In this age of COVID-19, Canada's Top 100 Employers 2021 stand out for their resilience. Like all organizations, they were put to the test when the pandemic struck. Their response was immediate, with the health and safety of employees as the top priority.
Seemingly overnight, companies implemented new safety protocols at work sites and massive work from home arrangements. Employees grappled with cameras and the latest tech tools as they became accustomed to a different way of working. Most challenging was how to keep people connected and engaged when they couldn't be together.
With the pandemic far from over, Canada's Top 100 Employers continue to set the standard for doing business in Canada, with best practices as the norm. Here are just a few examples of the creative and innovative ways Canada's Top 100 Employers took care of people – at work, at home and in the community.
With over 7,000 employees moving to work-from-home over the past year, Rogers introduced weekly online forums to help people stay informed, including question and answer sessions with the CEO. Many employers launched new collaborative platforms, such as PCL Construction's "Ideascale" to encourage employees to share their ideas or Thomson Reuters' online hub page to keep people up-to-date while working from home.
Wellness continues to be a top priority, with companies often setting up virtual access to health care professionals. Like many, L'Oréal Canada increased their employees' wellness spending accounts to subsidize additional expenses and launched new weekly Yoga@home sessions. ABB Inc. showed that they truly have their employees' backs by providing virtual appointments with ergonomic specialists for those setting up a home office and arranged for employees to be reimbursed for equipment purchases such as chairs.
Stories abound about community response, from firms donating critical care equipment to hospitals to charitable fundraising campaigns, which continued online rather than being abandoned. Labatt Brewing Company adapted its Disaster Relief Program, which traditionally utilizes its canning infrastructure to ship safe drinking water where it's needed, to produce and bottle over 100,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. The bottles were donated directly to food banks across the country.
Leadership demonstrated, when we need it most.
– Diane Jermyn
From the official announcement magazine for Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021), published on November 13, 2019 in The Globe and Mail.
- 3M Canada Company
- ABB Inc.
- Aboriginal Peoples Television Network Inc. / APTN
- Accenture Inc.
- Adobe Systems Canada Inc.
- Agriculture Financial Services Corporation / AFSC
- Alberta Health Services / AHS
- ArcelorMittal Dofasco G.P.
- Bank of Canada
- BASF Canada Inc.
- BC Public Service
- Bell Canada
- Best Buy Canada Ltd.
- British Columbia Investment Management Corporation / BCI
- Business Development Bank of Canada
- Canada Energy Regulator
- Canada Life Assurance Company, The
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation / CMHC
- Canada Revenue Agency / CRA
- Canadian National Railway
- Capital One Canada
- Cargill Limited
- CBC / Radio-Canada
- Cisco Systems Canada Co.
- Citi Canada
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, The
- CWB National Leasing Inc.
- Danone Canada
- Desjardins Group / Mouvement Desjardins
- Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc.
- Digital Extremes Ltd.
- Emera Inc.
- Employment and Social Development Canada
- Enbridge Inc.
- ESIT Advanced Solutions Inc.
- Export Development Canada
- Fidelity Canada
- Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited
- GlaxoSmithKline Inc. / GSK
- Greater Vancouver Food Bank
- Hatch Ltd.
- Health Canada / Santé Canada
- Hospital for Sick Children, The
- House of Commons Administration
- Imperial Oil Limited
- Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
- Irving Oil
- Ivanhoé Cambridge Inc.
- Kellogg Canada Inc.
- Keurig Canada Inc.
- KPMG LLP
- K+S Potash Canada GP
- Labatt Brewing Company Limited
- Laurentide Controls Ltd.
- Loblaw Companies Limited
- L'Oréal Canada Inc.
- Mars Inc.
- McCarthy Tétrault LLP
- Medtronic Canada ULC
- Mondelēz International
- Mott MacDonald Canada Limited
- Novo Nordisk Canada Inc.
- Nutrien Inc.
- Oppenheimer Group
- PCL Construction
- Pembina Pipeline Corporation
- PepsiCo Canada
- Pomerleau Inc.
- Procter & Gamble Inc.
- ResMed Halifax ULC
- Rio Tinto
- Rogers Communications Inc.
- Royal Bank of Canada
- RSA Canada Group
- Samsung Electronics Canada Inc.
- SAP Canada Inc.
- Schneider Electric Canada Inc.
- Sekisui Diagnostics PEI Ltd.
- Shopify Inc.
- Simon Fraser University
- Stryker Canada ULC
- Suncor Energy Inc.
- TD Bank Group
- Teck Resources Limited
- TELUS Communications Inc.
- Thomson Reuters Canada Limited
- Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. / TMMC
- Université de Montréal
- University of New Brunswick / UNB
- University of Toronto
- Verafin Inc.
