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| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | | A tale of three good companies and their people | Melanie Collison | Freelance |

Saturday, October 13, 2007EDMONTON The idea that individuals are important and can make a worthwhile contribution is front and centre as Edmonton's top companies compete for employees in this labour-short marketplace.To recruit and retain the people of their choice, they're offering recognition, and access to executive ears. They're covering tuition, and investing in safety, health and wellness. And they're building in fun and flexibility.Here are three Alberta companies that embody modern workforce thinking.MICRALYNE INC.A custom electronics components manufacturing firm, Micralyne is one of a mere handful that make microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) used by specialized instrument makers.MEMS components are so tiny that hundreds and hundreds fit on a chip the size of your fingertip. These components move when an electrical force is applied, and trigger an automobile's air bag release, for instance, or direct an overseas telephone call, explains says Jaya Gurjar, marketing and communications.A spinoff from a University of Alberta research facility, Micralyne thrives on new ideas and an open door policy."People are definitely appreciated by management," Gurjar says. "Within the company, there's room to grow."The company as a whole is growing, too, both in its physical plant in the Edmonton Research Park, and in the global marketplace where employees are proud to rank fourth or fifth in the world."We have tons of customers coming through the door and we need more people," Gurjar says.Micralyne boosted its revenues by 50 per cent last year and the 175th employee was hired this month.While a rich benefits program includes medical and dental coverage, a percentage of company profits, RRSP donation matching and every third Friday off, it may say more about the corporate culture when Gurjar says: "There are always staff events going on. There's lot of fun and jokes, something funny happens every day; it's a good working environment."The outdoor environment deserves a mention as well. Flooded for noon-hour hockey games in winter, the soccer field draws workers from neighbouring companies to boost the multi-cultural ranks of Micralyne staff.ALBERTA TREASURY BRANCHESAsked what makes ATB Financial a good place to work, senior vice-president of human resources Sandy Chipchar enthusiastically corrects, "It's a great place to work!"The culture is focused on putting the customer first and recognizing that each person in the team makes a valuable contribution.There's a lot of communication, access to leadership, and recognition for individuals' contributions."ATB Financial serves more than 240 communities through an ever-growing network of retail branches plus agencies and business service offices."The culture is consistent across the organization," Chipchar says, which ensures that business growth outpaces Alberta's population boom.The Crown corporation distinguishes itself by its comfortable rural-inspired corporate culture enhanced by urban perks. ATB hires people in their home communities, then provides training and educational opportunities, plus career paths in personal, corporate and investment banking.Its pension and benefits plan -including $500 for each employee to allocate -has been nationally recognized. There's revenue sharing in the good years, which have been plentiful as the company broadens its portfolio.The 4,400 employees "have a sense of having a say in this organization," she adds. "We've had tremendous success with flexible work arrangements, part-time or (working from) remote locations. We never say never."Employees tailor corporate charitable programs to their home towns, and rooted in their experience as ATB's customers, "are great innovators of new products."FOCUS CORPORATION LTD.A recognized safety culture at work and at home, bowls of fruit instead of pretzels and helping raise $325,000 for a children's charity at a recent golf tournament paint a picture of the priority Focus places on people.The engineering firm "truly understands that our success is only as good as the people on our team, people who are truly engaged in their projects," says chief human resources officer Angela Fong.And the projects? The company is proud to have worked on the Kicking Horse Canyon bridge, recently opened as part of the upgrade of the heart-stopping stretch of highway east of Golden, B.C."It's a career-builder to be involved in a project like the Kicking Horse bridge," Fong says.Other career boosters are the mentoring provided to recently-hired graduates and the training and development programs. The company promotes an entrepreneurial spirit, individual autonomy and decision-making in a context of team orientation.An exceptional benefits program, profit-sharing based on individual plus company performance, RRSP donation matching and hefty bonuses for referring new hires compensates for the intense pace maintained by the 1,350 employees in 19 locations across the West plus one in Truro."The length and intensity of days varies by business unit," Fong says. "Engineers are busy in spring, summer and fall, and the geomatics peak season is winter. We promote a work-life balance, and a flexible work environment."© The Edmonton Journal 2007 | | Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved. |

| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
Some great places to work The Edmonton Journal
Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mediacorp Canada Inc.'s list of Alberta's top 35 employers, including head office, type of industry, number of employees and some of the benefits offered to staff members.

Agrium Inc. Calgary
Fertilizer producer
1,898
Three weeks' vacation to start, increases to four weeks after two years; succession management program; enngineer-in-training program

Alberta Blue Cross
Edmonton
Provides health insurance benefits plans
683
Reduced home and auto insurance rates, discounts on home computers, maternity leave top-up payments, flexible work options, daily fitness classes, onsite health checkups, transit subsidies and secure bicycle parking

ATB Financial
Edmonton
Full-service financial institution
3,255
Traditional pension plan, low interest home loans, discounts on home computer and Internet access; maternity leave top-up payments ; unpaid leaves of absence

Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.
Boyle
455
Operates kraft pulp facility in the Athabasca-Lac La Biche region
Tuition subsidies, maternity leave top-up payments, 40-acre trout pound, walking trail, driving range, baseball field, traditional pension plan, matching RSP contributions

