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This year BCBusiness brings you the most in-depth ranking ever of the best companies to work for in B.C. Find out how a trucking company keeps its drivers revved up and why a gamer scores big with its breakdancing lunch hours.

We’ve all seen the headlines about the labour jolt that’s ready to strike when the boomers punch out and start cashing in their pensions. In today’s heated economy, it’s more important than ever to cultivate a workplace culture that tames the wanderlust of current employees, while also attracting new blood.

So what exactly are the best companies to work for in B.C. doing so well? Heather Hilliard, principal of Caliber Leadership Systems Inc., the Vancouver-based organizational consultancy that partnered with BCBusiness to produce this year’s list of workplace nirvanas, notes that many managers might think about putting time and effort into improving their workplace culture and engagement, but these are the ones who actually do something about it. “There’s still lots of executives that will put it on their to-do list or task their HR person with pieces of it, but to really get involved – that’s the distinction.

Top Companies with fewer than 100 employees
1. Chemistry Consulting Group Inc. (GT Hiring Solutions)
2. Urban Impact Recycling Ltd.
3. Summerland & District Credit Union
4. AbeBooks Inc.
5. Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union
6. The Personnel Department
7. Action Pants Inc.
8. FinancialCAD Corp.
9. Nuheat Industries Ltd.
10. The Bailey Group
 
Top companies with more than 100 employees
1. Next Level Games Inc.
2. Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel
3. Coastal Pacific Xpress Inc.
4. Deloitte & Touche LLP
5. Cintas Canada Ltd.
6. Nurse Next Door Professional Home Healthcare Services Inc.
7. Cactus Restaurants Ltd.
8. Odlum Brown Ltd.
9. Aritzia
10. Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP
Click here for information on the 2008 event

The leaders of the organizations that are on the list, no matter where they are on the list, have made a personal commitment and put the challenge to the organization of being a best place to work or best employer.” When BCBusiness and Caliber broke the survey results down by industry, we found that the tourism, hospitality and food services industry scored highest, while the not-for-­profit and public sectors scored lowest. Helen Schneiderman, the Caliber consultant who put together our report, notes that companies within the tourism, hospitality and food services industry “are typically highly relational, with a strong focus on employee ­empowerment to deliver superior customer service.”

Meanwhile, the not-for-profit and public sectors have a higher degree of unionization, with longer-service employees and fewer opportunities to recognize and reward top performers. “Organizations in the public sector are still probably just into this whole idea of who are we as an employer and how well are we doing as an employer,” observes Hilliard. “Ten years ago in B.C., the public sector was the place to work because they paid more and had great pensions. Today’s workforce doesn’t necessarily find that of interest.” Now that the public sector is facing massive retirements, it is going to have to take a lead from the private sector, she adds. “The only way they’re going to be able to find employees is by changing their image and reputation as an employer to compete more effectively with the private sector, because over the last 10 years, the private sector has become the place to work in B.C.”

Our survey also found that senior and mid-level managers gave much more positive feedback than employees on the ground floor. According to Hilliard, these results are common in employee surveys, but, notes Schneiderman, it does raise some questions. “Why is there such a disconnect between what senior managers see and what the rest of the organization sees? That leads you to question, do they actually understand what’s going on in the trenches?” Another trend worth noting is that employees who have been with their organizations for the shortest period of time gave much more positive results than those who had been there longer. “It’s that honeymoon period,” explains Schneiderman. “When you start off, things are new and exciting and fresh, and there’s lots of optimism and you want to do a good job. As reality sets in, the glitz and glamour is worn off and what the organization is really about becomes more apparent.” With almost a third of our respondents having been with their companies for less than a year, it would seem that our Best Companies to Work For in B.C. participants are likely either growing or experiencing high turnover. Given the overall high scores of our finalists, Schneiderman is confident it’s the former. So with these observations in mind, read on to learn about what your colleagues are doing to raise the bar in employee appreciation, and take a tip from Marc-David Seidel, associate professor of organizational behaviour and human resources at UBC’s Sauder School of Business: “Anything that raises the salience or importance of systems for improving the workplace is a good thing. Companies should look outside their industry to look at employers who are either doing it very well or poorly, to spot things that translate to them.”

Making the Cut

BCBusiness has joined with Vancouver-based Caliber Leadership Systems Inc. to introduce a new method of ranking B.C.’s top workplaces. This new system allows for greater insight into what companies are doing right (and wrong) when it comes to engaging their employees. Also, for the first time, we’ve invited companies with fewer than 100 employees to take part as a separate survey group, recognizing that smaller organizations make up a substantial part of B.C.’s business landscape and often lead the way in keeping an engaged and motivated workforce. We’ve tweaked our survey to measure four key areas of talent management: talent systems, employee engagement, leadership dynamics and organizational culture. Employees and executives of companies who volunteered to take part filled out questionnaires that addressed all four areas. Their answers were then translated into numeri­cal scores, with the greatest weight given to results of the employee surveys. To isolate the cream of the crop, we determined a cut-off score at the 75th percentile for each of our two survey groups. Companies that scored above this percentile made it into the top quartile, and the top 10 made it onto our list. So instead of just giving you a list of the 25 top-scoring companies, we’re highlighting those that truly represent the best of the best. In our survey of small companies, 10 out of 38 made it to the top quartile. These top performers ranged in size from 35 to 97 employees and ­represent an array of industries including finance, manufacturing, profes­sional services and technology – indicating that top performers are not isolated in one sector or another. Forty-four companies took part in our survey of large organizations, and 11 landed in the top quartile. Among those companies, employees numbered from 100 to 1,372, with an average size of 210. Click here for more information about the selection criteria used and about the best companies program.

Related Stories:

Check out profiles of the following winners and runners-up of this year's Best Companies to Work for in B.C.

Top Companies with Fewer Than 100 Employees

A leg up - Chemistry Consulting Group Inc.

Making an impact - Urban Impact Recycling Ltd.

Accounting for tastes - Summerland & District Credit Union

Happily ever after - Abebooks Inc.

Keeping interest high - Salmon Arm Savings & Credit Union

Top Companies with More Than 100 Employees

The game of life - Next Level Games

Home suite home - Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel

Tuned up - Coastal Pacific Express Inc.

Strength in numbers - Deloitte & Touche LLP

Uniform happiness - Cintas Canada Ltd.

Videos: Click here to view Phil Sorgen's keynote address at the Best Companies to Work for in B.C. gala.

Click here to see an interview of Phil Sorgen, President of Microsoft Canada.

Slideshows:

Click here for a slideshow of the winners in the Top Companies With Fewer Than 100 Employees category.

Click here for a slideshow of the winners in the Top Companies With More Than 100 Employees category.

Click here for more photos from the event.