CANADA’S TOP 100 EMPLOYERS

IT’S ALL IN THE PERKS

For many employees, work is not just about money

JOHN INTINI October 24 2005
CANADA’S TOP 100 EMPLOYERS

IT’S ALL IN THE PERKS

For many employees, work is not just about money

JOHN INTINI October 24 2005

IT’S ALL IN THE PERKS

For many employees, work is not just about money

JOHN INTINI

MICHAEL SNIDER

Regina | Approx. 3,800 employees Debbie Hunter is contacted almost every day by a charitable organization pleading for her help. The calls rarely go unanswered. That’s because Hunter, SaskTel’s director of volunteers, heads up an army—70 percent of the company’s employees, their families, and about 1,500 retirees put in a whopping 75,000 volunteer hours last year.

COMMUNITY GIVING SASKTEL

Regina | Approx. 3,800 employees

“There are few places in Saskatchewan where people wouldn’t have heard about the work we do,” says Hunter, 50. “We focus heavily on education and technology but the lists of things we do and organizations that we work with is endless. We’re everywhere.”

SaskTel further proved its philanthropic prowess in 2004 by donating $2.6 millionsplit between more than 1,600 not-forprofits. An additional $254,000 was raised by employees (an amount then matched at 50 per cent by SaskTel). At this phone company, it’s all about spreading the wealth.

FAMILY MATTERS KOMEX INTERNATIONAL LTD.

Calgary | Approx. 300 employees When Sarah Penny returned from maternity leave to this environmental consulting firm last February, her idea was to ease back into her job. “Not everyone wants a 90-hour workweek when they have a young family at home, but consulting, historically, has not been that open to flexible hours,” says Penny, 32, who joined Komex in 1999. “But my supervisor had told me to let them know what I wanted—whether it be part-time work or just fewer hours. It was up to me.” Penny— who had benefited from Komex’s maternity top-up payments during the first 15 weeks after her son Evan’s birth—took advantage of the company’s phased-in return-to-work program for new parents, opting for a fourday workweek. Although the day off costs her 20 per cent of her pay, it affords her more time with Evan, cuts down on daycare costs, and provides a chance to get caught up on errands. “This way,” she says, “the weekends are left for more family time.”

WORK/LIFE BALANCE SUNCOR ENERGY INC.

Calgary | Approx 4,500 employees A full-time job as a manager of sustainable development and several volunteer commitments (for one thing, she’s on the board of the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation) would leave little down time for most people. Luckily for Dianne Zimmerman, Suncor is uniquely generous with personal days— offering staff members 12 days a year (that’s on top of regular paid vacation time). “These extra days recognize the complexity of our lifestyles,” says Zimmerman, 37. “It’s always a bit of a celebration when someone reporting to me is taking a personal day.” Increasingly, time offis considered as valuable as money, if not more so. “Given the economic prosperity, in Alberta especially, the fringe benefits and intangibles are becoming more important,” says Zimmerman. “Dollars count, but many people are placing greater value on other things. It’s all about quality of life.”

HEALTHY WORKPLACE ZENON ENVIRONMENTAL INC.

Oakville, Ont. 1,470 employees If employees aren’t working out in the company’s 2,600-sq.-foot health centre, they’re shooting hoops on the basketball court, setting and spiking a ball on the beach volleyball pit, or taking a stress-relieving stroll through eight kilometres of backwoods trails. “We are an environmental company [Zenon is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of water treatment systems used to purify drinking water and treat waste water] and we have employees who are very healthconscious,” says Mike Theodoulou, a systems development manager. “We want to support that as much as possible.”

The gym at the company’s headquarters in Oakville (550 employees) has 250 members and features free weights, cardio machines and an area for aerobics. It runs yoga classes in the evenings and has a massage therapist and chiropractor available for appointments. But the healthy mindset doesn’t stop there. Zenon’s full-service cafeteria offers two entrees every day, one of which is billed as a health-wise choice. The food service is subsidized, so entrees never cost more than $3.99.

Zenon is also an active supporter of intramural sports, including seven beach volleyball teams. The company backs employees’ community sports teams, including softball, hockey and dragon boat squads. “It’s great,” says Theodoulou. “Employees mingle and get to know others outside their departments.”

