Turnover is expensive and investing in employees from the start creates a happier, more driven workforce. That’s why the leadership team at North ­Strategic, a boutique communications firm, challenges and motivates employees while recognizing achievements and rewarding big ideas.

“When we are doing business pitches and talking to clients, they love that we have a low turnover,” says co-founder Mia Pearson. “We do a lot to recognize our employees.”
“If you trust your team and treat them well, you will ultimately have very happy clients.” – Paula Worthington, senior account director

For North Strategic, recognition goes beyond a simple pat on the back. This year, to celebrate achievements and the company’s fifth anniversary, North Strategic treated each employee to an all-expense paid trip to Barbados. And not one day was spent in a boardroom; instead, employees were encouraged to relax, make connections with co-workers naturally and team build along the way. “It was all outside on the beach, doing activities, team building,” Pearson says. “It goes a long way in getting to know the office.” Nancy Smith, social media director, was four weeks into her new position when she was offered the trip. “We spent five days having an amazing time in the sun, celebrating North Strategic’s fifth anniversary and building new memories,” she says. For a company that faces fierce competition throughout the country, having personal connections with your co-workers becomes valuable when trying to win clients. “You trust each other more, you’re more open to help and to go that extra mile when you need to,” Pearson says. And collaboration is crucial when you’re working with some of the biggest brands in Canada: North Strategic’s clients include Canadian Tire, Canada Goose, Airbnb, Rogers, Samsung Canada and Twitter. Besides collaboration, the removal of timesheets from the company vocabulary has helped win clients, allowing employees to focus on tangible results rather than hours worked. Most communications firms rely on timesheets to record hours spent working on a project and what was done in that time to determine how a client’s money was spent. The highest billable employee is considered the most valuable. “We want to create an organization that values teamwork, really big ideas, and that is entrepreneurial,” Pearson says. “We don’t look at the hours people work, we look at the results.” As added bonuses, employees appreciate the approach and it saves them a lot of time, approximately 20 per cent, Pearson says. If collaboration, free vacations, and a timesheet-free workplace don’t earn North Strategic the top spot, their numbers are sure to. North Strategic is growing fast, with the Calgary office having doubled in size in the last 12 months, going from three full-time employees to six. “People want to be associated with winners,” Pearson says. “We can attract great talent because people want to be a part of a winning team and growth.”

Finalists, Best Overall, Under 100 Employees

03-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-ambyintAmbyint, Calgary Ambyint boasts a culture of togetherness, right down to conducting “family interviews” in which the entire company is engaged in finding the perfect new hire. 03-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-lakeland-credit-unionLakeland Credit Union, Bonnyville LCU prides itself on being a community builder, sharing time, money and resources to make life better for its members, staff and the communities of Bonnyville and Cold Lake. 03-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-manasc-isaacManasc Isaac, Edmonton Manasc’s in-house chef serves up fresh breakfasts and lunches, employees can attend noon yoga in the basement studio and the company ponies up for an all-expenses paid ski trip each year. 03-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-redbloom-salonRedBloom Salon, Calgary In addition to in-house training programs and a strong reputation as one of the best salons in Calgary, RedBloom has some fun by inviting international celebrities to come by and share their techniques.

Finalists, Benefits Perks And Incentives

03-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-parkland-school-boardParkland School Board, Stony Plain The Board has a comprehensive Employee and Family Assistance Program, provides free yoga classes and gives teachers the opportunity to participate in a year-long exchange program that allows them to see the world. 03-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-county-of-grande-prairieCounty of Grande Prairie The County has best-in-class employee insurance, dozens of financial and non-financial benefits and a defined benefit pension plan. 03-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-rogers-insuranceRogers Insurance, Calgary Rogers is unequalled for its Dream Program, in which four employees each get $10,000 to do with as they please. One is chosen by management, one by staff and two are drawn randomly. 03-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-talismanTalisman Centre, Calgary Taking advantage of its natural strength, Talisman, an athletic facility, gives employees free membership, staff-only classes and a mobile-device subsidy.