AltaGas Ltd. Energy company
Calgary
357
Three weeks' vacation to start, two paid days off and three more days at Christmas, extra long weekends in summer, pays employees during apprenticeship training, performance bonuses include dinner certificates, spa sessions and paid weekend getaways

Arcis Corporation
Seismic data processing
Calgary
95
State-of-the-art office space that features contemporary Canadian art, in-house chef serves healthy free breakfasts and lunches, hosted its Christmas holiday celebration at Banff resort, matching RSP contributions, phased-in retirement work programs

Associated Engineering Group Ltd.
Edmonton
Employee-owned consulting engineering firm
509
Free memberships to an on-site fitness facility, chair massage therapy sessions, employee wellness activities such as fun Lego building competitions, replaced junk-food vending machines with a selection of healthy snacks, alternative work arrangements to help employees balance working and personal lives, tuition subsides for professionally related programs

Athabasca University
Distance education university
Athabasca
618
Tuition subsidies for courses, on-site fitness facility with instructor-led courses in yoga, tai chi and Pilates, traditional pension plan, low-interest home loans, discounts on home computers

Bayer CropScience Canada Inc.
Develops and manufactures crop protection products
Calgary
247
Staff can earn extra long weekends, tuition subsidies, three weeks of paid vacation to start plus two paid personal days off each year, pension plan and matching RSP contributions, charitable giving program managed by employee volunteers

Bethany Care Society
Provides health-care delivery, housing and lifestyle services to seniors and persons with disabilities
Calgary
296
Matching RSP contributions and traditional pension plan, maternity top-up payments, tuition subsidies, three weeks of paid vacation after first year

BioWare Corp.
Develops video games
Edmonton
315
Casual dress every day, fun social events every year, onsite theatre where employees can enjoy movie nights with family and friends, three weeks of paid vacation to start and extended Christmas holiday break, extra week off after release of a new product, healthy snacks

Epcor Utilities Inc.
Provides electricity, water and gas to customers in western Canada, Ontario and U.S., as well as metering services to municipalities across Canada
Edmonton
2582
Up to five personal days off each year in hourly increments so employees can take care of day-to-day errands, flexible health benefits plan so employees can customize coverage, discounts on home computers, pre-retirement planning workshops and gradual reduction of work hours, hosts huge summer barbecues and Christmas parties

Enbridge Inc.
Natural gas distribution
Calgary
3,522
Three weeks of holidays to start and12 paid days off during the year, four separate health benefits plans, ranging from no coverage to complete coverage, gives employees the cash equivalent of the health benefits they don't use, works with First Nations groups to create employment opportunities for Aboriginal Canadians, pension plan and matching group RSP contributions

Enmax Corporation
Electrical and natural gas distribution and transmission
Calgary
1,123
Fitness facility, 10 personal days off in addition to three weeks' paid vacation, time off to enjoy the Calgary Stampede, transferable academic credits for in-house training through partnership with local universities

First Calgary Savings & Credit Union Ltd.
Credit union
Calgary
362
Maternity leave top-up payments, alternative working arrangements, emergency daycare service, can bring their pets to work when necessary, matching RSP contributions, profit-sharing, low-interest mortgage rates

Focus Corporation Ltd.,
Geomatics and engineering consulting services
Edmonton
1,350
Profit-sharing program, matching RSP contributions, alternative working arrangements from shortened work weeks to an earned days-off program that provides every second Friday off, tuition subsidies, three weeks' vacation for new employees, four weeks after five years on the job

Graham Group Ltd.
Building contractor
Calgary
473
Maternity leave top-up payments, three weeks of paid vacation to start, employee assistance plan, family and spousal health benefits at no additional cost

Graycon Group Ltd.
Information technology management
Calgary
114
Referral bonuses when employees successfully recommend a new candidate, matching RSP contributions, discounts on home computers, year-end bonuses, performance rewards including spa days, golf vacations, house cleaning services, catered home meals for a week, and restaurant dinners with money for a babysitter

Intuit Canada Limited
Develops personal finance, small business accounting and tax-return software
Edmonton
387
On-site fitness facility, nap rooms; free espresso, giant video games, sundaes and spa sessions everyday during the last week of tax season; full health benefits coverage for seasonal employees, rewards exceptional employee achievements with rewards from shopping sprees to spa days to skydiving trips, nine-acre campus-like setting features patios, gas barbecues, gorgeous landscaping and wild rabbits

Macleod Dixon LLP
Law firm
Calgary
361
Matching RSP contributions, rewards outstanding employee performance with paid ski weekends and vacations at mountain resorts, referral bonuses for employees who recruit new employees for the firm, maternity top-up payments

City of Medicine Hat
866
Interest-free loans to purchase home computers, in-house training programs and tuition subsidies, traditional pension plan, helps new employees to find a house and subsidizes moving expenses

Micralyne Inc.
Manufactures micro-fabricated products and micro-electro-mechanical systems.
Edmonton
162
Sports field used for soccer in summer and outdoor hockey rink in winter, profit-sharing and share purchase plans, matching RSP contributions, three weeks of paid vacation in first year, moving to four weeks after five years

