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Paula Padua from WestJet is a Toronto-based customer service agent. (Ryan Szulc)
Paula Padua from WestJet is a Toronto-based customer service agent. (Ryan Szulc)

ROB Magazine

50 Best Employers in Canada Add to ...

See the complete rankings

The employment deal used to be a simple equation in which work equalled pay. Now, many new employees are greeted with detailed prenuptial agreements, and retirement watches have been swapped for succession planning binders. How did things get so complicated? The answer is that the best employers now take workers much more seriously as a resource.

This marks the 11th year that Report on Business magazine has joined with Hewitt Associates, a leading global human resources outsourcing and consulting firm, to conduct our annual study of employees and leaders. The basis for our annual ranking is each organization's overall engagement score, which is Hewitt Associates' measure of the percentage of employees who want to-and do-take action to ensure their employer's success.

In this edition, we've looked more closely at how workers engage and interact with employers over the span of an entire career. Not surprisingly, rookie employees generally view their new bosses with admiration and enthusiasm. After two to three years, however, the honeymoon is over. This is true even at the best-managed companies, as individuals begin to assess whether promises made when they were hired are being delivered, and whether they are a good fit with the organization.

Most employees stick it out, but many leave. Those who remain and get closer to a decade of service tend to strongly identify with the values and goals of their company. They also focus more on their career prospects, and whether the firm has the vision and leadership in place to succeed.

The best employers leverage their highly engaged employees to implement changes smoothly, and to help integrate new hires. "It's this collective idea that we're all here together to make this place work," says Neil Crawford, who heads the Hewitt study. "People who've been around for a long time want to make sure that the new people quickly understand how they can contribute to the organization's success."

As employees progress further in their careers and family life, companies must create increasingly flexible supports and benefits to meet the needs of their most productive and experienced staffers. Hewitt's research has helped us pinpoint the highs and lows in a typical career trajectory, and how the very best employers meet the challenges at every stage.

This year, we've also profiled five employees at different stages in their careers at five of the 50 Best-WestJet Airlines Ltd., OMERS Administration Corp., Graham Group Ltd., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and TD Bank Financial Group.

Even after 11 years, the strength of Hewitt's data remains unique and compelling. This year's study was based on survey questionnaires given to more than 100,000 employees and 1,200 leaders at more than 200 organizations. To be eligible for the 50 Best, organizations must have at least 400 permanent employees in Canada, and have operated here for at least three years.

The study has three components: an employee opinion questionnaire, filled out by a minimum number of employees, based on the organization's size; a survey of senior leaders that measures how closely their goals and fundamental values are aligned with those of their staff; and a detailed set of questions for the human resources department on policies and practices.

The employee survey results account for the lion's share of an employer's ranking. Each set of responses is carefully vetted to ensure companies followed required guidelines. For more details on the survey and how to participate, visit www.hewitt.com/bestemployerscanada

Call it a sophomore slump. A recent school or university graduate arrives at a company excited and motivated to work, but within a year or two feels neglected. "That company hasn't delivered on promises or the employee's expectations," says Neil Crawford, Hewitt Associates' leader of the 50 Best Employers in Canada study. "People start voting with their feet."

The slump is hard to avoid, yet employees often pull out of it and find a niche in the organization. One company that stands above the rest in keeping sophomores happy and motivated is Calgary's WestJet. The airline's employees with two to five years of service are much more likely to sing the praises of their employer than workers at other companies who completed Hewitt's survey.

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