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The Secret Is Out: Great People And Great Culture Drive Results

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Opportunities NB (ONB) is thrilled to be recognized among Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures for 2018. Waterstone Human Capital, the country’s top cultural talent management firm, announced the winners this week, with ONB named in the ‘Broader Public Sector’ category.

This award celebrates world-class Canadian organizations that embrace “cultures that enhance performance and sustain a competitive advantage.” At ONB, we pride ourselves on culture and are honoured to be among the country’s most admired.

Being recognized amongst prestigious companies from across Canada signals to the rest of the country that great things are happening in New Brunswick. We work with hundreds of New Brunswick companies every year, and seeing great cultures and meeting inspiring leaders every day. Companies are choosing New Brunswick because of the people both inside and outside of our organization.

It’s About People

Culture is not just a trendy way to refer to Human Resources (HR). Somewhere along the line, Human Resources lost sight of the human component with an emphasis on policies and well-intentioned wellness programs. Culture is not just one thing but is made up of all the passion and professionalism that your team brings to work every day. It’s how leaders model and expect professionalism. It’s how employees understand and believe in your organization’s purpose. Culture is your brand. And your brand is your culture.

We know that our people drive our success, and this award reflects how our employees feel about ONB. In our recent employee survey (with an above average response rate of 83%), 90% of employees feel good about their experience at ONB and 96% would recommend ONB as a place to work. This award recognizes our employees, who in their own words say ONB is both driven and fun. It’s a privilege to work with them every day.

Culture as Differentiator

From day one culture was our priority; it’s our differentiator. ONB is a world-class organization attracting top talent who are passionate about growing New Brunswick’s economy. We are in the business of creating relationships. By placing emphasis on culture fit, we are confident that the character of our team and the quality of the relationships they develop with clients and key partners and stakeholders are the foundations of our success. There is a direct correlation between our corporate culture and our measurable results. Culture is ONB’s competitive edge and ours is a model we think resonates with the clients and partners we work with every day.


While every organization is unique, leading with trust, kindness, and professionalism (and fun!) should guide your approach to culture. Here are three other things that are working at ONB and that can work for your team too.

1. Hire young people

Diversity matters – cultural, gender and age. We lament that our youth leave for perceived better career opportunities and we are constantly being reminded of our ageing demographic. At ONB we created roles and opportunities to hire new graduates, increasing the number of employees under the age of 30 from 5% in 2015 to almost 20% today. We also have a Student Program that provides on average 15 post-secondary students a year with dynamic and meaningful work experiences as well as the skills and results-oriented resume to support success in their next role. By diversifying the age of our workforce, we have new creative voices at the table bringing a different mindset and energy to our decision making. We have even hired a few once they graduated!

2. Say ‘thank you’

We appreciate that we were chosen for this award by our peers – previous winners of this same award. At ONB we have put peer-to-peer recognition front and centre.  Whether it’s winning a BRAVO Award — our quarterly recognition awards where employees nominate their peers and a volunteer team of employees select the individual and team winners — or the annual CEO Award or simply receiving a ‘High Five’ recognition card (pictured above), we make saying thank you part of the work. Everyone enjoys being recognized for their great work and it means that much more coming from your peers.

3. Empowering the next generation of leaders

We not only recognize our team’s current work, but we also consider their future potential by launching initiatives like our Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). Any investment in employee training should be applied learning, where employees are expected to implement their learning to propel an organizations success. That’s why our ELP, where our next generation of talent apply through a competitive process, invest their time in developing personal and professional leadership skills that are tied directly to achieving results for ONB.

ONB executives mentored the first cohort and the first cohort is mentoring the second cohort; building a pay-it-forward approach that is vital to sharing knowledge and wisdom. These talented employees are becoming great leaders not just for ONB but for any organization lucky enough to have them.

All of this is something we try to model for our clients. None of these things is particularly difficult, and the return on investment is high. Creating an organization that manages to achieve business success without sacrificing employee satisfaction and that even addresses your talent pipeline is important and attainable.

And one final word, an adage that is often used in marketing can easily be applied to culture: ‘show, don’t tell.’ That means don’t over-engineer, over plan, or over define your culture. Instead, focus on engaging, enabling, and empowering your employees – your culture reflects your people.


ONB extends its thanks to our clients on all their hard work, and to our partners and stakeholders for their continued support — we could not achieve recognition like this without you.

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Heather Libbey is ONB’s Vice-President, Chief Culture & Brand Officer. She is a Canadian Certified Counselling Therapist (CCC) and holds an M. ED in Counseling Psychology. With over 20 years experience in change management, marketing, and communications in both private and public sector, Heather is passionate about helping employees find their joy at work.