Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Disruption has become a familiar word in many workplaces as organizations search for ways to conduct business amidst a never-ending barrage of economic and social upheaval.

 

It occurs when are there are major changes to a business’ structure, competition, facilities, the economy, and even world events.

 

But how a business manages this disruption will depend on its leadership.

 

“I would say as an organization and a leader you need to embrace it,” says leadership coach and consultant Ricardo Camara, who operates Cambridge-based On This Rock Business Consulting Ltd.

 

As a leadership development professional who deals with ways to minimize management conflicts within organizations, he is very aware of the many disruptions that can befall a business, noting the pandemic has been the biggest disruption most business leaders have experienced.

 

“It was like a rude awakening for all of us,” he says, noting the trends it has spawned such a ‘quiet quitting’ or ‘The Great Resignation’ has led to the attraction and retention of employees becoming key priorities for many businesses. “But we have always had both internal and external factors that have impacted in how we do business.”

 

He says complaining about disruptions can create a negative work culture, but that by creating an environment of collaboration and innovation with employees helps build a higher level of trust and engagement that will benefit an organization as it deals with these changes.

 

“COVID-19 is a good example where organizations brought their teams together and they collaborated and everyone was engaged in that fight,” he says, adding staff is the No. 1 resource of any organization. “So why not give them a voice and make them feel part of the process? By doing that, you’re encouraging them to engage and buy into changes. Otherwise, if you force those changes upon your employees, they’re going to fight them.”

 

He says leaders who fear disruption can often paralyze an organization.

 

“It can create a sense of despair and uncertainty and adds to that mindset.”

 

Also, Ricardo says for businesses to successfully manage disruption it helps to have a pre-existing environment where collaboration and trust were already in place, especially when faced with a situation like a pandemic.

 

“I think disruption can also be short-term, long-term or even permanent,” he says. “We’ve seen that with COVID as businesses had to pivot and quickly develop new business models.”

 

But when it comes to preparing for disruption, he recommends leaders focus on developing their emotional and relationship intelligence, allowing them to motivate their teams in a compassionate way and connect with them on levels that will benefit the business.

 

“Leaders that have developed a higher level of these skills are more likely, statistically speaking, to be better at leading, guiding and coaching, and dealing with these types of situations more effectively,” says Ricardo. “Whereas individuals who do not have these struggle and often pass on that fear and uncertainty to their teams, and it can quickly become a wildfire that spreads through the organization.”

 

 

A few tips for managing disruption:

 

  • Think of disruption as an opportunity. Looking at disruption as an opportunity to create something better enables an organization as a team to move forward optimistically, and a better future.
  • Devise a plan to manage disruption. Creating a plan reduces confusion and allows your organization to a create strategy and allocate resources and responsibilities.
  • Communicate clearly and often. Consider holding town hall meetings, or one-on-one discussions because it’s vital to get in front of your team and working through the ramifications of disruption will be critical to your ability to engage and retain your key staff.

 

 

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As businesses continue to look forward as they develop staffing plans to tackle 2023, they may also wish to take a quick look back at new policies that have now been added to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

 

These include the right to disconnect legislation first unveiled in Ontario Bill 27 in December of 2021, and the electronic monitoring policy outlined in Bill 88, Working for Workers Act, 2022, and added to the ESA in April of last year.

 

The new policies – the subject of much discussion since they were first introduced - directly affect employers that employ 25 or more employees as of January 1 of any year and must be in place before March 1 of that year.

 

We reached out to Meagan Swan, an employment law expert at Pavey Law LLP in Cambridge, to offer insight on what these new policies mean for employers:

 

 

Q. What should employers be thinking about when it comes to timelines surrounding these ESA changes?

 

Meagan:  Employers were supposed to have these new policies in place last year, but as we know for some employers it takes a new year to really start thinking about what needs to be done in 2023. If an employer now has 25 employees, inclusive of all the employer’s business locations, as of Jan. 1, these policies are to be in place by March 1 of each year and provided to their employees within 30 days.

The government has been very reasonable about rolling out the new requirements and giving lots of notice in advance. As we start a new year, employers need to think, ‘do I now meet the employee threshold’ and ‘if I do, how do I create the right policy for my business’. 

