Saskatchewan's Top
Employers (2022)
Winners from our 17th annual editorial competition
First published in 2006, Saskatchewan's Top Employers is an annual competition organized by the editors of Canada's Top 100 Employers. (Photo: Revolu7ion93/Getty)

About the Competition

Background

First published in 2006, Saskatchewan's Top Employers is an annual competition organized by the editors of Canada's Top 100 Employers. This special designation recognizes the Saskatchewan employers that lead their industries in offering exceptional places to work. This year's winners were announced on March 1, 2022, in a special magazine featured in the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.


Employees at Saskatchewan Blue Cross writing Valentine's Day notes at a fundraiser for a local children's hospital.

Selection Process

Employers are evaluated by the editors of Canada's Top 100 Employers using the same eight criteria as the national competition: (1) Physical Workplace; (2) Work Atmosphere & Social; (3) Health, Financial & Family Benefits; (4) Vacation & Time Off; (5) Employee Communications; (6) Performance Management; (7) Training & Skills Development; and (8) Community Involvement. Employers are compared to other organizations in their field to determine which offers the most progressive and forward-thinking programs.


Michelle is an employee of Saskatoon-based First Nations Bank of Canada, one of this year's winners.

Media Partners

Our media partners on the Saskatchewan's Top Employers project are the two largest newspapers in Saskatchewan: the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Each year, the winners of the competition are announced in a special magazine published in both newspapers.


Saskatoon-based Nutrien invests in its employees through education, mentoring and career development planning. (Photo: A.Duttle)

Eligibility Requirements

Any employer with its head office or principal place of business in Saskatchewan may apply for this competition. Employers of any size may apply, whether private or public sector.

2023 Competition

Applications for our 2023 competition will be available early in 2022. Our 2023 winners will be announced in a special magazine featured in the Leader-Post and StarPhoenix early in 2023. Join our mailing list to stay up to date and receive an application for next year's competition.

Alexis Blackbird is a human resources assistant at Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies / SIIT, one of this year's winners.
Alexis Blackbird is a human resources assistant at Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies / SIIT, one of this year's winners.

As the world changes, Saskatchewan benefits

The pandemic and the rise of remote work are turning Saskatchewan's historical challenges into benefits

Saskatchewan companies have historically hired at a disadvantage to more populous provinces, but the past years saw so much uncertainty in the global employment market that Saskatchewan seems to be acquiring a more powerful appeal to workers. Global swings in traditional work cultures could benefit its workers as much as its big employers -- a trend that can be seen by looking at some of the most popular and successful companies in the country.

Each year, the Canada's Top 100 Employers competition releases its picks for the best employers in each region of the country, analyzing a wide range of factors to help applicants figure out which companies offer the best work environments. Now, 2022's Saskatchewan ranking has arrived to highlight those companies that have continued to offer creative, competitive compensation and benefits packages even while dealing with a host of local and global difficulties.

The winners are chosen based on multiple criteria, including compensation and benefits, the work and social atmosphere, the work environment, training and upward mobility and community involvement -- all of which were pushed forward by a healthy level of competition between public- and private-sector employers.

"I think the past year has continued to present very difficult challenges for virtually all employers," said Richard Yerema, managing editor at Canada's Top 100 Employers. "We are now entering year three of this 'new normal,' compounding the difficulty of challenges like navigating new safety protocols and transitioning to remote or hybrid work."

As the world struggles, Saskatchewan still has room to grow

Yerema says that, through the lens of the Top Employers project, "Saskatchewan was very much viewed as stable in terms of employment growth, and that seems to have held throughout the past year."

It turns out that smaller hiring markets often have basically nowhere to go but up. That has certainly been the case with Saskatchewan, as provinces like Alberta, with a greater dependence on singular industries, have struggled; Saskatchewan employers are more diverse and they can offer the unique lifestyle bonuses that come with more available wilderness.

Overall, last year's strong hiring from Saskatchewan companies seems to come down to one thing: the rise of remote and hybrid work. While the province itself can present a big draw in hiring, it's the newly powerful ability to work for a Saskatchewan company -- without moving to Saskatchewan -- that's really changing the game.

Stephen Glauser, executive vice president of operations and finance at Concept3 Business Interiors, says that by leaning into remote work, they've "retained 100 per cent of those team members who were able to work remotely and have noticed a significant increase in out-of-province applications for external hiring."

When the going gets tough, the tough get creative

In a tough job market, employees can often suffer from depressed wages -- but as the last year played out, the market saw several examples of how hard economic conditions can instead lead to increased competition among employers. Some fast-food restaurants, for instance, have been forced to raise even low-end salaries in order to compete.

This trend is even more evident in higher-paying knowledge-based industries like software development, where companies have to get creative to entice the province's top talent. These sorts of companies have leaned into the remote work paradigm, benefiting from the fact that most of their employees can easily transition their work to the home.

As power shifts towards candidates in hiring interactions, employers have had to get creative to retain top talent. Attractive benefits packages can often seem to carry more value than they actually cost to deliver, while less standard offerings like increased flexibility in time-off can entice new workers for little additional cost.

Sasktel's external communications manager, Greg Jacobs, says that as much as 25 per cent of the longtime Saskatchewan institution's workforce is going to go perma-remote, regardless of whether or not COVID-19 restrictions remain in place; to do anything else could well have left them at a severe hiring disadvantage, going forward.

What makes the best the best?

It seems that 2021 was the year in which it became impossible to ignore that building and maintaining strong teams in Saskatchewan comes down to being the best place to work.