Midwest Surveys Inc.
Land surveying
Calgary
399
Quarterly bonuses, flexible health benefits plan with annual health spending account to $1,500 for each family member, on-site fitness facility, share purchase and profit-sharing plans

Nexen Inc.
Oil and gas exploration and production
Calgary
1,652
Matches employee charitable donations up to $10,000, two paid days off to volunteer in the community, fitness centre with personal trainer, year-end bonuses, share purchase plan, discounts on computer equipment purchases, a traditional pension plan, maternity leave top-up payments

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
Post-secondary institution, with over 54,000 students
Edmonton
1,966
Maternity top-up payments, onsite fitness facility, 11 days paid days off during Christmas in addition to regular vacation time, pension plan, tuition subsidies

PCL Construction Group Inc.
One of North America's largest general contractors.
Edmonton
1,678
Senior managers are longtime employees, share purchase and profit-sharing plans, $30-million state-of-the-art training facility, hosts a very popular and competitive hockey tournament -the Schmauch Cup -for PCL teams from across North America

PrimeWest Energy Inc.
Produces crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids
Calgary
307
Travel voucher of $2,000 to celebrate their fifth anniversary with company, tuition subsidies, maternity leave top-up payments and up to 20 emergency day-care days, rewards exceptional performance with additional vacation days, gift and restaurant certificates, and getaways to nearby resorts

Rogers Insurance Ltd.
One of Alberta's largest independent insurance brokerages
Calgary
117
Employees can become shareholders after four years, tuition subsidies and cash awards up to $1,500 for completion of certain accreditations, treated employees and families to a weekend vacation at a Kananaskis resort, year-end bonuses up to $6,500
Shell Canada Limited
Integrated petroleum company
Calgary
4,751
Discounted gasoline purchases, helps find child care, schools and senior-care facilities, health benefits plan provides coverage during retirement, tuition subsidies

Spruceland Millworks Inc.
Softwood lumber remanufacturer
Acheson
157
Celebrated last year's record profit with a "prosperity bonus" of $1,000 for each year of service, ends workday when the production target is reached so employees can enjoy more family time, avoided layoffs after a devastating fire at its manufacturing plant by hiring its employees to help rebuild the factory, share ownership plan with affordable financing options, holds annual meetings in exciting locales, matches employee RSP contributions

Suncor Energy Inc.
Integrated energy company
Calgary
5,483
Up to 17 personal paid days off each year in addition to paid vacation, tuition subsidies, flexible health-benefits plan that allows employees to convert unused credits into cash, awards scholarships annually to employees' children

Trican Well Service Ltd.
Well service company
Calgary
1,537
Parental leave top-up payments, phased-in retirement leave program, $1,000 referral bonuses for employees who successfully recruit new employees, tuition subsidies for employees to pursue an engineering degree or diploma

Veer Incorporated
Provides stock photography, illustration, maps, motion clips and typefaces
Calgary
107
Lets employees bring kids to work in a daycare emergency, matching RSP contributions, maintains fleet of bicycles for employees to use; opened office in Berlin where employees can gain international experience, in-house massages, "chill room" with beer on Fridays help staff unwind

WestJet Airlines Ltd.
Canada's largest low-fare air carrier
Calgary
4,090
Share purchase plan, profit-sharing plan, matching RSP contributions, reduced airfares for employees, friends and family, tuition subsidies
Workers' Compensation Board of Alberta
Promotes safe work practices and provision of fair benefits to workers
Edmonton
1,615
On-site fitness centre with pilates, aerobic and kick-boxing classes; wellness classes for employees, including smoking cessation, Weight Watchers, first-aid courses and on-site massage services; maternity top-up payments, flexible health plan and tuition subsidies.

| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
From paid time off to holidays in Cuba
Company perks come in all shapes and sizes these days

The Edmonton Journal
Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Mediacorp list of Canada's top 100 employers includes some pretty unusual perks. Here are a few:
Cementation Canada Inc., North Bay, Ont.: Awarded one employee a free trip to Cuba at the company's Christmas party.
Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto: Provides employees with the option of an extended maternity leave for up to three years.
Canada Post Corporation, Ottawa: Works closely with Santa Claus, managing the popular Santa letter-writing tradition for nearly a quarter of a century.
Appleby College, Oakville, Ont.: Offers a return to work program for new mothers to help ease their transition back into the workforce
Assiniboine Credit Union, Winnipeg, Man.: Builds diversity and equity into its hiring practices -women comprise half of its senior management.
Boeing Canada Technology Ltd., Winnipeg, Man. The company provides BlackBerrys to staff who are deaf to help in their communications with co-workers.
British Columbia Safety Authority, New Westminster, B.C.: Selected their head office location based on employee accessibility to the SkyTrain and public transit options.
Export Development Canada, Ottawa, Ont.: Offers employees language instruction in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic.
General Dynamics Canada Ltd., Ottawa, Ont.: Gives out free turkeys to all employees at Christmas.
The Great Little Box Company, Vancouver: Is located on 10 acres along the Fraser River and built a dock for employees who wish to paddle a kayak to work.
Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co., Mississauga, Ont.: Owns a lakeside resort north of Kingston for employees and their families to enjoy.
Hill & Knowlton Canada, Toronto, Ont.: Celebrates the end of each week with a travelling beer cart that winds through the office.
I Love Rewards Inc., Toronto, Ont.: Organizes a CEO book club. Employees receive a free copy of the book and can talk about it with the company CEO at his home.
L'Oreal Canada Inc., Montreal, Que.: Operates a cosmetics boutique where employees can buy company products at a discount.
Mars Canada Inc., Bolton, Ont.: The Canadian manufacturer of Mars and Snickers candy bars offers these and other products at cost to employees.
Next Level Games Inc., Vancouver, B.C.: Lets employees bring their pets to work.
North Atlantic Refining Ltd., Come By Chance, N.L.: Offers great employee discounts on gasoline purchases, home heating fuel and even barbeques.
Russell Investments Canada Limited, Toronto, Ont.: Offers long-term staff an eight-week paid sabbatical after 10 years on the job and every tenth year thereafter.
Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, Regina, Sask.: Operates a unique native management development program to prepare employees for management positions.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc., Cambridge, Ont.: Hosts a huge staff Christmas party with over 2,000 guests and great prizes, including a $10,000 certificate towards a new vehicle.
© The Edmonton Journal 2007

| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
Workers' personal needs part of benefits package
Perks crucial to keeping employees happy Derek Sankey
The Calgary Herald; CanWest News Service

Saturday, October 13, 2007

CALGARY - In an economy that continues to lead the nation, especially in the area of demand for highly skilled labour, Calgary companies have realized they can pay up to only a certain level and still make a profit, so the focus now is on perks.
Recruiters and human resource managers of Alberta's Top 35 Employers say the talent wars will get worse as the full effect of an aging population intensifies, even if there is an economic downturn, so companies are doing everything they can by enhancing everything else aside from salary, which still has to be competitive.
"There's not one silver bullet," says Brent Gordon, human resources manager for Calgary-based Midwest Surveys Inc., named to Mediacorp's 2007 list of best employers in Alberta.
"We definitely have to look at the big picture in terms of total compensation."
Midwest Surveys is one of the few employers that fully embrace telecommuting for its workers, which consists of a lot of land surveyors serving primarily the energy industry working out in the field.
"We can do that now with technology and the type of work we're in," Gordon says, adding it's been a "hugely positive" move that reflects the company's goal of meeting the lifestyle and personal needs of its employees.
In another survey, Hewitt Associates ranked Midwest Surveys seventh out of the best 30 benefits programs among Alberta companies, one of the reasons that likely contributed to it being listed in the Alberta Top 35 Employers this year.
Employees receive eight paid days of safety training and a health spending account for each employee and all of his or her dependents. That is in addition to full regular health benefit coverage with no maximum caps.
There's also paid leadership training over 18 months, tuition up to $1,000 a year and an informal phased retirement program, whereby the majority of retired workers come back in some capacity to mentor younger hires.
Employee engagement is crucial to keeping workers in the corporate family, so Midwest is employee-owned like another familiar member to this year's top employer list -- WestJet Airlines Ltd. Twenty-six per cent of Midwest's employees are shareholders.
Engagement is something Mike Farrier knows intimately as director of human resources for the Calgary office of Macleod Dixon LLP. "Lots of people have grown up with us," says Farrier of the nearly century-old law firm.
"We're moving towards employee engagement at all levels in a diagonal slice from the top of the house to the bottom of the house across every department," he says.
In the legal industry, the most important relationships are those between a lawyer and their legal assistant, so "those are very much structured in a partnership way with mutual trust and respect," according to Farrier.
Sure, there are generous vacation packages and personal days, IT training and tuition assistance, but Macleod Dixon tries to differentiate itself by focusing on ways to help employees reach all of their personal goals.
Farrier is working on implementing an extensive mentoring program, or "buddy system," that matches up seasoned professionals with younger ones just starting out.
"Our oldest person working here is 68 and the youngest is 19, so we span a number of generations with a lot of workplace diversity," Farrier says.
The company's strategy to make a personal effort to improve the lives of its employees was put to the test when one of its workers, who was in the midst of leaving the company, had her apartment go up in flames earlier this year.
"We rallied the troops up here and got donations of furniture, clothing and money to help her out," says Farrier. "We're a compassionate and community-minded organization with a voice-and-choice culture."
© The Edmonton Journal 2007

| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
Diversity accommodated in modern workplaces
Culture, religion put into day-to-day mix Donna Nebenzahl
Montreal Gazette; CanWest News Service