The timelines each year do give employers a buffer to ensure they have any new policy reviewed before implementing them with employees.

 

 

Q. What are some of the steps employers should be taking regarding these policies if they haven’t already?

 

Meagan: The first step is to make sure they have the necessary policies in place by March 1 that work for their business. However, employers need to understand that these new policies do not give any new rights to employees. They are basically setting out what the expectations are when it comes to electronic monitoring and the right to disconnect. These policies are all about being transparent. 

An employer can tailor these policies to their business.  For the Right to Disconnect policy, an employer can outline the expectations for when an employee is required to review or respond to emails after hours or engage in other after-hours activities. 

An employer can also include exceptions in their policy to address urgent work that may arise. 

Communicating these expectations to employees is likely not new.  Rather, we are now requiring employers to have these expectations outlined in writing. I have seen some employers implement standard form policies – because there are lots of templates online – and then they end up restricting themselves more than necessary because many are very employee focused. 

These standard form policies don’t consider or address each employer’s specific business or its needs, so it’s important to obtain advice regarding the use of any template to see if it’s the right fit for your business. 

An employer should ensure their policy includes those exceptions and considerations needed for their own operations. Simply, an employer should consider obtaining professional assistance when creating their policies.

 

 

Q. What type of penalties could employers be facing surrounding lack of policy implementation?

 

Meagan: The government has not updated the regulations to include any specific penalties related to these new policies.  As of now, the standard complaint process to the Ministry of Labour is available to employees if an employer had not complied with its requirement to implement the policies.  This type of complaint will likely trigger a visit or communication from an ESA officer to investigate whether the employer is compliant.  If not, an Order requiring the employer to become compliant will likely be issued.

 

 

Q. Were there many changes to the Employment Standards Act in 2022 and did the pandemic play a role?

 

Meagan: COVID-19 has really pushed the government to implement new regulations through the ESA. For example, we had the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) regulation implemented to temporarily change the ESA rules related to reduction of hours, pay and layoffs.   We all know that the pandemic also required many employees to work remotely.  

Many of these employees began feeling the stresses of remote work and maintaining a balance between their home and work life. I believe the government was reacting to these pandemic related issues by implementing the requirement for employers to have Right to Disconnect and Electronic Monitoring policies in their workplace.

Many employers were hesitant at first and believed these polices would be onerous or would take away their ability to manage their own business.

But in reality, most of my clients have been able to implement policies that fit their business and it is now very transparent to employees what the expectations are for remote work and the monitoring of work.   

 

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A new year has begun and with it comes challenges ahead for businesses.

 

Even though there are signs economic conditions are improving, such as a relatively fast drop in inflation and labour market additions, many small businesses are likely to feel the pinch of rising interest rates, the threat of a looming recession, and persistent labour shortages in 2023.

 

We reached out to Noah Jensen, a partner at Racolta Jensen LLP in Cambridge, to get a sense of what businesses can expect in the coming year:

 

 

Q.  What priorities or potential pitfalls should businesses wishing to expand in 2023 keep in mind?

 

Noah: Keep acquisitions open as an option. There are quite a few business owners with established businesses who are looking to divest themselves into retirement. Lower-mid market acquisitions (say, less than $10 million in value) are starting to see more supply than there is capital for private equity/investment firms to invest, especially on smaller deals. Acquiring an established brand with a customer list and team of trained employees that have complementary customers, production process, and/or supply chain partners can help achieve more scale by eliminating redundancies in the combined business after the acquisition is complete.

 

Avoid over-committing on cash, or over-hiring of employees. In the start-up world they   call this “lengthening the runway” by containing overhead costs. Labour is a fixed cost in the short-term and a variable cost in the long-term, be selective on who is being hired for what as many customers in the business-to-business landscape are being more thoughtful about purchases and many things are being delayed.

 

 

Q. How should businesses prepare for potential economic slowdowns this coming year?

 

Noah: Evaluate pricing. Costs have risen substantially in the past two years and there are still some businesses that have not adjusted their prices to their customers. If you have not changed pricing because your competitors have not changed theirs, you may have an issue with productivity to look at. If the market price has gone up and you have not changed your price, look at a price increase as an option. If your customers are unable to accept a price increase, look at the profitability of the relationship and consider not serving the client any longer.