- West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd.
- World Vision Canada
- Yukon, Government of
Standing up when it matters most
For Canada's Top 100 Employers in 2020, you could say, it was the worst of times, it was the best of times.
Does that twist on the famous Dickens couplet sound odd? Perhaps, but there's reason to it. In this tragic year, there have been thousands of deaths from COVID-19 across Canada in a few short months -- utterly the worst of times. But there has also been an amazing response. Employees and leaders of Canada's Top 100 Employers are among the many Canadians who stepped up, pitched in and made heroic things happen as the pandemic took hold. They truly have been at their best.
In fact, the stories that follow in this magazine -- many never told before -- offer a unique insight into just how the best employers in the country, selected by Mediacorp Canada, have been reacting to keep their people safe, maintain their organizational mission, and help their communities. It's been no easy task.
To begin with, every Canadian employer had to figure out, really in a matter of hours, what to do when governments ordered lockdowns in mid-March. At KPMG LLP, with offices in dozens of communities large and small across the country, leaders shifted more than 7,500 people into work-from-home mode in 48 hours. "The health of our employees was number one," says Stephanie Terrill, business unit leader, management consulting, for KPMG in Canada, "and keeping our team together was our top priority. I'm really proud of the speed with which we acted, because speed in a pandemic matters."
Of course, a professional services firm, where nearly everyone has a laptop handy, is one thing. What about the manufacturing enterprises deemed essential services? Employees in plants and factories can't work from home. At snack-maker Mondelēz International, home to such iconic brands as Cadbury, Oreo and Ritz, leaders have been only too aware of that fact -- and their important role in maintaining normalcy at a time of high anxiety for consumers. "We're part of the food supply chain of Canada," notes Mondelēz Canada president Martin Parent.
"The way we did it," he says, "was to make sure that everyone on the front line could perform their jobs safely with the highest level of protection possible. In each of our facilities, we elevated the level of safety measures and screening very quickly. We had nurses on site, we segregated shifts so people would not connect, and we separated people on the manufacturing line. And we did this by the 12th of March." That was five days before the government of Ontario, where the plants are located, declared its state of emergency.
Meanwhile, Top Employers have been going into overdrive to help the community. Mondelēz, finding its comfort-food sales rising, doubled its millions of dollars' worth of charitable donations for the year. Medtronic Canada ULC, a medical technology company, amped up its own production of ventilators, but also shared design specifications so other manufacturers could make them, too. KPMG has been preparing taxes for frontline workers. Novo Nordisk Canada, a healthcare firm, loaned some of its skilled staff to help Diabetes Canada, a critical charity, deal with its workload
"It's no coincidence that the past year has exacerbated many of our underlying social challenges and tested the employer-employee relationship," says Richard Yerema, managing editor of the Canada's Top 100 Employers project at Mediacorp. "One of the positive observations from this year's competition is the benefit to employers of continually revisiting workplace strategies and programs. The very best employers have always been innovators, so they are better prepared to move quickly in response to a rapid challenge like the pandemic."
Looking ahead, employers are also starting to think about the ramifications of working at home. Shopify, Canada's global commerce-platform giant, declared last May that it would become 'digital by default' and keep its office premises around the world closed until 2021. With everyone at home on screens, as its careers website says, "We can hire you (almost) anywhere."
After experiencing large numbers of staff working from home, many Top Employers are positive about the benefits, while still recognizing the needs of employees who can't work from home. In big cities, remote work has eliminated the time and stress of commuting, but it's also laid bare some of the social divisions between white-collar staff and production/frontline employees who aren't able to use tools like Zoom to work remotely. There's also been concern about skills development and onboarding during the pandemic, especially for recent graduates and younger workers.
Still, many leaders see work from home as very effective overall, with quicker virtual meetings, a more productive environment and more relaxed people. "I can't see us going back to 100 per cent in the office," says Maread Lavery, president and CEO of Export Development Canada in Ottawa. "It's been very efficient working from home. People have really enjoyed the flexibility." Virtual meetings, she adds, actually allow more people to speak and contribute.
"Equally," she says, "I don't want to lose the benefit of collaboration and innovation you get with people in a room in front of a whiteboard or a training session, interactively feeding each other and building on ideas. It's much harder to do virtually."
Lavery echoes the conclusion many Top Employers are reaching about the future of work beyond the pandemic. "I think it will be a hybrid model," she says. "And that hybrid model will lead to a greater degree of employee empowerment and more changes to traditional structures, with more self-monitoring, more self-regulation, and more focus on outcomes."
It will be, everyone hopes, the end of hard times soon. For many of this year's winners, it is a far, far better thing that they do, than they have ever done.