Chris Cochrane was pleasantly surprised by the lively welcome he received on his first day at the Yellow Pages Group Co. last February. Instead of trying to find his way to his desk or filling out mundane forms, Mr. Cochrane and others who had just joined the sales department at the Montreal head office were shown a video send-up of the Black Eyed Peas song The Time (Dirty Bit), featuring other workers on the floor singing along.
Mr. Cochrane, a media adviser with the advantage sales team, which handles accounts in Quebec and Ontario, isn't alone in his appreciation of the way Yellow Pages Group (YPG) treats its employees.
The company, which runs sites such as RedFlagDeals.com and Canada411.com in addition to its role as Canada's largest publisher of telephone directories, has been named one of Canada's Top 100 Employers for the sixth year in a row. YPG was also named one of the Top 100 Employers in Montreal and made it into Canada's 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures™ Hall of Fame, a program founded by Waterstone Human Capital.
YPG, which has about 2,300 employees across Canada, continues to receive accolades because it has made communication with staff a top priority, says Josée Dubuc, chief talent officer.
"We have a very strong culture based on strong values and a sense of open communication, teamwork, respect – those are values that we put to the forefront. They are well known within the organization and we live them every day," says Ms. Dubuc.
The "employee first" attitude began around the time she joined the company eight years ago, during its divestiture from Bell Canada, she says. YPG committed to changing its employee policies, and now workers are much more involved – they are consulted on every subject, from green policies to deciding which charities to support.
Staff can express themselves in new ways too – for instance, a company blog was introduced earlier this year, and there are social committees and an open-door policy for managers.
Mr. Cochrane, in particular, has noticed that the exchange of ideas between staff and supervisors makes it easier to get the job done. "It's really open, communication-wise; everyone is there for help." He notes that YPG is constantly looking for feedback, through surveys and questionnaires, and he appreciates the sense that management is always "taking the pulse" of its staffers.
Toronto-based Dwayne Rutherford, a senior manager with the company who started with YPG 20 months ago, finds the two-way communication especially helpful. "The open-door policy allows each individual to reach out to any manager or peer to express concerns or discuss opportunities."
Mr. Rutherford, like many employees, was referred to the organization by someone already working within YPG. Many employees come to the company that way, says Ms. Dubuc. Their unique referral bonus program encourages staff to bring their contacts onboard, and they can receive up to $1,000 for doing so.
"We definitely believe our best referrals come from our current employees, because they understand the work environment. A lot of people do take the message and they are the best hires we have," she says. Staffers can also receive year-end bonuses of up to $10,000 and take part in a share purchase plan.
The company also offers healthful benefits. At the Montreal office, for example, employees can use the free onsite gym and join classes such as spinning or yoga, in addition to relaxing in the employee lounge, or taking part in group walks, ski trips or sports teams.
For many, however, the number one advantage of working at YPG is flexible time.
Melissa Manillo, a media consultant with the company, says many employees consider flexible time invaluable. "If you have a doctor's appointment or if you have to leave work early to pick up the kids, you are able to … it really makes you feel comfortable to have a life outside of work." YPG also offers arrangements such as telecommuting and reduced summer hours.
For parents, there are maternity and parental leave top-up payments and onsite daycare in some cities. Those who sign on to the top-tier benefits program can get coverage for fertility treatments, no matter what province they live in, says Ms. Dubuc.
YPG also offers its staffers 500 online courses through its learning portal, and assists employee development through tuition subsidies, supplying up to $1,000 for non-work-related courses.
Some employees also say that YPG's commitment to the environment is one of the reasons they chose to join the organization. For example, when Mr. Cochrane joined the ranks, he was particularly impressed with the carpooling program, available in the Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Burnaby, B.C. offices. The program includes dedicated parking spots and an online matching service.
That pleases Jean-Philippe Boutin, a manager who joined the ranks three years ago to help implement eco-friendly policies. This past year, workers were given mugs to reduce disposable cup use. Based on employee feedback, Mr. Boutin's next project is increasing food composting in the cafeterias. He also champions the organic food basket program: A local farmer brings his produce, grown in consultation with YPG workers, right to the building for those who order it.
Mr. Boutin says he made the decision to apply to YPG because he was attracted to its green policies, including onsite shower facilities for cyclists like him who ride to work year-round.
"I asked about showers in my interview. Biking is an important part of my life," he said.
Special to The Globe and Mail