 

Be clear on terms of payment with customers and suppliers to think through forecasting your cash flow over the next several months. Look into how this can be done with your accountant and/or bankers to see about a back-stop financing facility if needed. It is generally better to ask for financing facilities when your company is showing good financial results. You will not regret doing so now before things get too grim.

 

Think through your cost structure for any commitments to experiment with new products or services for your business that you thought would improve the productivity of your business. Are they all working? Is there anything that could be cut?

 

If you are in the business-to-business market, talk to your customers. What trends are they seeing from your competitors that they like or don’t like? How could you provide a better solution for them?

 

Do you have any redundant assets on your balance sheet? This would be assets that have no value to the operations of your company that have monetary value.

 

 

Q. Will this be a good year for businesses to make productivity investments?

 

Noah: Productivity investments will need to continuously be considered in today’s economic climate. Whether you are in dairy production or robotics, your competitors are purchasing equipment and/or software that is allowing them to get work done with less labour (a necessity in today’s labour market).

 

 

Q. How important is it for businesses to ensure they have a solid succession plan in place?

 

Noah: It is important to always consider the contingency plan of your business. If you are young with the intention of running your business for the long-term, failing to plan for what happens if you are suddenly disabled or facing terminal illness will put you and your family in a precarious position if any of those events transpire and you are unable to run the company. Certain insurance products mitigate the financial impact of this, but you still need to consider what shape your company will be in if you are eventually able to return to work.

 

If you are older and considering retirement, you should be thinking about this five-10 years out. Some considerations:

  1. Customer concentration: try to avoid having a lot of revenue tied to one customer relationship
  2. Supplier concentration: try to avoid having a lot of your inputs concentrated with one supplier.
  3. Management aptitude: always be grooming someone else (or a couple of internal candidates) to do your job.
  4. Cash flow: the valuation of the company is often determined on a multiple of cash flow. If you are selling at five times multiple, a $1 increase in cash flow increases your value by $5. So, make sure you are dialed in on profitability.
  5. Structuring: the structure of corporations will make a difference in the taxation of the sale, and you should be thinking of this a couple of years prior to sale.

 

Q.  What should business owners consider if they are planning an acquisition in the coming year?

 

Noah: Be aware of market trends. With uncertainty in the system related to financing costs (interest rate driven) and risk tolerance of people investing in private companies, there will be ebbs and flows in the low-mid-market mergers and acquisitions environment.

 

According to a recent poll, 2022 Q4 had a pull-back in interest on the buy-side of acquisitions which could indicate that the bargaining power could tilt in the favour of buyers rather than sellers. We have seen a lot of interest in our existing clients wanting to sell. Mainly related to age/retirement.

 

Be aware of the quality of earnings that are presented. While many people had an amazing fiscal 2022, if you broke it down by quarters, they were increasing prices to their customers faster than they were adjusting their costs for labour. Additionally, certain industries would have been on fire during the low-financing cost era (residential/industrial construction, auto sector manufacturing), that will be facing downturns in the upcoming year or two.

 

Q. Will 2023 be a good year to start a new business?

 

Noah:  Every year is a good year to start a new business if you have a good idea or good contacts in a particular field. The difficult thing about right now is that people currently employed will probably be seeing the best of the best in terms of offers for their labour time and talents due to the shortage.

 

The upside to starting a business right now is that a lot of people throw in the towel when there is the amount of uncertainty as there is right now with the changing economic landscape. This creates new opportunities for people.

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The past few years have been turbulent ones for local businesses.

 

But amidst the stress and uncertainties due to economic and labour challenges, many have managed to flourish thanks to the fortitude of their owners and operators.

 

This is why the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is encouraging business leaders to celebrate themselves at our annual Business Excellence Awards.

 

“It’s important – especially now - that we recognize and celebrate the achievements taking place in our business community and the people who’ve made them happen,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “These awards provide the ideal chance to show our appreciation to local businesses for all they do to make our community even better.”

 

The Business Excellence Awards is the Chamber’s premier event and has honoured the contributions and achievements of business leaders in the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries since 2000, and features 11 award categories, eight of whom require nominations.