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The month-long fasting of Ramadan, the introspection of the Jewish High Holidays, the celebrations of Christmas and Easter -- what impact do all of these culturally diverse practices have on the workplace? Some might argue that religious practices have no place at work, but look around. Most statutory holidays are based on religious events, and until quite recently those practices focused on the Christian religious tradition.
There's no question this workforce is changing, with highly skilled people from various cultural backgrounds coming into the workplace and more and more business being done in the international marketplace.
According to a 2001 Canadian labour force survey, there are 265,000 people who call themselves Muslims in the Canadian workplace, along with 166,000 Hindus, 193,000 Jews and millions of Christians -- including 7.2 million Roman Catholics, the largest group by far.
"The workforce is changing -- our client base reflects that," said Suzanne McFarlane, diversity sourcing specialist at Hewitt Associates, a worldwide human resources and consulting service.
With 24,000 employees around the world and 1,000 in its corporate offices in Toronto, the folks at Hewitt are paying a lot of attention to cultural diversity.
"Culture incorporates religion but isn't exclusive to religion," McFarlane said.
"We are trying to incorporate and understand the cultural basis of people's lives." This applies to international clients, so the company offers cross-cultural training to help staff understand communication styles in other countries, for instance.
But it also applies to internal cultural practices. "Some people might say, 'We're all human beings and work the same way,' " McFarlane admitted.
"But we recognize differences and see it as an advantage and leverage to be better able to understand and serve one another." As it stands, any company that's federally regulated will have diversity policies and programs in place.
But accommodating religious practices is a mandatory requirement, and companies are well served to lift "barriers that would otherwise prevent employees from performing their jobs optimally," McFarlane wrote in a recent issue of Canadian HR Reporter.
At the BMO Financial Group, diversity has been a core value since the creation in 1992 of a diversity and workplace equality office, said vice-president Yasmin Meralli.
"We view diversity as part of normal everyday operations and have implemented a number of ways to help us facilitate that," she said.
The company makes available an online calendar, for instance, that earmarks all the holidays and religious observances throughout the year, and multipurpose rooms for religious or other uses.
"We want to remove barriers and help people work best."
The calendar also increases awareness of customer practices, an important factor in the international marketplace.
"Our investment advisers know when to approach and not to approach a client," she said. "And we know not to hold conferences at certain times of the year."
At the telecommunications giant Ericsson Canada's office in Montreal, vice-president of human resources Anne-Marie Doin says that doing business in 140 countries and a company philosophy of mobility of talent has contributed to an openness in their workplace.
For years now, a high number of long-term assignees at Ericsson come from countries like China, India and Eastern Europe.
"We hire all the people who have talent," Doin said, "and we do have a sensitivity to diversity, prevalent at the highest ranks of our organization." In business, this works to the company's advantage, she says.
"It brings us that intrinsic knowledge," she said. "If you don't have an overall business perspective, you're missing the boat."
© The Edmonton Journal 2007

| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
The profit is in the people
Perks in the care sector are found in values and day-to-day support Derek Sankey
The Calgary Herald

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It employs the largest number of Calgarians and yet the public sector, along with the non-profit sector, doesn't always get a fair shake when it comes to the plethora of employment perks and rewards offered in these sectors.
Darrell Lang knows that as the vice- president of human resources at the non-profit nursing care facility operator Bethany Care Society, he has to work hard to make sure the organization's 1300 employees have lots of reasons to come to work each day, and that the public knows about those reasons to attract more workers.
"We realize that as a not-for-profit organization, we don't have the ability to create a fancy sort of high-end workplace, but we can provide some meaningful things," says Lang. "We think that means a lot more to our employees than maybe the short-term impression of a fancy office or a perk that is a little bit more ... trendy," says Lang.
What Bethany does offer is the type of environment that helps people to do their jobs to the best of their ability, free of unnecessary obstacles that impede a worker's daily tasks.
In the last year, they created "practice leaders," seasoned nurses and other healthcare professionals that go to the front line to help employees identify ways to make the system better.
"You often hear about people saying their work is so hectic and they're overwhelmed every day, so we've tried to focus on giving those supports to our staff," says Lang.
Also in the past year, the organization implemented a new performance appraisal system that goes beyond simple work performance to include how the employees are living the values of the organization with Lutheran roots.
"It gives them a more well-rounded feeling about how they're doing . . . and it also gives them examples to go out there and role model with each other," he says.
Bethany also takes lifelong learning to heart. It pays 50 per cent of their tuition for post-secondary education, two bursaries a year worth $1,500 each and two scholarships with Bow Valley College to help licensed practical nurses get their training done in the community.
There are also extra leave days in addition to vacation time so employees can deal with personal or family issues and the organization is highly flexible when it comes to scheduling of shifts around employees' busy lives. The employee assistance program is open to part- and full-time employees.
"Especially in hectic times, our employees are taking advantage of those programs," Lang says.
It was the only public sector or nonprofit organization named to this year's list of Alberta's Top 35 Employers.
Across Canada, several organizations that fall into one of those two sectors were named among Canada's Top 100 Employers for demonstrating that they can go head to head with any corporation or private company.
Appleby College in Oakville, Ont. provides complimentary laptop computers to its staff, along with a free, full-service fitness facility that includes rock-climbing walls and an indoor pool.
The Business Development Bank of Canada in Montreal offers referral bonuses of up to $2,000 and the ability to buy extra days off through the health benefits plan.
Regina-based Farm Credit Canada offers maternity leave top-up payments up to 95 per cent of salary for 50 weeks, while the Royal B.C. Museum Corp. provides generous pension and health benefits that last into retirement.
Or maybe an interest-free loan of $5,000 for technology purchases is what you're looking for. You'll find it at Saskatchewan Government Insurance in Regina.
One worker at the Office of the Auditor General of Canada recently decided to take a year off to go sailing the world - with approval from the organization, which emphasizes a variety of alternative work arrangements.
At a time when good talent is hard to find, these public sector and non-profit organizations have demonstrated that money doesn't always make the world go round for a growing number of employees who seek meaning, flexibility and balance.
© The Edmonton Journal 2007

| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
Labour shortage forces employers to get creative with staff perks
Top 100 Employers lead in providing top-notch benefits Derek Abma
CanWest News Service