Mike Webb, executive vice president and chief of human resources at Nutrien, says that in order to ensure the company's employees continued to feel heard and informed, it "hosted monthly company-wide townhalls to share important COVID-19 updates and hear top-of-mind questions directly from employees."

This communication led them to understand the deep need for flexibility in pandemic times. "Early in the pandemic," Webb says, "we expanded our volunteer program to allow employees up to five paid days off per year to safely volunteer in their communities."

The best employers derive their decisions about policies and the work environment from an understanding of what their employees want. Not all types of workers require the same things; younger workers might value compensation alone, for instance, while older workers with children might prioritize extra flex time.

Put simply, there is no one set of benefits that modern workers want; what they want is a company that listens to their feedback and takes whatever steps are necessary to let work integrate easily with the rest of life.

"Necessity often leads to innovation," Yerema says. "That includes everything from introducing greater work flexibility and new work from home policies, to enhancing support for physical and mental health, to emphasizing more open communication with senior leadership."

In the end, Canada's fortunes are Saskatchewan's fortunes

There was no single formula for success as Saskatchewan employers navigated the pandemic in 2021, but an emphasis on employee experience was a component of every strategy that found meaningful success. By making an effort to offer unique benefits and above all a range of options for employees, employers were able to stand out from the crowd and retain the best talent on the market.

In a world where salary alone varies little across employers, it's these non- monetary differentiators that will determine where the best talent goes, and where it stays for more than just a while.

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Employee recruitment at Creative Options Regina went online during the pandemic. (Photo: S.Morris)
Employee recruitment at Creative Options Regina went online during the pandemic. (Photo: S.Morris)

Power is shifting in Saskatchewan's hiring sector

Despite three tough years, the province has circled the wagons and focused on success

Saskatchewan has traditionally existed somewhat outside of the overall Canadian employment environment. With both a rural population and a unique constellation of industries, Saskatchewan's economic fortunes have always been partially disconnected from those of Canada, overall.

Now, however, as COVID makes life and hiring more difficult in the most densely populated centers, Saskatchewan employers may be in a position to surge forward to greater prominence. That's because the new global normal is turning many long-dominant beliefs about employment into the outdated canards of an irrelevant past.

This year's Saskatchewan's Top Employers competition shows that in the struggle for employees, the most successful companies found ways to maintain efficiency while transitioning to a remote or hybrid work model. Among the region's top employers, there is a trend toward not just better compensation, but a better work-life balance overall.

As cities shrink, Saskatchewan is growing

Richard Yerema, managing editor at Canada's Top 100 Employers, says that one thing that has always differentiated Saskatchewan employers is their well-developed sense of obligation to the community. This has mostly manifested through support programs, from SaskTel's longstanding 'Pioneers Program to Flaman Sales Ltd.'s Frank J. Flaman Foundation supporting families in need.

Many Saskatchewanian workers have needed this culture to weather uncertain times, and to avoid having to leave the territory. "It's a silent benefit to be sure," says Yerema, "but the importance of reaching out and helping one's neighbours has taken on a new meaning over the past couple of years. Having a formal outlet in which to do so with your colleagues has shown this 'perk' to be quite invaluable in keeping employees engaged with one another and their communities during a challenging time."

That has given Saskatchewan companies a relative leg up in hiring from pools of workers who have traditionally only considered big city employment. Part of that is a new willingness to move to Saskatchewan -- but a lot of it has to do with the rise of remote work, too.

Remote work is the new normal

The pandemic introduced the necessity of remote work, but most companies agree that as pandemic restrictions ease, remote working won't necessarily leave with them.

Shelley Vandenberg, president and CEO at Saskatchewan Blue Cross, says that remote work has significantly impacted hiring and talent retention. "Competition for talent has increased because candidates can more easily explore opportunities outside of the geographical boundaries that previously limited their searches." Still, she makes the point that "embracing remote work has also enabled us to expand our talent market and draw from a pool of people that we may not have been able to access previously, especially for specialized skillsets."

Still, this effect does have a limited total impact, going forward; Saskatchewanian jobs often require in-person labour, making remote work impossible. Yerema says, "With a proportionally larger resource industry representation than other regions, the essential nature of the work [in Saskatchewan] of needing to be onsite has meant greater focus on the implementation of new onsite work safety protocols."

Creative benefits are the answer to hiring woes

The common thread that runs through policies among 2022's top employers is clear: a focus on benefits that go beyond compensation alone, and that try to provide specifically what a workforce wants during uncertain times.

Michael Lavis, CEO of Creative Options Regina says his charitable organization leaned into their "commitment to employee wellness" by increasing the number of personal wellness days for full-time employees. They also focused on enhancing health and wellness. "We doubled our benefit amount for all wellness services like massage therapist, counsellor, psychologist, acupuncturist [and] chiropractor."

It turns out that employers have been some of the most powerful forces in helping to ease the effects of COVID-19 and economic uncertainty. Across the board, Saskatchewan's workers show loyalty to companies that show loyalty to them. That means that even as their coworkers move physically away from Saskatchewan and other densely populated work hubs, they can stay on as a company's best, most experienced employees.

In the past year, what helped companies retain talent in Saskatchewan was the same thing that helped companies retain talent everywhere in Canada: a respect for the fact that the most talented applicants and workers are the most likely to leave for greener pastures. Across the country, the only solution has been to grow the company's emphasis on worker happiness — and Saskatchewan is no exception.

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