevFacto’s five years in business.

5. Protegra Inc.

Winnipeg
Business-performance consulting and software development
FTE employees: 71
Chief executive: Wadood Ibrahim

Like many companies, Protegra conducts annual employee-satisfaction surveys. Unlike many companies, it acts on the results, setting aggressive targets to improve problem areas and issuing quarterly mini-surveys to make sure the changes are effective. Furthermore, every employee’s feedback counts when it comes to setting the firm’s strategic direction. Each year, Protegra hosts strategic planning sessions during which the staff collaboratively determines the priorities and goals for the year ahead. A flexible attitude towards work preferences—employees can work from home occasionally and create their own schedules—makes staffers feel respected.

6. iGATE Corporation

Toronto
Consulting, information-technology and business process outsourcing services
FTE employees: 376
Chief executive: Phaneesh Murthy

iGATE has instituted a system to make sure every employee is in a rewarding and productive role. The firm first helps each worker understand their strengths and talents. Next, manager and staffer set immediate, medium- and long-term career goals. Once these are established, the company helps employees develop the skills needed to meet them through training. This enables iGATE to monitor and foster staffers’ work satisfaction, while helping to keep them on the career track by providing motivating reminders about their stated goals.

7. Cybertech Group of Companies (Cybertech Automation Inc. and i-Gen Solutions Inc.)

Edmonton
Engineering and industrial information-technology services
FTE employees: 87
Chief executive: Ken Martel

In an effort to retain staff as long as possible, Cybertech has loaded its benefits portfolio with incentives for people to stick around. Most of the firm’s employees are shareholders, creating motivation for them to do their best work—and to see it rewarded in the long term. The company also offers very generous (four-figure) service awards for veteran staff who reach 10-, 15- and 20-year milestones. As a result, Cybertech boasts an annual turnover rate of less than 1%.

8. OACIQ (Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec)

Brossard, Que.
Real-estate regulation enforcement in Quebec
FTE employees: 159
Chief executive: Robert Nadeau

OACIQ takes pains to really listen to, and act upon, the requests of its employees. This has led to such measures as implementing a carpool program and lobbying to change local bus schedules to accommodate staffers. The philosophy has also yielded more fundamental shifts in the organization: for instance, in recent years, the management has placed a greater focus on employees’ desire for better work-life balance, offering schedule flexibility so long as customer service is not compromised.

9. ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd.

Edmonton
Engineering consulting
FTE employees: 287
Chief executive: Rod Peacock
When an organization is in flux, it can be extremely challenging to keep staff engaged. ISL faced this during a recently completed five-year succession plan that saw a wholesale change of leadership. To ward off anxiety, the company made the process fully transparent, explaining exactly how, when and why the changes would take place. Moreover, it used the opportunity to create development programs for its youngest staff, who now have a clear sense of the opportunities a career at ISL can afford them, and the company has mechanisms to groom the talent within.

10. Intelex Technologies Inc.

Toronto
Software for environment, health, safety and quality (EHSQ) programs
FTE employees: 190
Chief executive: Mark Jaine
Big decisions are a group exercise at Intelex. During strategic planning, every employee—from newbie to senior vet—gets face time with the CEO. This makes everyone feel connected, valued and engaged in the company’s future. To further shore up loyalty, Intelex has an office dedicated to helping its workers enroll in training and access resources to help them develop their careers. Other staff-pleasing perks include birthdays off, fitness allowances and a tuition assistance program for the children of employees.

11. Vigilant Global (4323009 Canada Inc.)

Montreal
Software for financial markets
FTE employees: 95
Chief executives: Josh Felker and Arvind Ramanathan
Vigilant Global employees receive many benefits, including free breakfasts and lunches, salary top-ups for new parents on leave, matched contributions to the firm’s group RRSP and ample opportunities for professional development (both in-house and external). They also get a strong voice with their employer. The company has implemented many mechanisms to ensure two-way communication, including an annual engagement survey, semi-annual town halls, a monthly employee-penned newsletter and a blog filled with staff contributions.

