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Meet Canada’s Best Employers 2021


As the pandemic shuttered offices across Canada, forcing thousands to work from home, the phones at the Canadian Mental Health Association were ringing off the hook.

“We had to really pivot to start to provide what were in-person services . . . virtually,” says CMHA National CEO Margaret Eaton. “Our staff across the country were extraordinary. The people are so mission-driven and were very worried about clients and people calling on the phone in distress.”

Before long, though, the constant calls—in addition to the daily stressors of living through a pandemic—took a toll on employees. Like many companies, CMHA offered staff wellness days off, but it was a far less conventional initiative that really boosted morale: scavenger hunts. During each virtual staff meeting, Eaton says employees were given one minute to find objects around their homes, whether a special memento from childhood or a creative project from the weekend, to share with their coworkers.

“It always reminds people of the positive,” she says. “We’ve been focused on gratitude and what makes life worth living.”

This unique approach to corporate culture earned the company the No. 6 spot on our annual list of Canada’s Best Employers. Forbes partnered with market research firm Statista to compile the ranking by surveying more than 8,000 Canadians working for businesses with at least 500 employees. Participants were asked to rate their willingness to recommend their own employers to friends and family, as well as nominating organizations other than their own.

Technology conglomerate Cisco took the No. 1 spot on the list, up from No. 3 last year. But with the exception of Cisco, unlike in years past, corporate giants don’t dominate the top ten. Environment and Climate Change Canada, a government department, ranked second, followed by video game company Ubisoft in third place.

Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, Environment and Climate Change Canada bills itself as a science-based organization, whose employees’ work informs policy decisions and helps enforce laws that protect the country’s natural environment.

“Our department is proud of the more than 7,300 diverse and passionate staff working in all regions of Canada in the field, research labs, weather forecasting centers and offices,” says an ECCC spokesperson. “Our employees are at the heart of domestic and international efforts to protect the environment, to lead action on climate change, to conserve our country’s natural heritage and to provide weather and meteorological information to keep Canadians informed and safe.” 

Canadian learning institutions also proved to be highly regarded employers. Three universities ranked among the top 10: University of Guelph (No. 4), University of Toronto (No. 5) and Laval University (No. 9). 

At the University of Guelph in Ontario, a sense of belonging and recognition is key to employee satisfaction, says Martha Harley, university associate vice president of human resources. During the pandemic, the university launched a daily gratitude challenge, complete with a recognition program called “Gee, Thanks,” through which employees are encouraged to share co-workers’ good deeds on a virtual kudos board. Each month, one employee is awarded a prize, Harley says.

“We are renowned in terms of our various areas of research and study around the world,” Harley says. “To combine that world-class piece with a community feeling [among employees] is really a feat, I think.”

For the full list of Canada’s Best Employers, click here.

Methodology

To determine the list, Statista surveyed more…



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