We all know what a bad workplace looks like: employees who dread arriving at at the office, or who wait impatiently for 5:00 pm to come once they’re sitting at their desks.

It may sometimes be difficult, on the other hand, to imagine exactly what a highly engaged workplace looks like, where staff are eager to show initiative and help shape a thriving culture. That’s one of the reasons why the annual Best Small And Medium Employers in Canada ranking is so valuable.

A joint effort by Queen’s School of Business Center for Business Venturing, Aon Hewitt and Canadian Business/Profit magazine, the list is put together through surveys that measure employee engagement across firms with between 50 to 399 employees.

Of course, step one in being a great employer is giving staff the best tools possible, including cloud-based software that can cut costs, drive productivity and generate more sales.  The Best SME list showed some of the strategies and techniques that firms could then use to take teams to the next level. Our top three favourite examples from the ranking include:

Don’t leave internal marketing to chance: When changes happen inside a company -- and they happen every day -- morale can plummet if employees feel like they’re waiting for answers. That’s why Blueshore Financial, a credit union in Vancouver, deliberately appointed “brand ambassadors” to make sure strategies are well understood by all.

Crowdsource decisions that affect everyone: We all have opinions about what our offices should ideally look and feel like, but a law firm called Bull, Housser & Tupper, LLP actually found a way to listen to them. It not only sought out but also followed up on feedback about a new headquarters before the building began, making sure people would feel a sense of ownership about the environment they would be walking into each morning.

Democratize -- and increase -- the ‘Employee of the Month’ concept: There are plenty of firms with plaques on a wall that show personnel who have stood out in some way to senior management. A health-care service provider called Next Door Nursing goes a considerable step further, by having staff nominate each other for outstanding achievements. And they celebrate those achievers at a meeting every day, not every 30 days.

Far from dividing people, the Internet and the rise of mobile and smart devices have only brought us much closer together than ever before, and in this connected world, the demand for community and collaboration — in business and in life — is undeniable.

Thanks to the cloud, companies can engage not just with employees, but customers, partners and business processes like never before. With Salesforce’s Community Cloud, companies of all sizes can create internal and external communities that add enormous value to their networks, and transform the way they do business.

In addition to fostering social interaction, Community Cloud connects employees to the content, people, and apps they may need to be successful anywhere, at any time, from any device. Making information more relevant and timely makes employees more productive and happier — and happy employees make happy managers and customers. It’s all possible with the right tools.

Want to learn more? Download our free e-book, Communities: The New Key to Business Success.