Canada's Top SME Employers show compassion and resilience in the face of crisis
In a year like no other, we celebrate Canada's Top Small and Medium Employers (SMEs) 2021, selected by Mediacorp Canada Inc., for their resilience in these challenging times.
With SMEs employing 90 per cent of Canada's private sector labour force, these companies have not only shown persistence and agility, but also compassion. Most outstanding are the myriad of initiatives targeting the well-being of employees, from increased safety measures on site to additional physical and mental health benefits for all. For instance, ISAAC Instruments Inc. includes coverage for online Best Doctors telemedicine service as part of its new health plan, and Groundswell Cloud Solutions offers employees a flexible health spending account plus access to mental health practitioners, all as part of its benefits plan.
Staying connected has proved to be not only important for business, but also for a sense of camaraderie. Until staff can get together physically, companies have launched numerous online social activities to help keep employees in-touch while working from home. For example, Prophix Software Inc. holds virtual yoga classes twice a week, as well as e-games, an online book club and guided meditation, while R.F. Binnie & Associates keeps employees informed through the company's "Bintranet" with peer-to-peer recognition and a newsreel of daily announcements.
Giving back to the community is another hallmark of Canada's Top SMEs. Notably, Rogers Insurance continued to support a number of charitable initiatives. Impressively, the firm donated approximately 6,000 volunteer hours on company time in the past year.
That's a benchmark we can all be inspired by.
Mediacorp’s Top Small & Medium Employers is an editorial competition that recognizes exceptional small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across Canada. The competition is limited to private-sector commercial organizations with less than 500 employees worldwide. Non-profit organizations are not eligible.
Employers are evaluated by the editors at Mediacorp using the same criteria as Mediacorp’s Top 100 Employers 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. Mediacorp’s editors compare employers to other organizations in their field to determine which ones offer the best workplaces and forward-thinking human resource policies. Whether an employer has positive employment growth is also a factor in determining the winners. As well, the unique initiatives of each employer are taken into account.
The Globe and Mail is not involved in the judging process.
Mediacorp’s Top Small & Medium Employers is an annual national competition, and all applicants must pay a fee to enter. Any employer with its head office or principal place of business in Canada may apply regardless of size, whether private or public sector.
– Diane Jermyn
This story appeared in the official magazine announcing Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2021), published on April 6, 2021, and featured in the Globe and Mail. Used with permission.
- AET Group Inc.
- Altek Industrial Supply Inc.
- Aquatic Informatics Inc.
- Artis REIT
- BAM Strategy
- Bellin Treasury Services Ltd.
- Binary Stream Software Inc.
- Bits In Glass Inc.
- BluEarth Renewables Inc.
- Broadsign Canada Company
- Carebook Technologies Inc.
- Cascadia Metals Ltd.
- CBCL Limited
- CHES Special Risk Inc.
- Cloudworks Consulting Services Inc.
- CoLab Software Inc.
- Copperleaf Technologies Inc.
- Croesus Finansoft
- CrowdRiff Inc.
- Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc.
- Distributel Communications Limited
- Drone Delivery Canada Corporation
- Duncan Craig LLP
- East Side Games
- eSentire Inc.
- ExperiencePoint Inc.
- FBM Architecture | Interior Design
- FinancialCAD Corporation / FINCAD
- First Capital REIT
- Flaman Sales Ltd.
- Fresche Solutions Inc.
- Fuller Landau LLP
- Fundserv Inc.
- Lane Technologies Inc.
- Larochelle Groupe Conseil Inc.
- Litco Law
- Loopio Inc.
- McDougall Gauley LLP
- MetOcean Telematics Limited
- Nicola Wealth Management Ltd.
- Noseworthy Chapman Chartered Professional Accountants
- Olympia Financial Group Inc.
- Payworks Inc.
- Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP / s.r.l.
- PrairieCoast Equipment
- Prevue HR Systems Inc.
- Priestly Demolition Inc.
- Prophix Software Inc.
- PSB Boisjoli LLP
- Ratehub Inc.
- Redbrick Technologies Inc.
- Reid's Heritage Homes Ltd.
- Replicon Inc.
- R.F. Binnie & Associates Ltd.
