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Top 50 Employers List Reveals What Employees Value Most

Every year at around this time, Maclean’s issues its list of the country’s 50 Best Employers. This annual roundup, compiled by global HR consulting and outsourcing firm Aon Hewitt,offers a precious peek into the psyches of corporate Canada’s most valuable resource: its employees. It’s this population, after all, that nominates those characteristics of a workplace that are most meaningful to them.


Let’s have a look:

As for the types of organizations that make the most frequent appearances on the list, certain categories rank higher than others.

There are more companies involved in finance and insurance here than anything else: 15. Next up is construction and engineering firms, of which there are 10 on this year’s collection. Hotels (7) and professional services (4) bring up the rear.

Even more instructive is a consideration of the kinds of perk that score a company real estate on this inventory.

Long gone are the days when a few in-house treadmills and the promise of casual Fridays were enough to attract staffers’ appreciation (especially in the west, where oil-and-gas giants outstrip everyone else’s salary package offerings by a long shot). This year, the 50 Best’s crop of crowd-pleasers is as diverse as it is reflective of the audience that applauds them.

Some highlights here:

  • At construction company Aecon Group, employees get 100% of their training-and-development tuition fees reimbursed.
  • IT firm SAP Canada operates a peer-to-peer recognition program that encourages in-house celebration of colleagues.
  • At Flight Centre, on-site financial consultants help staffers manage their personal finances.
  • Conexus Credit Union employees get 10 days of personal time every year, so they don’t have to use vacation days to run errands and get fillings.
  • At Canadian Western Bank, the company donates $250 to a charity of every worker’s choice.
  • Staffers at construction and engineering firm CIMA+ enjoy access to an on-site dry cleaner.
  • And on their 90th day at Birchwood Automotive Group, employees are invited to have lunch with a senior executive to discuss their experience with the firm.

Maclean’s 50 Best Employers list is a gift to the entire Canadian workforce for the enlightenment it offers both sides of the employer-employee

“Outsourcing” Gets Ousted

The cover of a recent issue of The New Yorker features a Rockwellian take on a chastised Mitt Romney having one more entry in a column of arm ink struck through by a tattoo artist. The latest rejected brand, at the bottom of a crossed-out list that includes “47%,” “Romneycare,” “pro choice,” “tax cuts” and “immigration,” is “outsourcing.”

Score one more point for the gathering movement that would have the word abolished from the language all together.

The controversy over the once benign term has been swirling for a few years, with employees in its earshot becoming increasingly defensive about the icky associations it’s amassing with job losses and the use of low-cost labour from external service providers. But it got fresh energy over the course of the US presidential election, as the candidates flung it around like a curse.

The word’s been overused and abused for too long, say its detractors, and now it has no place in the business vernacular. Merriam-Webster sanctioned the idea this year when it decided to eliminate “that awful word” altogether (and replace it with “expertise augmentation”).








The dictionary publisher had teetered on the fence for a spell, but finally made the decision when a survey conducted by American outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research found that 63% of IT leaders and 68% of IT service providers are emphatic in their desire to lose the term.

In other lexiconic “outsourcing” news, KPMG published a report earlier this year called “The Death of Outsourcing” in which the author argues that the term has not evolved in harmony with the services it describes, and so has outlived its effectiveness.

Whether this is all just semantics talking, or if there’s a legitimate case to be made for revisiting the concept and all of its connotations, remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: call it “out-tasking,” “co-sourcing,” “right-sizing” or even “resource-optimizing” to your heart’s content; the rose you hold beside the “O word” is still going to give off the same whiff.

Canadian Job Seekers: the Age Divide

Young or old, longtime jobless or freshly loosed upon the world of work, if you’re unemployed in this country, you’re making a pretty standard time investment in trying to change that. StatsCan has released a study that sought to identify the differences in job-search behaviours between the older unemployed and their younger counterparts — and has determined that they’re not so distinct after all.

Data, which came from the Employment Insurance Coverage Survey spanning the period from 2006 to 2010, suggest that both age brackets invest equal time in their pursuit of employment.

The study reports that unemployed people aged 55 to 64 spent an average of 13 hours a week job hunting — the same as those between the ages of 20 and 34.
The key differences between these demographic samplings show up in the way each age group looks for jobs. Not surprisingly, you’d be more likely to see the old folks scouring newspaper classifieds and the young folks surfing on-line job boards.


Other findings include:

• Younger job seekers are more likely than older job seekers to connect with employers directly as their main means of finding work.
• Older and younger unemployed workers are equally willing to take a job outside of

their usual stomping grounds.

• Older workers are willing to work for 10 percent less money than younger workers.

• The older contingent of unemployed tends to have less education than the younger one, and is more likely to have skills suited only to a specific industry.

• Both age groups turn to employment agencies in similar numbers.

Ultimately, the StatsCan report is compelling for what it reveals about the commitment Canadians without work are prepared to make to reverse that reality. The DOB on their driver’s license notwithstanding, these folks are dedicated to putting in the hours required to find jobs. What’s more, their job-search habits stay consistent, regardless of the duration of their unemployment. Job seekers spend the same amount of time looking for work 24 weeks into the ordeal as they do during their first eight weeks of joblessness — no matter their age.

More IT Pros Getting Schooled

Professional-level information technology expertise is alive, well and increasingly fortified by the weight that formalized post-secondary education has to lend to the enterprise.

So says the Computing Research Association in its recently published survey of the academically sanctioned IT landscape. This association of more than 200 North American IT-related academic departments, laboratories and government bodies has put together an annual assessment of the intersection of IT and academe, and the results herald a positive near future for this thriving industry — at least so far as the academically prepared participants in it are concerned.

The last year has witnessed increases in the number of undergraduates pursuing post-secondary education in the IT field, says the study, along with continued or increased counts of students in graduate-school IT programs.


Some highlights of the 2010-2011 CRA Taulbee Survey, “Computing Degree and Enrollment Trends,” include:

• Overall enrollment in undergraduate computer science programs at participating schools — including the University of Toronto, Concordia, UBC, Waterloo and Western — rose by 11.5 percent per department in the 2011-12 school year compared to the prior year. It’s the fourth consecutive year during which the computer science department’s ranks have grown.

• The total Masters degree production in computing programs increased by 6.2 percent, this year over last.

• The number of new PhD students in Canadian computer science programs increased by 17.4 percent, this year over last. Overall PhD production in computing programs held steady in 2010-11, with 1,782 degrees granted.

• Anecdotal reports suggest that enrollment growth in IT-related university programming would be even greater were it not for the caps in place — in the form of faculty of infrastructure limitations — at the degree-granting institutions.

Such a steady surge of IT excellence being loosed upon the world can only portend positive things for organizations with mounting technology staffing requirements.