12. BBD (Benefits by Design Inc.)

Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Employee-benefits services
FTE employees: 77
Chief executive: Mike McClenahan
When employees join BBD, they get more than a cookie-cutter “welcome to the team” email from HR. Thanks to an elaborate onboarding program, they undergo an orientation that involves leaders from all areas of the company sharing the ins and outs of their jobs. As a result, new hires assimilate early and get a complete view of the business. Monthly team meetings with executives and structured, ongoing communication forums for co-workers keep communication flowing. Employee wellness ranks high, too, with discounts for services, company walking and running clubs, and free fruit and vegetables at the office.

13. Solvera Solutions

Regina
Information-technology consulting
FTE employees: 165
Chief executives: Reg Robinson and Jim Ostertag
Every Solvera employee has an opportunity to contribute to the firm’s success directly via a unique program that doubles as positive PR. Employees have the option to direct up to $500 each per year toward activities that they feel will build the company’s reputation in the marketplace. These have included charitable contributions, lunches at client sites to celebrate project milestones and converting the money into time off to volunteer. The idea is to show employees—and the public—that the company’s direction does not just trickle down from the C-suite, and that every staff member plays a role in the firm’s achievements.

14. College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta

Edmonton
Physician regulation and health-facility accreditation in Alberta
FTE employees: 96
Chief executive: Trevor Theman
Employee recognition is a big priority at the college. In addition to issuing awards to those who achieve tenure milestones and hosting regular staff-appreciation luncheons, the organization runs a program that enables employees to recognize and thank colleagues for anything they deem to be noteworthy. In addition, an onboarding program that includes an orientation with all department managers helps rookies feel informed and involved, while an open office with plenty of natural light makes the workspace a pleasant place to be.

15. Achievers (Achievers Solutions Inc.)

Toronto
Employee-reward and -recognition programs
FTE employees: 169
Chief executive: Razor Suleman
It should come as no surprise that a firm specializing in employee rewards has a rich roster of perks, and Achievers certainly delivers, with Friday socials and generous vacation policies, among many others. But the firm also drives employee engagement through communication, including an open-book policy to its finances and daily company-wide meetings in which employees offer quick updates. To foster individual initiative and agency, Achievers helps staff create customized professional-development plans, and encourages them set goals for themselves, their departments and the company as a whole.

16. CBCI (CBCI Telecom Canada Inc.)

Lachine, Que.
Videoconferencing and teleconferencing solutions
FTE employees: 89
Chief executive: Denis Dumouchel
CBCI’s core values don’t just live on a plaque in the lobby. Those values—integrity, respect, creativity, winning and team approach—form the basis of bi-annual employee reviews, aimed at ensuring that each staff member works with them in mind. To further entrench the values, employees are encouraged to nominate colleagues for Core Legend, a quarterly given to those who have exemplified a specific core value. In addition, training programs (run in concert with suppliers and other partners) and an “open mind, closed door” approach to employee feedback make staffers feel valued and respected.

17. The Sovereign General Insurance Company

Calgary
Commercial property and casualty insurance
FTE employees: 245
Chief executive: Rob Wesseling
Sovereign General has built many mechanisms to make employees feel special. These include a program that encourages people to pat co-workers on the back using the firm’s intranet. On the annual employee celebration day, everyone receives a gift and a hand-written thank-you card from their manager for the work they’ve done to contribute to the firm’s success. Other engagement-driving activities include informal mentoring, employee-driven charitable endeavours and post-hire interviews to make sure new recruits are comfortable and informed.

18. IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group (Canada), Inc.)

Mississauga, Ont.
Hotel chain
FTE employees: 175
Chief executive: Richard Solomon
This hotel chain offers plenty of training opportunities to its staff, no matter the role. A curriculum of classroom and electronic courses allow employees to develop their skills in anticipation of future promotion within the company. On the employee-recognition front, a program called Global Bravo! Have been a particularly successful initiative. It enables staffers to send congratulatory or thank-you e-card, along with a stipend, to a colleague they deem worthy of a reward.

