CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Secrets of success

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

Each year, employees at White Oaks Conference Resort & Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake enjoy a complimentary night's stay on the anniversary of their hire.
White Oaks Conference Resort & Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake placed second on the sixth annual list of the 50 Best Employers in Canada

At Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. (RBH) in Toronto, employees can look their CEO in the eye and ask any question they wish.

Those are examples of best practices that landed the two companies the second and third places respectively on the Sixth Annual List of 50 Best Employers in Canada. (First place went to BC Biomedical Laboratories Ltd. in British Columbia.)

The annual study is conducted by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources firm based in Toronto. "The organizations on the 50 Best Employers list have developed people strategies that are designed to facilitate, promote and achieve corporate success," consultant Ted Emond says in a press release.

Employees determine the top places to work in the country by completing a confidential employee opinion survey.

"Our research continues to demonstrate that Best Employers have a more motivated, engaged and responsive workforce, where employees both see and feel a connection between their own daily contributions and the success of the organization," Emond says.

Want to know what it takes to inspire that kind of loyalty? Consider what White Oaks and RBH have to say on the four characteristics common to Best Employers.


"We have very hands-on managers," says Julia Sebastian, HR manager at White Oaks. "They work on the floor alongside our staff. They're very approachable, very accessible and have an open-door policy ... Our CEO knows everyone's name and something about them."

Employees need to understand and believe in the company's direction, believes RBH vice-president Faryl Hausman. "We believe very strongly in the power of the people to collectively achieve that which could not be achieved individually. That kind of confidence in people is inspirational.

"It generates excitement and enthusiasm throughout our organization and enhances the strength of our company as a team.

"Clear and consistent direction is where it all starts," Hausman says.

"Then you have to demonstrate to employees how they can link what they do to the overall goals you are trying to accomplish. It all has to fit together."

Being prepared for that growth is key. "We're flexible enough to adjust our game to meet changes," Sebastian says. "Growth in the Niagara Region has been incredible. It's about those buzzwords: communicating with employees and making sure we're all aligned and heading in the same direction. It's not only physical growth. White Oaks is trying to grow itself by being the best service provider and best employer."
According to Hewitt Associates, Best Employers exhibit several common characteristics:
  • Leadership. Leaders chart a clear course for the future and get employees excited about it.
  • Growth: Best Employers expect to grow/expand in the next few years and are prepared for it.
  • Talent Management: Leaders focus on getting the right people in the right roles led by the right leaders.
  • Focus on the Details: Best Employers create a unified work environment that feels the same to all employees, regardless of status.
    Visit to learn more.


    Competitive salaries and benefits are key to attracting employees, but both White Oaks and RBH believe training, rewarding and motivating them is key to retention.

    "We're committed to employee promotion. At least 85% of our managers have started in a front-line job," Sebastian says.

    "Employees know there's room for growth ... In an industry where we're competing for the same labour, it's all about retention," Sebastian says.

    RBH takes pride in offering a work environment that allows employees to seek the work-life balance that's right for them.

    "We (also) develop our employees by offering a range of training opportunities and developmental moves that they can tailor to their personal needs and preferences," Hausman says.


    Ensuring each employee is valued is important, says Hausman. "You can't fake something like that. Every member of our senior team is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that we hear as much from employees as they hear from us."

    There are countless benefits to having satisfied employers, including reduced turnover.

    "But the real benefit is having employees who feel it is their personal responsibility to correct a problem if they see one, or to ensure that other members of the team are involved, even if it isn't absolutely necessary," Hausman says. "In other words, it's the intangible benefit that turns good companies into great ones."

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