Cheerful businesspeople looking at the report.

Attracting and retaining good people is good business. Engaging those people is even better business—way better.

Engaged employees are those dream staffers who not only do good work every day, but also go above and beyond the call of duty without being asked, search for better ways to do their jobs, collaborate with others to benefit the business, recommend their company to jobseekers and are loyal to their employer. Research shows that if you build a highly engaged workforce, your company is far more likely to enjoy higher growth rates and shareholder returns, with lower absenteeism and voluntary turnover, than companies with only moderately engaged workers.

But unlike other areas of HR that favour big companies and their big budgets, high engagement can be achieved by companies of any size. Case in point: the 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada profiled below, whose tactics and strategies prove that the organizations need not be huge to be world-class workplaces.

Produced by AonHewitt and the Queen’s School of Business Centre for Business Venturing in partnership with PROFIT Magazine and PROFITguide.com, the Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada program ranks participating companies by their employee-engagement scores and other factors, as measured by surveys of each firm’s employees, HR team and executives. The program is open to companies with 50 to 399 Canadian employees. More information about the program is available at bsmestudycanada.com

Employee counts listed below reflect “full-time equivalent” (FTE) employees, with one FTE equalling one full-time employee or two part-time employees.

Watch for full coverage of the 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada in the March issue of PROFIT and online at PROFITguide.com, in early February 2013.

1. DLGL Ltd.

Blainville, Que.
Human-resources software
FTE employees: 87
Chief executive: Jacques Guénette

The concept of mutual respect goes a long way at DLGL. Managers start with the assumption that employees are both competent and honest; that translates to a work environment in which staffers feel empowered and accountable, and micromanagement is kept to a minimum. Reasonable work schedules—a rarity in the burn-the-candle-at-both-ends software sector—and fair contracts provide additional incentives. As a result, workers are content to stay put: DLGL’s employee tenure averages 15 years, and its voluntary turnover rate is negligible.

2. Arrow Group of Companies (Arrow Professional Services)

Toronto
Staffing and human-resources services
FTE employees: 200
Chief executives: Sam Ibrahim and Shaemin Ukani

Management transparency is very important at Arrow. All financial results are shared freely with employees, and senior managers invite staff to ask questions and air concerns about the company’s direction. These and other empowerment-boosting policies—such as having employees choose which charities the firm supports—gives staffers a sense of ownership that translates into high job satisfaction. Benefits and perks, including subsidies for gym memberships, paid cell phones and staff barbeques, are icing on the cake.

3. Habanero Consulting Group

Vancouver
Information-technology consulting
FTE employees: 83
Chief executive: Steven Fitzgerald

Starting with the hiring process, Habanero makes sure employees at all levels understand the “why” of their work—that is, how their efforts contribute to the firm’s overall success. Regular events like all-hands-on-deck Monday morning update meetings help to make staff feel connected. In addition, management regularly supports employee-initiated changes to the way it operates. For instance, when staff requested a review of the existing RRSP program, managers encouraged a small group of volunteers to research alternatives—and ultimately accepted that group’s recommendation for a better provider.

4. DevFacto (DevFacto Technologies Inc.)

Edmonton
Information-technology consulting
FTE employees: 70
Chief executives: David Cronin and Christians Izquierdo

DevFacto has strived to create the kind of team atmosphere that drives staff engagement. At the Edmonton headquarters, employees are encouraged to collaborate in both traditional work settings and in more casual environs, such as the fully stocked kitchen and the board game area. And to keep the ties strong with its satellite operations, DevFacto has invested in a company-wide instant-messaging program, an internal social network and slick videoconferencing equipment. Coupled with a progressive approach to education that allots each employee three weeks per year for training, these initiatives have helped keep the staff turnover rate at zero throughout DevFacto’s five years in business.

5. Protegra Inc.

Winnipeg
Business-performance consulting and software development
FTE employees: 71
Chief executive: Wadood Ibrahim

Like many companies, Protegra conducts annual employee-satisfaction surveys. Unlike many companies, it acts on the results, setting aggressive targets to improve problem areas and issuing quarterly mini-surveys to make sure the changes are effective. Furthermore, every employee’s feedback counts when it comes to setting the firm’s strategic direction. Each year, Protegra hosts strategic planning sessions during which the staff collaboratively determines the priorities and goals for the year ahead. A flexible attitude towards work preferences—employees can work from home occasionally and create their own schedules—makes staffers feel respected.

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