- Righteous Gelato Ltd.
- Rogers Insurance Ltd.
- R.V. Anderson Associates Limited
- Security Compass Ltd.
- Silvacom Ltd.
- SilverChef Rentals Inc.
- Sionna Investment Managers Inc.
- Sourced Group Inc.
- Superior Glove Works Limited
- SysGen Solutions Group Ltd.
- System1 Canada ULC
- Talk Shop Media Inc. / TSM
- Theratechnologies Inc.
- Thinkific Labs Inc.
- TrackTik Software Inc.
- Translational Research In Oncology
- Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company
In crisis times, Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers have been at their agile best
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down so many Canadian workplaces in 2020, Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (SMEs) could fall back on a key element of their continuing success: their agility.
"These are companies that are very fleet of foot," says Richard Yerema, managing editor of Mediacorp Canada, which runs the annual competition. "They were able to move employees off site right out of the gate, early on, where in larger organizations the logistics of shifting the workforce to work from home could be a significant challenge, with multiple layers of employees and different contracts.
"Moreover, the SMEs, often involved in professional services or high tech, were already very well set up. They were building on policies for alternative work arrangements that they already had in place. In fact, often these were not-so-alternative arrangements, where people were regularly working from home at least some days of the week. It only remained to take some equipment home or add subsidies for a full home office."
Agility is indeed a key reason why many employees like working for Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers, and not just in terms of the pandemic. Asked about the advantages of a smaller company, Oksane Kielbasinski of Calgary-based Integrated Sustainability has a ready response: "Without a doubt, the ability to be a first mover," says Kielbasinski, director, environmental, social and governance (ESG), sustainability & risk at the sustainable infrastructure firm. "You can very quickly adapt and evaluate new opportunities coming to the table. It's always being prepared to change your strategy or be prepared to tweak your solution as new opportunities come forward.
"And you don't have to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops to get to some of these solutions," she adds.
At BAM Strategy, a digital-first marketing firm in Montréal, account supervisor Bernande Duré remembers her former job at a large organization. "I was really working pretty much alone," she says. "You would step into the office and it was silence. Everyone was working with their headphones -- no one was talking to each other. When I came to BAM I was very surprised to see the open space, and an environment where you could talk to people and exchange views. It was a diverse potluck of people mixing different opinions and ideas."
Her colleague, Vivian Aranda, vice-president of human resources and operations, notes that preserving "the family vibe" is of critical importance, especially when everyone is at home. BAM, like many SMEs, holds a weekly town hall video call, known as BAM JAM, along with employee-led games and trivia, regular team and one-on-one check-ins, and lunch & learn sessions. Integrated Sustainability carries out many of the same events, including its Friday morning "Brewed Awakening" session to go over the week's happenings.
Many top SMEs have also stepped up their benefit support for staff, particularly in employee assistance programs for mental health, but Yerema says an improved standard of benefits is a continuing trend. In fact, it is a hallmark of the 100 winners of the Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers competition. "This isn't just a list of cool businesses," notes Yerema. "These organizations are adding programs like parental and maternity leave top-ups that we see more represented every passing year."
Generous health and parental programs are supposed to be the province of large organizations, but increasingly, SMEs are competing for talent with some of the same attractions. Extended health benefits are pretty much the price of entry for top SMEs. And now, too, "they're figuring out, maybe we can do a maternity and parental top-up like a big employer," says Yerema.
Perhaps the most intriguing development in the contrast between big and small is in time off. Many SMEs now allow employees to take unlimited days for themselves, whether it is called vacation, personal days or sick days. "It's like a combined time-off program," says Yerema. "You decide how to use it. There might be some restrictions on blocks of time, but it's project-based."
Such unlimited-leave policies are a rarity at large employers, but Yerema says that close to 10 per cent of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers now have such a policy in place.
That, notes Yerema, is one of the important services the SME list provides. "It's designed to help people who are looking for work, of course, but it's also for organizations to figure out how others are responding. Employers learn from one another. This has been an exceptional year, and it's been fascinating to see how it has challenged organizations and put their policies to a real-world test."
And the best, of course, have responded with the agility that has always driven them.