 

These include Outstanding Workplace, Business of the Year, and New Business Venture of the Year which is aimed at both new and existing businesses.

 

“Maybe it’s a business that has created a whole new line of products?” says Greg. “Or maybe it's a business that has become very innovative in the way they operate due to staff changes or shortages?”

 

Also, he says there may be businesses out there that have successfully enhanced their workplace culture, even remotely.

 

As well, Greg says there are businesses that should be recognized because they have found ways to help the community, even during this tough time.

 

“There are many companies who’ve been very generous with their profits and have helped others,” he says, encouraging businesses to nominate themselves. “There may be others who are not aware of what your business has accomplished. Now is the time to share your story.”

 

The awards will be held May 18 at Tapestry Hall. Nominations close Feb. 24.

 

Click here to make your nominations.  

 

 

Award Categories and Criteria:

 

Spirit of Cambridge Award – This award recognizes an outstanding effort and commitment to making Cambridge and/or Township of North Dumfries a better, more prosperous community through corporate leadership and social responsibility.

 

Business of the Year (1 – 10 employees) – This award is given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment, products and services, growth in business, employee retention.

 

Business of the Year (11 – 49 employees) – Given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment, products and services, growth in business, employee retention.

 

Business of the Year (More than 50 employees) – This award is given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment; products and services; growth in business; employee retention.

 

New Venture of the Year Award –  This award is presented to a new or existing business that through innovation of design and technology has significantly improved the esthetics and functionality of their operation.

 

Outstanding Workplace – Employer of the Year - The recipient of this award goes above and beyond to ensure it provides employees with the best overall workplace, with a strong focus on a happy and healthy work culture and environment.

 

Marketing Excellence – This award is presented to the business or organization that has best demonstrated excellence, innovation, and originality in traditional or new-media marketing.

 

Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award – The recipient of this award is presented to the director/owner aged 18-40 of a new or existing business who has achieved outstanding results by successfully building it up to a new level.

 

WOWCambridge.com Customer Service Award - Each month the Chamber has recognized an individual at a business who has gone above and beyond, providing extraordinary service in everyday situations. These individuals and the businesses they work for exemplify service excellence. This award is presented to one of those monthly winners as the Grand Award Winner.

 

Community Impact Award - This award recognizes an individual who has contributed, or continues to contribute, to the overall prosperity, economic growth, or vibrancy of our community through their business, volunteer or philanthropic endeavours, and exemplary overall service to assist others.

 

Chair's Award - The Chair's Award recognizes an outstanding organization or individual who makes an exceptional effort which goes above and beyond the call of duty in any area of business and/or community development.

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 The municipal election this past fall resulted in some new and familiar faces around local council tables, each prepared to represent the needs of their constituents and communities to the best of their ability during their next four years in office.

 

In the winter edition of our Insight magazine, to be released this month, we reached out to the municipal leaders for the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries, along with Cambridge’s two regional councillors, to get a sense of what issues and concerns they believe are facing the business community and to provide potential solutions to make things even better to conduct business locally.

 

Each were asked the same series of questions in hopes of providing our business community with a snapshot of what approaches our municipal leaders will be taking over the next four years.

 

Here’s a portion of their responses to a few of the questions:

 

1. How do we make Cambridge/Township of North Dumfries even better places to do business?

 

Cambridge

 

Mayor Jan Liggett: “Connecting equity to transit-oriented development can mitigate traffic and pollution, generate demand for transit, catalyze the development of affordable housing, and bring new businesses and quality jobs to our community.”

 

Donna Reid, Ward One: “Council needs to support development because more people will generate more business and needs to consult our businesses as to their needs to ensure we will be providing the services that will assist them.”

 

Mike Devine, Ward Two: “Our tax base is an issue, and we must see that it’s set in a reasonable manner for businesses, especially since we have moved into more higher-tech manufacturing than we’ve previously seen in Cambridge in the first 30 years.”

 

Corey Kimpson, Ward Three: “We have to look at the processes we have in place and really look at having a collaborative approach between the levels of government, the community and business community.”

 

Ross Earnshaw, Ward Four: “For Cambridge to be perceived as an attractive place to do business, our downtowns must be seen as safe, comfortable, and truly fun, public places.”

