Best Jobs

Canada’s Best Employers 2015: Engagement tips from Canada’s top bosses

How to keep employees happy while they’re working hard

Woman looking out at horizon by a pool at a luxury tropical resort

Maritime Travel subsidizes trips for its staffers, which keeps them happy—and in the loop about industry trends. (Thomas Barwick/Iconica/Getty)

We asked some of Canada’s Best Employers to tell us how they keep their staff engaged, energetic, and innovative. Here are some of the ways that they’re helping employees do better work and love their jobs.

Cisco Systems Canada

Let the intern mentor the CEO

Smart companies know that it’s not only those at the top of the org chart who have something to share; great ideas, innovations and advice can come from even the most junior staffers. Cisco Canada has put in several practices to help facilitate a less top-down approach to information-sharing, including a reverse-mentoring program in which corporate leaders turn to younger recruits for tips. In getting the opportunity to advise higher-ups, fresh faces feel valued and important, which makes them far more motivated to expend the effort needed to make the business better.

Maritime Travel Inc.

Send staff on some fun recon

It’s easy to become jaded when your work involves planning other peoples’ dream vacations. Halifax-headquartered Maritime Travel Inc. wants its employees to retain their love of travel, which is why the firm offers subsidized trips to staffers. More than simple fun-in-the-sun rewards, these trips are designed to engage employees in their work by familiarizing them with new destinations and checking up on popular locales—all based on itineraries the company offers clients. Let’s face it: there are far worse places to brush up on your job skills than on a beach in Costa Rica.



Support employee- backed causes

People feel better about their work when they feel they’re doing good in the world, which is why staff at OMERS who want to give back to a cause close to their hearts get plenty of support from their employer. The Ontario pension fund has a program that invites employees to lobby for backing (financial or otherwise) of a volunteer assignment in Canada or abroad. The staffer must explain why they want to participate, how their project will make a meaningful impact and how much they’ll need to fund the venture. If an employee’s pitch is approved by a selection committee, he or she will not only get 10 days of paid time away to do their good work, OMERS will cover most travel and accommodation costs.


Purdys Chocolatier

Make Innovation a contest

Like many firms, Vancouver-based Purdys Chocolatier places a high value on its employees’ suggestions to make it better, but the confectioner ups the ante by making innovation a competition. Through a program called “Make us better ideas,” Purdys awards points to warehouse and production employees—redeemable for everything from coffee cards to paid days off—based on the impact of their suggestions. Once an idea is acted on, the firm measures the significance of the result. The more beneficial it is to the company, the more points the employee receives. The perks make people more inclined to think big-picture, and to speak up when they get a great idea. Best of all: The whole process gives employees a clear indicator of the importance of their work to the company as a whole.


Novotel Canada

Get people to make their own calls

Few things are more frustrating to employees than feeling impotent: When a customer complains, it’s better to offer a resolution than an apologetic “there’s nothing I can do.” For that reason, employees at all levels of hotel chain Novotel Canada have the go-ahead to resolve any customer service complaint on their own, including, where appropriate, offering up cash compensation. This autonomy not only leads to a more positive guest experience—a must in the ruthlessly customer-centric hospitality business—it also reduces internal bureaucracy and bestows a greater sense of empowerment on front-line workers.