19. Nurse Next Door Home Care Services (Nurse Next Door Professional Homecare Services Inc.)

Vancouver
Home-care franchises
FTE employees: 114
Chief executive: John DeHart
The company encourages its staff to think big, and provides resources to help each employee set—and reach—career, health and financial goals. A “dream wall” at the headquarters allows individuals to share their aspirations and drives home the “anything is possible” ethos. When employees demonstrate one of the firm’s core values in their work, they are rewarded with Flowerbucks, an intra-company currency that can be used to purchase everything from gift cards to iPads to vacations.

20. The Dilawri Group (AutoMall Properties Inc.)

Winnipeg
Automotive dealerships and related shops
FTE employees: 339
Chief executive: Ashok Dilawri
That employees of this automotive sales and services chain are spread across multiple locations could create a disconnected culture, but Dilawri Group has measures in place to keep everyone engaged with the larger team. Managers give performance reviews not just annually but monthly, weekly, even daily, so that everyone knows exactly where they stand. Particularly bright stars are enrolled in a management-training program that involves close mentorship and sponsored training. Meanwhile, the WOW Committee, a group comprising employees at all levels and from all outlets, meets monthly to develop programs to improve employee satisfaction, including staff recognition awards and an annual Christmas party for workers’ kids.

21. Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (Ontario) Limited

Kitchener, Ont.
Financial services
FTE employees: 147
Chief executive: Brent Zorgdrager
In recruiting, Mennonite Savings and Credit Union seeks out employees who share its values in order to maintain a strong sense of community among staff. This emphasis makes employees feel that they are contributing to something larger than themselves, which helps drive staff engagement. In addition, management now actively solicits the ideas and opinions of both staff and the credit union members that comprise their client base so that all can be involved in co-creating solutions. This makes staff and members alike feel valued, involved and informed about decisions affecting the business.

22. Intuit Canada ULC

Mississauga, Ont.
Financial and tax software
FTE employees: 400
Chief executive: Brad Smith
When an employee survey revealed that Intuit staff wanted opportunities to build new skills and adopt the best practices of their colleagues elsewhere in the organization, Intuit created an international temporary assignment program. It allows employees to work at other Intuit locations around the world, with the site and role determined by both the individual’s development goals and the business’s needs. As well, a buddy-based onboarding program eases the transition for new hires, while a generous recognition program (including trips, cash rewards and gift certificates) motivates employees to exceed expectations.

23. BESTECH (Boudreau-Espley-Pitre Corporation)

Engineering, technical and environmental services for the mining sector
Sudbury, Ont.
FTE employees: 115
Chief executives: Marc Boudreau and Denis Pitre
Management at BESTECH strives to listen to employee concerns, through quarterly all-staff update meetings, regular one-on-one meetings between managers and their direct reports, and the CEO’s policy of taking all new employees out for lunch. A voluntary employee share-ownership plan allows staff to buy into the future of the company, and pays out regular dividends. Other popular benefits include a fitness centre, paid professional membership dues and employer contributions to a group RSP.

24. iQmetrix (iQmetrix Software Development Corp.)

Regina
Software for retailers
FTE employees: 225
Chief executive: Christopher Krywulak
The core values of the iQmetrix culture are trust, freedom and personal responsibility. When employees start at the firm, they are encouraged to help create the type of organization at which they’d want to work—and, with minimal hierarchy and bureaucracy, they have considerable licence to do so. This philosophy has bred significant loyalty among employees, who appreciate the vote of confidence.