Saturday, October 13, 2007

For Canadian employers, reports of labour shortages and resulting enticements needed to lure workers are no longer predictions -- they are reality.
"The story this year is that we're already there," says Tony Meehan of Mediacorp Canada Inc.
"Employers in industries where we would rarely see innovation in (employee treatment), these employers are sort of busting out now because they realize that they're competing not only within their industry, but they're competing across the board for talented people."
Meehan, who's company publishes Canada's annual Top 100 Employers list, says industries such as oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and financial services have been leaders in providing top-notch perks for years. But now he's seeing new sectors such as video-game creation, software development and engineering, making strides.
The publication documenting the Top 100 Employers is entering its ninth year this edition. And for the third year, supplementary regional lists -- some based on provinces, others based on metropolitan areas -- are being published in partnership with CanWest newspapers across the country.
The regional lists developed out of a recognition that there are many great places to work within geographic reasons that don't make the national Top 100 list.
"The regional lists let us recognize great local players that, for one reason or another, we can't put on the national list," Meehan says.
Growing interest has resulted in expanded local-employer lists this year. The regional breakdowns include British Columbia's Top 40, Alberta's Top 35, Saskatchewan's Top 10, the National Capital Region's Top 20 and Montreal's Top 15.
"In many cases, the regional competition has become as popular as the national competition," Meehan says. "A lot of employers see themselves competing with the guy across the street. If you're in a city like Calgary, you don't care so much about employees possibly leaving you for somebody in Toronto or Montreal. But it's really how you stack up with the guy across the street; that's the relevant thing."
The supplementary lists also include the Financial Post's 10 Best list, which Meehan says focuses on Canada's top employers that have the most interesting stories behind them.
The Top 100 publication has its roots in an annual directory originally published to help young job seekers decide where they want to work. For 15 years before the first Top 100 came out, Mediacorp was putting out a career directory for new entrants to the workforce to see what different companies had to offer.
Meehan says as this guide became better known, companies began competing to be in it. "Nine years ago, we decided, 'Let's do a book on just these employers and let's write a bit more about them.' "
Beyond simply being a guide for job seekers, the Top 100 publication has become something for human resources managers across country to use as examples of best practices for the workplace.
Meehan says the top employer lists contribute to improved conditions for workers across Canada.
"Once you start publishing things like that, then other employers read it and say, 'We should be doing the same thing.' It has the effect of raising the standards for everybody."
But there's no single answer for employers looking to get on the lists.
"Often employers are disheartened to hear that there's no one thing you can do to get on it," Meehan says. " We have eight key criteria ... and you really have to be good on almost all of those things to get on."
Those criteria are: physical quality of workplace; work atmosphere as a social setting; pay and benefits; vacation and provisions for time off; communication to employees; performance management; training and skills development; and community involvement.
Community involvement, Meehan notes, is something that was added after the first edition of the Top 100 Employers.
"We noticed that there was a correlation between employers that treat their employees well and employers that get the broader view of their role in the community," he says.
TOUGH TO CRACK
A company might be a great employer, but this doesn't necessarily guarantee it a spot on the Top 100 Employers list or regional lists.
Tony Meehan, publisher of the Top 100 Employers, says about 1,800 companies applied to be part of the lists this year.
The applicant provides information related the eight key criteria: physical quality of workplace; work atmosphere as a social setting; pay and benefits; vacation and provisions for time off; communication to employees; performance management; training and skills development; and community involvement.
The applicants are assigned grades for each category and then they are compared to others in their industry to determine whether they make the national or regional cuts.
Grades or scores are not published in the final lists, and the top employers are not ranked in any particular order.
© The Edmonton Journal 2007

| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
No shortage of opportunities await graduating students Mary Teresa Bitti
National Post