EDUCATION & TRAINING

VANCOUVER CITY SAVINGS CREDIT UNION

Vancouver | 1,600 employees It wasn’t long after Rana Chung started at VanCity in 1996, just a year after getting a UBC commerce degree, that the questions started. “I really wasn’t sure where my career was heading,” says Chung, now 32. Hired as a financial services representative (a fancy word for a teller), Chung had worked her way up to a senior FSR position, but she wanted more. Taking advantage of VanCity’s innovative education program, Chung spent the next two years attending night classes and earned her Canadian securities certificate and certified financial planning designation, which led to a new role as a financial planner. The best part: her company paid for the whole thing.

VanCity, Canada’s largest credit union, operates a Web portal called DiscoverU, where employees can review 50 internal training and development programs and outside courses to figure out what might help advance their careers. For outside courses, like the ones Chung took, VanCity reimburses up to $2,500 a year in tuition, as long as the employee receives a passing grade. Even if a course isn’t directly related to a staff member’s job, VanCity will still foot half the bill. “Tuition reimbursement was a huge motivating factor for taking the courses,” says Chung. “And it definitely fosters some sort of loyalty because they have made an investment in me.”

AND SO MUCH MORE

So what if the boss didn’t want to shell out for plasma screens in every cubicle or midday massages. That’s no reason not to raise the question of perks at the next board meeting in hopes of improving job satisfaction.

-> Thirsty? A beer cart is wheeled through the office on Fridays to celebrate the end of the workweek. Hill & Knowlton Canada ■* Keep the kids busy with on-site spring break and summer day-camp programs. Seven Oaks General Hospital -» Tuition subsidies of up to 100 per cent for undergraduate and graduate courses. University of Toronto

-» New moms get mat leave top-ups of 95 per cent for 52 weeks while new dads get topups of 95 per cent for 37 weeks. Toronto Hydro Corp.

-> Cash in by referring a friend (earn up to $5,000). Cognos Inc.

-* After four years on the job, take a month of paid sabbatical. Blast Radius Inc.

-» Enjoy fresh fruit and candy-compliments of the world’s largest corporate consumer of M&Ms. SAS Institute (Canada) Inc.

-* Each employee’s name is entered into a monthly draw for prizes ranging from luxury car rentals to weekend getaways. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP -> Pre-school daycare subsidy of up to $7,540 a year. Co-operators General Insurance Co.

-* Get hitched while on the payroll and get an extra week of paid vacation, $500, and a free limo service. MBNA Canada Bank

-» Stay sharp by taking a course at the new $50-million learning centre. Bank of Montreal -» Health benefits last forever-even after retirement. Procter & Gamble Inc.

■* Firm offers $5,000 for a down payment on a new home and also rebates your property taxes. Cascades Inc.

-» If the company reaches its target for the year, the whole staff gets a paid vacation to places like Las Vegas or Mexico. Great Little Box Co.

-» Family members get $1,000 off the purchase or lease of a new vehicle. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc.

-* Enjoy movies nights with family and friends at the on-site 40-seat theatre. BioWare Corp.

•* Need a hand from the company’s home-care service? They’ll look after sick kids, spouses or elderly relatives. Ernst & Young LLP -* Celebrate the season with a Christmas bash for 30,000. Dofasco Inc.

SHARING THE WEALTH WARDROP ENGINEERING INC.

Winnipeg | 620 employees Jake Alexander, 45, is at the top of his game. A metallurgie engineer, he joined Wardrop Engineering seven months ago, attracted by its small size and competitive compensation package. “Wardrop’s whole business is dependent on high-calibre people with a lot of expertise and credibility, and there’s a premium for that,” says Alexander. “Their compensation package is geared to ensure employees are happy.”

At Wardrop, a hard-working and productive engineer can earn as much as 35 per cent over his or her base salary in performance bonuses. The system was set up four years ago amid fears of a looming workforce shortage. “The good performers are going to get paid more at Wardrop than they would anywhere else,” says James Popel, the company’s vice president of human resources. “It’s a system set up to reward the best people.”

While the executives’ bonuses are linked directly to the company’s overall performance, professional employees—the bulk of Wardrop’s staff—can elect to draw a normal salary, with a base and overtime, or sign up for the bonus system, which guarantees a competitive base salary that’s between 85 and 95 per cent of a target salary. Those who meet expectations collect the full target salary, and those who exceed the goals collect more. For the last fiscal year, more than 75 per cent of the professional staff exceeded their target salaries, and the company will be paying out more than $3.5 million in bonuses. Now that’s cashing in on success.