The ideal workplace

Turn your office into a place everybody wants to be.

Recognize and reward

Roughly 90% of companies in North America have recognition programs, but 60% of employees don't feel recognized. That gap, says Peter Hart, CEO of Rideau Recognition Solutions, a Montreal-based recognition program consultant, can be crossed. Here's how:

1. Really recognize employees. The more real recognition you offer, the less you'll have to hand out in goodies.

2. Use employee focus groups to see what employees want in terms of rewards, but spend at least $300 per employee per year. That's about 1% of the average payroll.

3. Make sure the program is linked to company values, has management buy-in and managers know how to use it properly.

Make 'em smart

Developing a solid training program shows employees how much they're valued by their company. Here's what Colleen Moorehead, CEO of skills development firm Nexient Learning, recommends:

1. Teach practical content. Employees need to know from the beginning how the information applies to their jobs.

2. Use a variety of formats. People learn in different ways, so incorporate a mix of styles, including in-class sessions, online components and group projects.

3. Get involved. Management participation reinforces that training is a worthwhile process and is aligned with corporate objectives, not a waste of employees' time.

Get fit

Investing in fitness and wellness programs increases employee health and attendance, translating into dollars saved, says Lorne Goldenberg, CEO of Ottawa-based fitness consulting firm Strength Tek. Here's how to get the medicine ball rolling:

1. Evaluate your employees' fitness needs. They can be different for men and women, and across different age groups.

2. Consider a corporate fitness centre, but be prepared to invest. Staffed facilities with attractive equipment have a higher user rate than old unmanned exercise machines brought in on the cheap.

3. Look at a wide range of on-site programs, from stretch breaks to educational seminars to massages and company sports teams.

Balance the load

“Just because an organizationhands out martinis at the door, doesn't mean its employees have balance,” says Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business. Here's her prescription to balance work and life demands:

1. Manage people, not policies. Flex time, summer hours and bring your kids and dogs to work days are all nice general policies, but customize them for individual employees.

2. Make sacrifices in order to prevent workload overload. Focus on the important, not the urgent, and recognize that extra projects need more staff, not more work for existing employees.

3. Kill the BlackBerry. Create and enforce an etiquette of sorts around technology use for work hours only.

For more about the Best Workplaces in Canada, click here.