 

Sheri Roberts, Ward Five: “Having the appropriate infrastructure in place such as safe roads, well planned parking, and other supports and services for employees and customers, will make it as easy as possible for companies to focus on the running of their business.”

 

Adam Cooper, Ward Six: “I would like to see improved road networks to get large this truck traffic out of our downtown areas and major roads such as Hespeler Road and King Street.”

 

Scott Hamilton, Ward Seven: “It’s important that we increase density in our cores to support businesses and large-scale infrastructural projects such as the LRT.”

 

Nicholas Ermeta, Ward Eight: “We need to constantly review and improve customer service levels at City Hall. We need to always strive to provide timely service and assistance when needed.”

 

Township of North Dumfries

 

Mayor Sue Foxton: “We must link quality of life attributes of the community and countryside with the business opportunities of the area and continue with the current program underway to facilitate the installation of fibre to the address across North Dumfries.”

 

Rod Rolleman, Ward One: “We need to market North Dumfries as the rural escape for city residents to the north and east of us.”

 

Derrick Ostner, Ward Two: “We can make North Dumfries a better place to do business by being more engaging with prospective businesses.”

 

Alida Wilms, Ward Three: “I love being part of a rural community and think there are incredible business opportunities here for any aspiring entrepreneur.”

 

Scott Tilley, Ward Four: “By encouraging and supporting businesses to set up in North Dumfries it will be a win/win for both the residents and business, as they will both support each other.”

 

Region of Waterloo

 

Doug Craig, Regional Councillor: “Rapid transit options must proceed, safety in our downtowns must be safeguarded and everything from recreational facilities to health services must continue to be improved.”

 

Pam Wolf, Regional Councillor: “To attract business to Cambridge we need to make it attractive to their employees. They want good schools, safe neighbourhoods, recreation facilities and arts and culture.”

 

 

2. What do you think are the biggest concerns facing businesses in Cambridge/North Dumfries and how will you address them?

 

Cambridge

 

Mayor Jan Liggett: “Labour shortage is a North American problem. We have universities, colleges and training facilities close by which graduate high quality staffing for companies. I will continue to work with them to encourage the growth of these educational facilities.”

 

Donna Reid, Ward One: “Our core areas struggle with the homeless, addicted and those with mental health issues. Our council needs to provide more services to address the needs of these vulnerable people.”

 

Mike Devine, Ward Two: “The tax base is clearly an issue for businesses and the cost of city services, such as snow plowing, are also an issue.”

 

Corey Kimpson, Ward Three: “Having things ready to move as quickly as possible is paramount, because when a business is ready to do something, they’re ready to go and can’t be waiting, especially in this economy. Is there a way we can fast track and expedite things?”

 

Ross Earnshaw, Ward Four: “Business owners do not feel like their voices are being heard by municipal leaders. It is important that we give local businesses a voice at City Hall.”

 

Sheri Roberts, Ward Five: “The cost of doing business goes up every year.  One way that municipalities can help with this is by streamlining the processes around opening a new business.”

 

Adam Cooper, Ward Six: “We need to lobby the provincial government for long-term detox and rehab facilities while also reconsidering the services offered downtown to prevent our core from becoming the dangerous playground for untreated addiction that it has become.”

 

Scott Hamilton, Ward Seven: “We all need to work to ensure that we have a skilled workforce, that conditions are ripe for quickly and efficiently importing supplies and materials as well as exporting our products to market.”

 

Nicholas Ermeta, Ward Eight: “Affordability or lack thereof are big concerns for businesses. I want to minimize future tax increases by reviewing the budget to find greater efficiencies and to find new funding models that rely less on property taxes.”

 

Township of North Dumfries

 

Mayor Sue Foxton: “Concerns include the cost attributed to the purchase of land for employment purposes, the timelines and cost for “approvals” to bring a development proposal forward to the marketplace, plus the ability to attract and retain employees for new or growing businesses and access transit to facilitate this. Council in June 2022 adopted a position to streamline the review and approvals process associated with site plan approvals. This measure should witness a reduction in the timelines to secure a decision.”

 

Rod Rolleman, Ward One: “The three biggest concerns facing businesses in North Dumfries are labour shortages, poor quality internet, and lack of commercially zoned properties. The Township needs to partner with the private sector and bring high-speed internet to our business parks.”

