What Canada’s Top Employers Are Getting Right

What are Canada’s top employers getting right? It’s no secret that The Great Resignation is upon us. Employees are leaving their places of work in numbers not seen in recent memory. While those leaving for greener pastures have a host of reasons as to why they are resigning, some companies are seeing higher levels of retention than others. We take a dive into three Canadian companies who rank among Canada’s best employers. What are they doing right, and how do they foster outstanding corporate cultures?

A cityscape of Toronto
Image source: Rachael Annabelle, Unsplash

Cisco Systems Canada Co. consistently ranks highly as a top employer in Canada. This year, it ranked number one on Forbes list of Canada’s Best Employers. With major offices across Canada and 1,906 full-time employees, some standout aspects of Cisco Systems Canada’s corporate culture include:

  • New employees at Cisco Systems Canada start with four weeks of paid vacation, in addition, employees are offered up to five paid personal days off a year and can take advantage of flexible hours and work from home options to best fit individual schedules
  • Cisco Systems Canada believes strongly in supporting ongoing employee development and education, as such Cisco Systems Canada will subsidize tuition for courses related to an employees’ current position up to the amount of $7,500 as well as offering in-house and online training options
  • An employee-led Civic Council comprised of a team of cross-functional employees direct volunteer work and charitable giving across Canada. The council meets on a monthly basis to determine which initiatives the company will support annually

Cisco Systems Canada reviews employee compensation every 12 months and includes profit sharing, matching RSP, share purchase plans, and new employee referral bonuses. Additional financial benefits include year-end bonuses for some employees, corporate discount programs for retail, services, travel, and corporate discounts on a variety of products such as cars, home office supplies, home internet and mobile phones, and residential solar technology.

Cisco Systems Canada especially prides itself on the charitable culture that it has actively fostered. The company’s employee driven charitable focus includes education, healthcare, critical human needs, mental health and economic empowerment and Cisco Systems Canada will match employee donations and volunteer hours through company donations.

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Ranking in the top 20 of Forbes’ Canada’s Best Employers 2021, Health Canada, a part of the Canadian federal government, administers public health programs throughout Canada and employs 8,507 individuals full-time.

Naturally, being an administrator of public health, Health Canada prides itself on offering excellent health and family-friendly benefits. These include: 100% of premiums paid by Health Canada and there is no waiting period for new employees. Health coverage includes traditional coverage (e.g. prescription drugs), employee assistance (EAP) plan, semi-private hospitalization, physiotherapy, medical travel insurance, home-care, medical equipment and supplies, massage therapy, nutrition planning, podiatrist, osteopathy, chiropractor, alternative coverage (e.g. acupuncture, naturopathy) in addition employees may claim up to $2000 in mental health practitioner fees.

Health Canada also:
  • Supports employees who are new parents with maternity and parental leave at up to 93% of salary for 52 weeks. Health Canada also offers support for adoptive parents
  • Understands that the long term welfare of its employees is important. As such, health benefits extend to retirees at 80 per cent premium coverage, and offers further defined benefit pension plans
  • Provides secure bike parking for employees, subsidized fitness memberships, in office fitness facilities including treadmills, stationary bikes, Stairmasters, instructor-led classes (yoga, boot camp, cardio, high-interval training, Zumba), elliptical trainers, rowing machines, weights, shower facilities, and access to professional trainers

A unique part of Health Canada’s training and development is their “Take Me With You” initiative which encourages employees to ask their managers and peers to attend meetings that relate to their interests and career development goals. Health Canada’s new Solutions Fund allows employees access to funding to develop and implement projects that will improve the health and safety of Canadians, and the organizational effectiveness of Health Canada itself.

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Shopify Inc. a homegrown tech powerhouse was selected by the Globe and Mail as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2021. The company employs 4621 full-time, and operates a cloud-based commerce platform designed for small and medium-sized businesses.

Thrust into the limelight with the onset of Covid-19, Shopify has faced the same challenges as other employers during the global pandemic. Shopify has long since embraced flexible work arrangements. However  in response global changes to how we work, Shopify is moving forward with a new Digital by Default approach, embracing a “digital-first way of thinking, working and operating”. Moving forward and out of the global pandemic, Shopify will actively work to enable the vast majority of employees to continue to be able to easily work offsite as required.

In addition:

  • Shopify supports employees who are new mothers with maternity and parental leave top-up payments to 85% of salary for up to 34 weeks and offers parental top-up for fathers and adoptive parents (to 85 per cent of salary for up to 18 weeks)
  • Shopify’s basic health benefits plan, employees receive $5,000 which can be put towards a health or wellness spending account, a charitable giving account or retirement savings (employees may choose how funds are allocated to each option) — the company’s health benefits plan also features a generous mental health practitioners benefit of up to $2,500
  • Shopify places a great deal of focus in monitoring and reviewing employee engagement and performance. 360° assessment tools are used and confidential feedback can be provided by employees regarding management. Exit interviews are available for departing employees and in-house surveys are conducted every 6 months
  • Shopify also makes use of an online employee recognition platform, peer-to-peer recognition awards, long-service awards, Equity Awards to recognize employee impact, a birthday gift program, and internal bug bounties for employees who identify issues with core Shopify applications

Every great employer in Canada brings something unique to the table, however a few trends emerge when examining Canada’s best employers. Superstar organizations understand that holistic wellbeing is a cornerstone of happy employees. Companies that endeavor to gain deep understanding of their employees and provide benefits which address their employees’ needs and challenges excel at employee retention and engagement. Moreover, companies enjoy elevated corporate cultures when they look for ways to foster community through actions such as employee directed charitable giving and volunteering. Organizations that understand and enable the study of topics and engage in activities that are important and rewarding to individual employees build employee loyalty and engagement. Continuing education, training, ‘brainfood’ is also important. There is no perfect formula for any company when it comes to being a great employer, organizations need to study and learn what is important to their employees and organically build off of this.