25. MACADAMIAN (Macadamian Technologies Inc.)

Gatineau, Que.
Software design and engineering
FTE employees: 165
Chief executive: Frederic Boulanger
MACADAMIAN encourages its employees to let their creative juices flow—even if their creativity isn’t directly related to their work. Through a program called CreativiDay, staffers can allocate some of their on-the-job hours to projects of personal interest that hone their skills, such as writing a blog or developing an application. In addition, everyone receives a paid day off (on top of statutory holidays) each month. Flexible work hours and regular pizza lunches help amp up job satisfaction.

26. Klick Health (Klick Inc.)

Toronto
Digital tools for the healthcare sector
FTE employees: 285
Chief executive: Leerom Segal
Klick Health employees receive kudos on a weekly basis through a recognition program called Klickster. For going above and beyond, staffers can win such benefits as keys to a Porsche for a week, a $500 shopping spree with a personal shopper and a catered meal at the CEO’s home. The firm also recently opened a new on-site health club featuring workout equipment, fitness classes and showers, so employees can conveniently squeeze a workout into the workday.

27. OPTIMUS | SBR (Optimus SBR Inc.)

Toronto
Diversified management consulting
FTE employees: 57
Chief executives: Kevin Gauci, John Whincup and Joe Oppedisano
Optimus | SBR was created when the owners of two consulting firms acquired SBR Global after its owner suddenly passed away. As such, the combined firm faced the significant challenge of fostering engagement among the newly merged staff during a period of intense transformation. A key strategy has been giving staff autonomy; employees are encouraged to act independently, to apply entrepreneurial thinking and to challenge the status quo. And the firm uses the same system for internal accountability that it recommends to its clients: requiring employees to identify how their roles contribute to the firm’s overall values and strategy, and to discuss their progress in achieving those goals in monthly meetings with colleagues.

28. Brookfield Residential (Brookfield Residential [Alberta] LP)

Calgary
Residential and commercial property development
FTE employees: 347
Chief executive: Alan Norris
In-house development of talent is a priority at Brookfield Residential. In 2010, the company launched a program that encourages leadership at all levels of the organization; to date, more than half of the employees have participated. In addition, the firm runs a one-on-one mentoring program that pairs senior management with younger staffers. The continuous-improvement ethos also applies to employee wellness: the company offers nutritious breakfasts and brings in a fitness instructor to encourage staff to exercise.

29. CAAT Pension Plan (Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Pension Plan)

Toronto
Pension plan for academic, support and administrative staff of Ontario colleges
FTE employees: 63
Chief executive: Derek Dobson
The organization uses a variety of activities that, taken together, account for its high levels of employee engagement. A 360-degree performance review process allows staff members to evaluate their bosses at the same time as they receive their assessments. Monthly staff-led lunch-and-learn sessions are attended by employees at all levels—including the CEO—and cover topics as diverse as new workplace technology and the benefits of a better diet. Staff birthday celebrations and extracurriculars, such as a popular Toastmasters Club, boost morale and foster camaraderie. And the CEO briefs staff after each board meeting to make sure nothing is hidden behind closed doors.

30. Concept Group (Concept Electric Ltd.)

Calgary
Diversified building installation and maintenance services
FTE employees: 439
Chief executive: Dave Kinley
How do you keep skilled tradespeople happy and engaged? Concept Group uses several strategies. The firm strongly believes in—and supports—career progression for its technicians, offering internal training programs to develop foremen and other leaders. It also encourages staffers to transfer between divisions in order to gain different experiences and add to their skill rosters. In addition, Concept Group provides apprenticeship training and covers the administrative burden of enrolling in courses. Competitive compensation and a family-style environment help seal the deal for workers.

31. prairieFyre Software Inc.

Ottawa
Telecommunications software
FTE employees: 123
Chief executive: Chris Courneya

Managers and HR reps meet with each employee at least quarterly—often more—to make sure individual development goals and career objectives aren’t forgotten in the day-to-day workload. New employees are introduced to the team and top management on their first day, meet with Human Resources after one month to get a clear sense of the company’s goals, a check in with the manager after two months to ensure they are integrating well, and all parties connect after three months to confirm a successful probationary period. The company also pays attention to the small stuff by requesting employee feedback through surveys and focus groups to get input on important initiatives like improving company efficiency. Managers conduct joint planning sessions to gain employee input into strategic company goals and work together to create departmental and individual objectives.