 

Derrick Ostner, Ward Two: “Biggest concerns are having the available land, and proper internet.”

 

Alida Wilms, Ward Three: “As more people move into the area, there’s greater pressure on our rural and natural areas because of the increased housing needs.

 

Scott Tilley, Ward Four: “Planning for future parking and dealing with current parking issues by working with the community residents and businesses to get their feedback, I will assist in making it easier for businesses to be accessed by listening to the people who are in the area regularly.”

 

Region of Waterloo

 

Doug Craig, Regional Councillor: “Safety in our community on the streets, in our parks and in our downtowns must be improved to have a safe, liveable community.”

 

Pam Wolf, Regional Councillor: “One of the biggest challenges to business is attracting and retaining staff. To help with this we need to build more housing including affordable housing to house staff.”

 

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It has become an all too familiar scenario for many small businesses: a potential employee doesn’t show up for the interview or a new employee, perhaps after a single day or a few weeks, suddenly disappears, never to be heard from again.

 

For businesses already struggling with labour shortages, the phenomenon of ‘ghosting’ has grown into a real challenge as our economy continues to rebuild.

 

“The last time we checked, we had about 30% participation in live interviews,” says Mike Black, owner/operator of Valet Car Wash in Cambridge and eight other locations. “I’m also finding that many people go onto Indeed and apply to dozens of job postings and they have no idea why you are even contacting them because they have so many irons in the fire and are just picking and choosing.”

 

He’s not alone in this regard. According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 37% of small business owners who responded said they have had potential hires suddenly disappear without explanation, while one out of three who’ve hired someone during the last year either had that employee not show up their first day or had them stop coming in shortly after being hired.

 

While salary is a clear motivator for many job seekers, Mike also believes there has been a cultural ‘shift’ as opposed to just an economic one in terms of how people currently look for work.

 

“There almost seems to be a complete lack of courtesy and respect for others,” he says, noting the adage ‘never burn a bridge’ no longer seems to apply.

 

Janice McVey, Manager Partner at the Dean Group which specializes in employment recruitment, says the fact there are so many jobs available and that accountability no longer seems to be there when it comes to referencing, are a few of the key factors.

 

“It used to be that having a good job reference was important and not having one used to be a real impediment,” she says. “Now, again with unemployment so low and good people hard to find, companies are lowering the bar. The job candidate understands that lack of investment from the client’s perspective, so it becomes a bit of a two-way street.”

 

Janice says conducting a short Zoom interview may not necessarily win over a potential employee and make them feel invested enough to sign on.  However, she acknowledges that most companies also no longer have the luxury due to staff shortages to properly acclimate a new employee –spending additional time on training or introducing them to all their co-workers - because they need them to start working immediately.

 

“As a result of tightening up the interview process, they actually lose that ability to truly engage somebody in the role and therefore they can lose them,” says Janice, noting ‘A list’ companies that offer higher salaries and benefits tend to have fewer ghosting issues. “I think what it boils down to is there are too many options out there and therefore people do not worry about not finding a job when they need one.”

 

To help combat this, she encourages her clients to really promote why a person should want to work for them.

 

“You have to make sure what you’ve got to offer is what the candidate is really looking for. You as an employer, have to be clear on why people want to work for your organization,” says Janice. “Because now, they’re interviewing you more than you’re interviewing them.”

 

And if the candidate accepts the job but there is a concern they could soon be looking elsewhere, she recommends reminding them why they accepted the job in the first place.

 

“What was their motivation; if money was the reason, you’re never going to keep those people because they’re going to go to the next guy who pays them more,” says Janice. “I think you’ve got to make sure you’re lining up what it is you’ve got to offer with what it is an individual is looking for.”

 

Mike agrees noting potential employees are paying much closer attention to a company’s core values and how it projects itself, especially online.

 

“You are definitely selling yourself more today,” he says, adding that communication is vital, especially during the initial interview process and explains how his company keeps in close touch with a potential employee once contact has been made.

 

“We stay in constant touch with that candidate, reminding them about the interview and confirming the date and time,” says Mike, adding they have had great success with video interviews which can also lead to an in-person meeting depending on the position they’re trying to fill.

