When an organization wins this category, you know it has a lot going for it. Naturally, NAIT – an academy of higher learning, after all – offers rich and diverse professional and personal development opportunities. It has a competitive compensation package, is committed to a respectful and inclusive environment and celebrates staff. It offers a family-friendly environment and has a variety of attractive on-site amenities. But what really stood out for NAIT – what separated it from the other very worthy finalists – was its commitment to the mental health of its staff and students. Clayton Davis, NAIT’s executive director of human resources, says an epiphany of sorts came to the institute’s management about three years ago. “We were trying the usual resources,” he says. “We had our Employee and Family Assistance Program and other traditional ways of dealing with this, but we felt we needed more. One suggestion was to try more of a grassroots approach, so we went with the mental health first aid training.” That started with 12 trainers from the Mental Health Commission of Canada who descended on NAIT to provide tools and to train NAIT staff who could then deliver the programming on an ongoing basis. And boy, did it take root. “As we rolled it out, the uptake was much higher than the commission had traditionally seen,” Davis says. “The demand at NAIT was tremendous, and the people taking the training couldn’t say enough good things about it.” About 450 staff members – more than 20 per cent of NAIT’s total – have now taken the two-day course, and another cohort is going through it every two weeks. The training doesn’t qualify people to provide counselling, but it does give them a lens to recognize symptoms of mental health issues, and to provide both empathy and a mechanism to help the person. And then there’s Flynn, the Australian Labradoodle therapy dog. “Flynn is the most charismatic, photogenic, spotlight-stealing initiative we have,” Davis says. “It’s been wildly successful.” So successful, in fact, that Flynn now has his own office, specifically appointed for a dog, so he can work longer hours. “People know where the dog will be if they want to see him. You can book an appointment, in Flynn’s office or yours.”

The Finalists

05-compugen-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-storyCompugen, Edmonton Winner in the Environmentally Conscious category, Compugen is also heavily involved in the community, including a 15-year relationship with the literacy-promoting Frontier College. 04-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-osler-hoskin-and-harcourtOsler, Hoskin and Harcourt, Calgary A finalist in both the Diversity and the Volunteerism and Community Involvement categories, Osler is three times a groomsman. Unlucky, perhaps, but no question a great place to work. 11-parkland-school-division-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-storyParkland School Board, Stony Plain Parkland has comprehensive benefits and training programs, and an Employee and Family Assistance Program for both professional and personal counselling. And school-based staff get summers off! 04-sait-albertas-best-workplaces-2016-storySAIT, Calgary SAIT has an exceptional learning culture for employees, including generous funding for professional development and access to many tuition-free SAIT courses.