32. CST Consultants Inc.

Toronto
Group education-savings plans
FTE employees: 122
Chief executive: Sherry MacDonald
CST views continuing education as a means of keeping its staff both productive and happy. The firm has an in-house team devoted to creating and delivering customized learning programs. The company also pays for staff to take external courses. In addition, a company-wide wellness program initiated in 2011—which includes health and fitness challenges, walking groups, exercise classes and a fair, all organized by an on-site wellness coordinator—has resulted in significantly higher employee engagement scores.

33. National Leasing (National Leasing Group Inc.)

Winnipeg
Financing for business equipment
FTE employees: 282
Chief executive: Nick Logan
National Leasing includes all its employees in the strategic planning process. The purpose isn’t just to inform everyone of the firm’s direction, but to capture staffers’ ideas for improving processes and generating new revenue. Leadership development programs help every worker map out a career path that provides opportunities and rewarding challenges. The company also treats “assimilation” as a dirty word: instead of making employees conform to set criteria, it tries to accommodate different experiences and mindsets, allowing individuals to feel comfortable and respected.

34. Forensic Technology (WAI) Inc.

Montreal
Forensic ballistics and firearms-identification technology
FTE employees: 199
Chief executive: Robert Walsh
When it comes to developing HR policies, Forensic Technology does a lot of listening; employees are heavily involved in the design of all staff-related programs. They are also encouraged to strive beyond their roles by enrolling in company-sponsored training. Other measures aim to boost employee pride in the organization, such as a peer recognition program and a “CSI for a Day” outreach initiative, which sends staffers to secondary schools with high drop-out rates to teach students about careers in forensic science.

35. Innovation Place (Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation)

Saskatoon, Sask.
Technology parks in three Saskatchewan municipalities
FTE employees: 112
Chief executive: Douglas Tastad
Internal communication has been a huge community-builder—and driver of engagement—at Innovation Place. A comprehensive intranet is updated throughout the week with information of interest to employees, and contains links to relevant reports, surveys, memos and training resources. The intranet also contains a corporate photo album, an employee directory complete with a short profile of each staff member, and a section where people can post anything from vacation photos to items for sale. In addition, the system enables employees to anonymously pose questions—big and small—to the president.

36. Geo. A. Kelson Company Limited

Newmarket, Ont.
Mechanical construction for the industrial, commercial and institutional sector
FTE employees: 409
Chief executive: Michelle Kelson
The company tries to tap the problem-solving abilities of its employees by challenging staff to come up with solutions to the challenges of their work. An employee innovation program rewards those who show creativity and innovation. Plenty of professional development opportunities and access to state-of-the-art technology keep staffers sharp and excited about their work. And a special training program for young executives gives promising new talent the opportunity to plot out a career with the company.

37. NorWest Co-op Community Health (Nor’West Co-op Community Health Centre, Inc.)

Winnipeg
Co-operative health-care services
FTE employees: 57
Chief executive: Nancy Heinrichs
Many employees at NorWest participate in cross-departmental committees and projects, which helps to build an environment of collaboration and trust while improving the participants’ knowledge and skills. The firm maintains an open-door policy when it comes to communication; managers regularly check in with staff (both in groups and individually) to make sure concerns are promptly addressed. To foster continuous improvement, the company offers job shadowing and cross-training, which have proven very effective at engaging staff. A systematic knowledge-transfer process also keeps its people informed and empowered.

38. beerbistro (99 bottles inc.)

