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Each year for the past seven years, since the launch of Canada's 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures Program, Marty Parker, chairman and CEO of executive search firm Waterstone Human Capital and the creator of the program, has reviewed the year's submissions and finalists to look for themes. This year was no exception and a few themes did, in fact, emerge.
"If you look at all the regional finalists, you will see this is the richest group of financial services organizations we've ever had. Whenever you say that, people automatically think about the big banks and in the central region we have two, CIBC and RBC. But we also have ING Direct, Credit Suisse, National Bank, Federation des caisses populaires acadiennes in New Brunswick and in the west, Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, North Shore Credit Union, First Calgary Financial and Vancity. We've never seen anything quite like this," Parker says. "Coming out of uncertain economic times, it's reassuring that our financial organizations across the board have been sought out by our board of governors as having excellent corporate cultures that have driven exceptional results for them." And that is the point. Corporate culture is not simply about creating happy workplaces. It is about making the connection that corporate culture is defined by behaviour - how people do things day in and day out in an organization - and behaviour drives performance. For the past seven years, Canada's 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures has recognized those companies that have made that connection between culture and performance, understanding that culture provides a competitive advantage that sets them apart. A great workplace and corporate culture is not a nice-to-have company trait; it drives performance - and the numbers prove it. In fact, when you consider the three-year compound annual growth rate of last year's winners, these companies have significantly outpaced the S&P/TSX 60 by an average of nearly 600 per cent.
In addition, a secondary theme revealed itself this year: the emergence of the energy and mining sector.
"We know that the resource sector has been dominating our public capital markets for some time, yet the sector is still often referred to as hewers of wood and drawers of water," Parker says. "In reality, you can't deny the exceptional strength of Kinross Gold, Semafo Inc. and Agrium Inc.
"When we first started, the program lent itself to consumer-facing brands because people know and hear about the Starbucks and Boston Pizzas of the world. These are strong, top-ofmind companies. Over the last few years, business-to-business companies have really come on strong."
He points to organizations such as Pratt & Whitney, Cascades, AltaGas and JV Driver, an industrial construction company in Western Canada now growing nationally.
"This evolution is not about economic cycles but rather the fact that more and more organizations have come to the realization that if culture isn't the greatest organizational asset one can have it's right up there, because it drives behaviour that drives results," Parker says. "At the same time, I think the growth of our program and the fact that these organizations are competing for talent - and succeeding - shows the value in taking part in the Canada's Most Admired Corporate Cultures detailed process."
It's a process that starts in February, when Waterstone Human Capital's Canadian Corporate Culture Study goes out to thousands of private, public and notfor-profit leaders, who answer questions on how their organizations align culture to compensation, benefits, training, development, retention and recruitment. The final question asks them to nominate organizations that they believe have cultures that enhance performance.
This year, the emerging market five finalists include INFUSION, Nurse Next Door Home Healthcare Services, Shopify, Vital Insights Inc. and Wind Mobile.
Public Sector finalists include McGill University, Right to Play International, Farm Credit Canada and two health care organizations: Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and The Hospital for Sick Children. Last year's winner in this category was the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.
"It's great to see health care being recognized. And then you have Farm Credit Canada, a co-op out of Regina poised for growth outside its Western roots. This will be a heated competition right to the end."