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Heather Faulkner was at a loss as to what she wanted to do with her life after graduating high school in Brampton, Ont., this past June, despite her school having hosted career fairs and university days in Grades 11 and 12.
"I had ideas, but I didn't want to settle," Faulkner says.
The question of what career to pursue and the accompanying uncertainty is something every generation grapples with. The difference for Faulkner and her contemporaries is they are entering the workforce at a time when its largest cohort, the baby boomers, is leaving.
"Right now, if we look at the current workforce in the professional, scientific and technical service industries, about 14 per cent are people aged 55-plus. Most will retire in the next 10 years. That means 14 per cent of the existing workforce in those industries alone are on their way out," says Terence Yuen, research economist with Watson Wyatt Worldwide in Toronto.
Earlier this year, Watson Wyatt predicted if economic growth continues at current rates, Canada could face a shortage of 1.2 million workers by 2020. And the impact is wide ranging.
"In terms of labour force shortages, currently and in the foreseeable future, health care and health sciences (research, etc.) loom large; financial professionals, such as accountants and auditors; all of the skilled trades; jobs within the construction industry, including construction managers and superintendents; and, in many areas, occupations within the information technology sector," says Gail Rieschi, president of HR consulting firm VPI Inc. in Toronto.
"Geography plays a large part, as well. For example, northern Canada reports good prospects for geological, mining and chemical engineers, technologists and technicians."
But is the next generation of workers getting the training these industries need to meet demand? In a word: No.
"We're doing more, but we need to do more still," says Janet Ecker, former Ontario minister of Education and currently adviser on public policy with consulting firm Tramore Group in Toronto.
"When we did our curriculum reform from 1995 to 2002, we put more rigour into the system, implementing new testing and new standards, and we tried to improve the transition from high school into postsecondary education and work.
"We introduced more high school co-op placement. But career planning in school is still very cursory."
Ecker feels the provinces should have an HR strategy, linking industry to educators and students.
"We need to teach our kids hard skills and soft skills," she says. "Yes, they need literacy and numeracy, but they also need to know how to learn, because they will be learning throughout their working career.
"And they need to know what they are good at, how to sell their skills and how to transition those skills into other areas, because the reality is today's generation will likely have more than one career in their working life."
Gail Rieschi has for the past 20 years worked with teens, helping them with career and education planning on an ad hoc basis. "There is a lot of anxiety on the part of parents responding to the frustration of their kids in having to make life decisions and not feeling equipped to do that," she says.
In the past two years, there has been a huge increase in concern and requests, prompting Rieschi to launch iQuest this past June. The two-day interactive workshop is designed to help teenagers make the connection between their personality, their interests, their predispositions, and the various careers available.
Participants learn to research occupations on three levels -- personal "fit," educational requirements/preferences and future opportunities. During group and one-on-one discussion, facilitators provide specific information on job/career prospects -- where the gluts and shortages are, long-term prospects and how transportable, from a geographic perspective, skills and credentials might be. Most importantly, they are coached on how to find this information, as it is expected their career exploration activity will extend beyond the workshop.
"We identify various information sources, provide website addresses that offer labour market information, direct them to research papers, government publications, professional association websites, etc.," Rieschi explains. "They start their Internet research on the second day, with the facilitators on hand to provide assistance and further coaching."
It was to iQuest that 18-year old Faulkner turned when she came up against graduation and no clear plan. "The course really opened my eyes," says Faulkner, who plans to start university in January. "I know what I want to do now, and I know what I need to do to get there."
THE MACRO PICTURE
Canada is moving from a goods producing to a service-based economy, which is a key indicator of where jobs will be in the future. In the past 20 years, 40 per cent of total employment growth has come from the service sector, with only 10 per cent in the goods-producing sector. Terence Yuen of consultancy Watson Wyatt Worldwide predicts this shift will be even more rapid in the next 10 years. Here's which industries Yuen thinks will really feel the talent pinch:
1. The professional, scientific and technical services areas. Think lawyers, engineers, computer programmers and research and development.
2. Business administration and support services.
3. Health and social assistance. Currently, 16 per cent of the workers in the medical sector are 55 and older.
According to Yuen, in the next 10 years because of technology and globalization, there will be more labour mobility across countries. "So if we are thinking about career planning, we shouldn't just focus on the Canadian market. We have to keep an eye on what is happening outside Canada. For example, the financial system in China is still in its infancy, they need a lot of people who have international experience. That has opened the door for people to go to China and help them develop their financial system." © The Edmonton Journal 2007 | Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
Canada's Top 100 Employers The Edmonton Journal