Toronto
Restaurant
FTE employees: 47
Chief executive: Brian Morin
At a restaurant dedicated to beer and beer-infused cuisine, an appreciation for suds is a definite prerequisite. Beerbistro takes things a step further by indulging employees’ natural love of brew with some serious hophead training. The company sends staffers across Europe and North America to visit unique breweries and attend festivals. Back home, it runs regular beer schools for employees. Beyond the bar, the firm offers medical benefits and an RRSP savings plan—both restaurant-industry rarities—which further ratchet up the employee appreciation.

39. TIC Travel Insurance Coordinators Ltd.

Toronto
Travel insurance
FTE employees: 228
Chief executive: David Hartman
TIC administers internal surveys on a regular basis to make sure it’s being responsive to the needs of its employees. As a result, the company has developed a list of policies and programs that match its staff’s preferences. Like many employers, the firm offers strong wellness, benefits and pension plans. However, it also provides a popular work-from-home program and subsidizes the purchase of public transit tickets to promote environmentally sustainable commuting.

40. StarTech.com Ltd.

London, Ont.
Information-technology parts and accessories
FTE employees: 194
Chief executive: Paul Seed
StarTech flies employees in from around the world for its annual One Team conference. This gives everyone—regardless of position or tenure—an understanding of the firm’s strategy and its successes. It also gives everyone a chance to share ideas and criticisms, all while building relationships with one another. A bonus: since the conference takes place on a Saturday, everyone is paid time and a half for the day and given another full day off in lieu. But that’s just one day a year. The rest of the time, a newly appointed manager of internal communication and employee engagement strives to make sure staff are informed, inspired and satisfied.

41. [TIE] Quadra Chemicals Ltd.

Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que.
Chemical and ingredient distribution
FTE employees: 221
Chief executive: Tony Infilise
Every year, Quadra employees help set the firm’s strategy and goals, then receive regular updates on the company’s progress in achieving those goals. This way, the staff feel involved in the process while being reminded of their efforts’ larger purpose. And Quadra isn’t afraid to change course when things aren’t working. When an employee engagement survey conducted last year revealed some problem areas, senior management set about reform. As a result, the firm is tweaking its recognition programs, its work processes and its career discussions with employees.

41. [TIE] Réal Huot Inc.

Quebec City, Que.
Wholesaler of waterworks and sewer systems
FTE employees: 52
Chief executive: Sylvain Vachon
Réal Huot operates under the principle that every employee makes a difference. The firm employs many measures—including a Kaizen-based decision-making process—to make sure everyone knows their individual role in achieving success. Furthermore, the company invites individuals with special strengths to participate in structuring the business plan. A professional development program that involves annual training in both hard and soft skills, as well as a customer-service strategy that positions every staffer, regardless of position, as an ambassador of the company, makes employees feel empowered and engaged.

42. Furlani’s Food Corporation

Mississauga, Ont.
Garlic bread for grocery chains and restaurants
FTE employees: 197
Chief executive: Paul Kawaja
Furlani’s encourages its employees to share their ideas in many ways, including internal focus groups, suggestion boxes and company-wide meetings. Moreover, managers consistently remind their reports that employee input should be not only welcomed but sought out. And everyone in the company is encouraged to think about more than the bottom line: all decisions, no matter how minor, must factor in the personal, family and cultural issues of those affected by them.

43. Davis Automotive Group (Davis Properties Ltd.)

Lethbridge, Alta.
Automotive dealerships
FTE employees: 369
Chief executive: John Davis
Davis Automotive Group has designed many initiatives to make sure leadership listens to staff concerns—not just the reverse. The annual employee review process is structured to accept feedback from employees as much as it is to rate their performance. And the recent addition of an intranet program that allows employees to share information with their colleagues throughout the dealership chain has been a hit with staff and management alike. Engagement is high, but the firm keeps trying to raise the bar—it is currently re-assessing its employee recognition program to make it more meaningful for the recipients.

