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6 Great Ideas from Alberta’s Best Workplaces

Some nuggets of wisdom from the 2012 Alberta's Best Workplaces

May 1, 2012

by Alberta Venture Staff

United They Stand

Plenty of companies that participated in this year’s Best Workplaces program contributed to the United Way in 2011, but there was one that stood out from the rest. Through a combination of fundraising events – 75 per cent of the company’s 1,016 Edmonton employees contributed – and corporate support, PCL raised $2,015,396.34 in 2011, the single largest donation in the 70-year history of the United Way’s Alberta Capital region.

Big-Time Benefits

There are health benefits, and then there’s what Veris offers its employees. In addition to a generous package that includes health and dental plans with no deductible, Veris also gives its employees a health spending account worth from $1,000 to $2,000 (depending on family status) that can be used for vision care, orthodontics and anything else not covered by the plan. And that’s not all – employees also get a $1,000 health and wellness account that can be used to pay for fitness memberships, personal training sessions or consultations with a dietician, among other things.

Bank It

Many of the companies that participated in this year’s Best Workplaces program offer to match their employees’ RRSP contributions. Some are quite generous, too – Cognera Corp. offers matching up to a combined total of eight per cent of the employee’s salary, while at Servus Credit Union, people who have put in 25 years or more can bank matched total contributions of 10 per cent of their salaries.

But it’s Vermilion Energy that stands out from the crowd. It offers to match its employees’ contributions by a factor of 1.5 times up to seven per cent of their salaries, provided they use those funds to purchase shares in the company. When combined, that means a whopping 17.5 per cent RRSP contribution – and that’s available to any employee regardless of tenure with the company. Better still, the company’s shares have increased in value by over 30 per cent since it converted from an income trust to a corporation in September of 2010 – and it pays a healthy dividend.

Phone a Friend

In a tight labour market, every advantage counts when it comes to finding good people. That’s why many companies are paying their employees for referrals that lead to offers of employment, a practice that could be considered the workplace equivalent of setting somebody up on a date. The difference is that these companies are shelling out big bucks for successful matchmaking. The referral bonuses tend to sit in the range of $300 to $1,000, but there are a few that are willing to spend much more than that. At the top of the list is Tantus Solutions, an Edmonton-based management consulting firm that pays up to $6,000 for the right referral. Talk about giving people a reason to network.

The Price of Comfort

Many companies that participated in this year’s Best Workplaces program have implemented a fundraising campaign that has employees to pay – anywhere from $1 at Firma Financial to $5 at Collins Barrow – to wear jeans to work. First Calgary Financial, in fact, managed to raise $6,266 through its pay-to-wear campaign, then matched it for a total donation of $12,532.

The Young and the Restless

Believe it or not, millennials aren’t just interested in foosball and Facebook. Instead, says Ardyce Kouri, a 33-year-old senior consultant with Davies Park, they’re looking for something more meaningful. “They really want to feel engaged at work. They want to feel valued. They realize that there is a decision-making process and that they may not have all of the experience yet, but they’d like to be part of the conversation.”

That doesn’t mean they’re not interested in being well-compensated, or that they’re just looking for a pat on the back and a gold star on their evaluation reports. What it means, Kouri says, is that this is a generation that’s looking to do more than punch a clock. “More than anything,” she says, “this is a generation that wants to feel that what they do contributes to something.”


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