Saturday, October 13, 2007

* Mediacorp Canada Inc.'s list of Canada's top 100 employers in alphabetical order: * Abebooks Inc., Victoria, B.C. * Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc., Boyle, Alta. * AltaGas Ltd., Calgary, Alta. * Appleby College, Oakville, Ont. * Arcis Corporation, Calgary, Alta. * Assiniboine Credit Union Limited, Winnipeg, Man. * Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario, Toronto, Ont. * Bayer Inc., Toronto, Ont. * BioWare Corp., Edmonton, Alta. * BitHeads Inc., Ottawa, Ont. * Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Toronto, Ont. * Boeing Canada Technology Ltd., Winnipeg, Man. * British Columbia Safety Authority, New Westminster, B.C. * Business Development Bank of Canada, Montreal, Que. * CAE Inc., Saint-Laurent, Que. * Canada Post Corporation, Ottawa * Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto * Cementation Canada Inc., North Bay, Ont. * Ceridian Canada Ltd., Winnipeg, Man. * Certified General Accountants Association of Canada, Vancouver * Christie Digital Systems Inc., Kitchener, Ont. * Deloitte & Touche LLP, Toronto, Ont. * Diagnostic Chemicals Limited, Charlottetown, P.E.I. * Durham Regional Police Service, Whitby, Ont. * Emergis Inc., Longueuil, Que. * Enbridge Inc., Calgary, Alta. * Epcor Utilities Inc., Edmonton, Alta. * Export Development Canada, Ottawa, Ont. * Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Toronto, Ont. * Farm Credit Canada, Regina, Sask. * Fidelity Investments Canada Limited, Toronto, Ont. * General Dynamics Canada Ltd., Ottawa, Ont. * Golder Associates Ltd., Burnaby, B.C. * Great Little Box Company Ltd., Vancouver, B.C. * Halifax Herald Limited, Halifax, N.S. * Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ont. * Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co., Mississauga, Ont. * Hill & Knowlton Canada, Toronto, Ont. * HSBC Bank Canada, Vancouver, B.C. * I Love Rewards Inc., Toronto, Ont. * IKEA Canada Limited Partnership, Burlington, Ont. * Jacques Whitford Ltd., Dartmouth, N.S. * Keane Canada Inc., Halifax, N.S. * KPMG LLP, Toronto, Ont. * L'Oréal Canada Inc., Montreal, Que. * Laurentide Controls Ltd., Kirkland, Que. * Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, Winnipeg, Man. * Mars Canada Inc., Bolton, Ont. * Marsh Canada Limited, Toronto, Ont. * MBNA Canada Bank, Ottawa, Ont. * McGill University Health Centre, Montreal * Microsoft Canada Co., Mississauga, Ont. * Mintz & Partners LLP, Toronto, Ont. * Monsanto Canada Inc., Winnipeg, Man. * National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ont. * NB Power Holding Corporation, Fredericton, N.B. * New Flyer Industries Ltd., Winnipeg, Man. * Next Level Games Inc., Vancouver, B.C. * North Atlantic Refining Ltd., Come By Chance, Nfld. * Nycomed Canada Inc., Oakville, Ont. * Office of the Auditor General of Canada, Ottawa, Ont. * Ontario Power Generation Inc., Toronto, Ont. * OPSEU Pension Trust, Toronto, Ont. * Patient News Publishing Inc., Haliburton, Ont. * PCL Construction Group Inc., Edmonton, Alta. * PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Toronto, Ont. * Procter & Gamble Inc., Toronto, Ont. * Progressive Solutions Inc., Vernon, B.C. * Radical Entertainment Inc., Vancouver, B.C. * Regional Municipality of York, Newmarket, Ont. * Research In Motion Limited, Waterloo, Ont. * Resort Municipality of Whistler, B.C. * Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation, Victoria, B.C. * Royal Canadian Mint, Ottawa, Ont. * Russell Investments Canada Limited, Toronto, Ont. * Sapient Canada Inc., Toronto, Ont. * SAS Institute (Canada) Inc., Toronto, Ont. * Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, Regina, Sask. * Saskatchewan Government Insurance, Regina, Sask. * SaskTel, Regina, Sask. * Shell Canada Limited, Calgary, Alta. * Sierra Systems Group Inc., Vancouver, B.C. * Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. * Spruceland Millworks Inc., Acheson, Alta. * Suncor Energy Inc., Calgary, Alta. * Swiss Re, Toronto, Ont. * Sybase iAnywhere Solutions Inc., Waterloo, Ont. * Syngenta Crop Protection Canada Inc., Guelph, Ont. * TD Bank Financial Group, Toronto, Ont. * Toronto Hydro Corporation, Toronto, Ont. * Toronto International Film Festival Inc., Toronto, Ont. * Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc., Cambridge, Ont. * Trican Well Service Ltd., Calgary, Alta. * University Health Network, Toronto, Ont. * University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont. * Urban Systems Ltd., Kamloops, B.C. * Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, Vancouver, B.C. * Veer Incorporated, Calgary, Alta. * Wardrop Engineering Inc., Winnipeg, Man. * Yellow Pages Group, Verdun, Que. * © The Edmonton Journal 2007 *

| Friday » October 19 » 2007 | | |
Corporations have personalities -- and they can be dysfunctional Vancouver Province; CanWest News Service

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Author Eli Sopow believes corporations and organizations have personalities.
In his new book, Corporate Personality Disorder (Surviving and Saving Sick Organizations), Sopow details the growing problems of 21st-century employees who can't deal with corporate personalities based on models that go back to the 18th century. "It's like having dysfunctional relations with another human being," Sopow said in an interview.
The former Vancouver Province reporter contends the standard model of a corporate personality is "mechanistic."
"It's command-and-control," he said. "It treats people like a machine."
That type of thinking, he said, has the corporation saying: "I don't care about your emotions or feelings. Suck it up, we have to get on with it and meet the bottom line."
But emotions and feelings are important, insists Sopow.
"The corporate personality is a huge clash with the human personality.
"We are organic creatures. We understand change is inevitable. We need to have continual adaptations to the environment around us. The mechanistic corporation says: 'Whoa, change is scary. Don't move, stay where we are.' "
Sopow contends that, as in conflicts between people, there are three options for employees of dysfunctional employers -- flee, freeze or fight.
With the ever-shrinking labour pool, many employees can move on until they find the right employer. Freezing, said Sopow, is when employees put their heads down, grit their teeth and just deal with a bad boss. That leads to stress, a huge problem in today's workplace.
The third option, fighting, translates into things such as getting together with other employees to ask for changes, or organizing a union or a boycott.
Much of what Sopow writes about comes from his own career history. He's done everything from working in construction and as a logger to journalism and advising a government cabinet. He's also been a director with a medical association andtaught at university.
© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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