44. Vista Projects Limited

Calgary
Engineering and procurement services for the oil and gas sector
FTE employees: 354
Chief executive: Alex Campbell
Work/life balance is a big deal at Vista Projects. Every Friday is a half-day so that staffers get more time with their families, and everyone is entitled to $1,500 annually to further their education. The firm fosters a fun, social environment, supporting such employee-run initiatives as a charitable program for the needy and a shinny hockey team. And while staff are on the clock, they have incentive to excel: all-star performers are rewarded with leadership opportunities and shares in the company.

45. Desire2Learn Inc.

Kitchener, Ont.
Educational software
FTE employees: 581
Chief executive: John Baker
Desire2Learn employees are left with little doubt about why they do their work. New hires learn from the start about how their work affects learning around the world, and the employee assessment process is based on linking individual performance with corporate goals and values. The workplace is friendly and stimulating: Desire2Learn did extensive planning to ensure its Kitchener headquarters is conducive to staff interaction and co-operation. The result is a modern, open-concept office that staff love working in, complete with lounges and cafeterias stocked with free nutritious snacks.

46. North Shore Credit Union

North Vancouver, B.C.
Financial services
FTE employees: 291
Chief executive: Chris Catliff
The credit union has created a program to ensure new employees feel valued and engaged right from the start. It includes a two-day orientation and an “onboarding map” outlining expectations for their first 90 days. Additionally, rookies receive loads of training, delivered via classroom, computer and one-on-one sessions with more senior “peer trainers.” NSCU also encourages everyone to recognize good work. An on-the-spot reward program allows staff to give their colleagues kudos for accomplishments large and small; the nominated employee immediately receives a $15 gift card or a voucher for an hour of free time while on the clock.

47. SaskTel International (Saskatchewan Telecommunications International, Inc.)

Regina
Software and consulting services for telecommunications firms
FTE employees: 150
Chief executive: Steve Sousa
SaskTel International gives its employees a tremendous amount of agency to shape the company. For instance, staffers who have worked on developing a new piece of software also get to name it, which fosters pride. When any employee travels to meet with a client, he or she is given full autonomy to represent the firm. And staffers are heavily involved in organizing charitable endeavours. For example, when the firm sent a container of medical supplies to the island of Dominica, it was a staff-run initiative from conception to execution.

48. Teshmont Consultants LP

Winnipeg
Electrical engineering services
FTE employees: 68
Chief executive: Ralph Kurth
Supporting professional development of its staff is a priority at Teshmont. If a course or training program is in high demand, the firm pays to have it offered in-house. Employees enrolled in external courses benefit from financial support and related on-the-job training. Staff can even use their time in the office to work on training-related papers and assignments. In addition, a progressive recruitment strategy—involving both an employee referral plan and aggressive international searches—has resulted in a workplace in which 31 different languages are spoken. The resulting cultural dynamism has proven very popular.

49. Pinchin Environmental Ltd.

Mississauga, Ont.
Environmental and health and safety solutions for property owners and managers
FTE employees: 298
Chief executive: Don Pinchin
At Pinchin, employees share the wealth. For more than 10 years, the firm has been granting share ownership to staff based on individual contributions to its success. Today, almost 20% of employees are also owners, representing different work areas and skills; these individuals are considered essential and tend to be committed to the company for the long term. But this perk doesn’t mean the rest of the staff are left out; those not in the ownership group are part of a profit-sharing plan that offers them an annual payout. Frequent staff appreciation events (including paintball excursions, a monthly cake day and spa visits) further improve staff satisfaction.

50. Phonak Canada Limited

Mississauga, Ont.
Hearing instruments and clinics
FTE employees: 181
Chief executive: Steven Mahon
Phonak Canada places a strong focus on identifying star players and developing their talents. Management maintains high expectations: employees must demonstrate strong performance and a commitment to continuously learn. In exchange, the firm will help staffers fulfill their career plans, through training and other professional-development measures. This, coupled with a progressive organizational structure (with rapid decision-making and flat hierarchies) keeps staff performance up and turnover low.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com