 

Also, he says that close communication continues for the first few months after a new person has been hired.

 

“You really need to build a relationship that makes them feel welcomed and appreciated, and make sure they have everything they need,” says Mike. “You also have to be aware of how your employees are interacting with your new hires because they can play a major factor on whether they will stay or leave. It only takes a couple of bad apples to taint someone.”

 

Janice agrees, explaining leveraging your internal network can help an organization retain new employees.

 

“Your best salespeople as a good organization are your current employees,” she says, adding the pandemic has made the work of HR departments even harder. “I’m afraid the downside is they haven’t been able to do some of things that helped with engagement of candidates like they used to.”

 

When it comes to recruitment, Mike has purposely entrusted that responsibility to someone else in his organization.

 

“If it’s not something you’re comfortable with, you really have to delegate it to someone who is,” he says, adding each January his company also does an analysis of its turnover rate during the previous year. “We compare it with previous years to see if we’re getting better or worse. If we’re getting worse, then we really need to look at why and look at solutions as to why that rate when up.”

 

 

Employment turnover at a glance:

 

  • More than one-third of Canadian companies (35%) say employee turnover has increased compared to last year, a significant rise from the nearly a quarter (24%) who said the same thing in 2021.
  • According to the survey, employee turnover costs companies an average of over $41,000 each year (including the cost to rehire, lost productivity and more). Those costs are even higher for some employers, with more than 1 in 10 hiring managers (16%) reporting $100,000 or more per year in turnover expenses.
  • For companies with increased turnover this year, the main causes identified include better pay and/or benefits offered elsewhere (36%), employees resigning (35%), employees feeling overworked (33%), retirements (30%), increased workplace demands (29%) and better perks elsewhere such as summer Fridays and unlimited vacation days (28%).
  • Two-thirds of companies agree that employee turnover places a heavy burden on existing employees (64%). This is especially the case with large employers with 100 or more employees (75%) compared to small businesses with fewer than 10 employees (50%). With the added complexity of the current labour shortage, companies are having to lean heavily on their current employees.

 

•    Info provided by The Harris Poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals

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You never know who will come up with the next ‘big idea’ that could change the world.

 

This has happened more than once in Waterloo Region, already dubbed ‘The Creative Capital of Canada’ thanks to HIP Developments President Scott Higgins and demonstrated by the local creation of such world-changing technological achievements as the BlackBerry and IMAX.

 

“This kind of creativity is the wheelhouse of the Chamber of Commerce,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “We always look down the road a generation or two because they are not only our community’s future leaders but our job creators for the rest of the 21st century.”

 

In hopes of nurturing that next generation of innovative thinkers, the Cambridge Chamber has teamed up with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and the BEP (Business Education Partnership) of Waterloo Region in a new innovative program called the ‘Youth Creativity Fund’.

 

Through this program, students in grades 5 to 12 can apply for seed funding to create a solution to a problem that faces them, their family and friends, or the whole world.

 

They can apply for $500 - $1,000 to help solve this issue and are required to report back to organizers in three months to tell them what they have learned from the experience.

 

“The great thing about this program is that it doesn’t matter if ideas are successful or not, we are focused on learning and simply trying ideas out,” says April Albano, Program Manager- Youth Innovation, who is leading the program through the BEP Waterloo Region (WR). “We want to build up creative confidence in youth from a young age. If students are given the opportunity to try out their ideas, they will be more confident to try out ideas later in their life. We have learned through research that creativity is something that we get worse at as we grow older unless we practice it.  We want to capture and nourish as much creativity as we can and help it grow in Waterloo Region.”

 

To help students bring their ideas to life, she says a toolkit (available at youthcreativityfund.ca) has been developed containing resources to get their creative juices flowing and generate creative thinking outside the box.

 

“We know youth have incredible ideas, but sometimes it takes some work to bring those ideas to life or even to mind,” she says, adding there is an opportunity to seek advice on specific aspects of their project.  “For example, we have had some students ask for assistance with coding an app they are working on.  Another group asked for help with grassroots marketing.  The BEP WR prides itself on connecting the business world with education and we have an extensive network of local champions who want to help.  If a student identifies a need, we will work with that student to find the appropriate support.”

 

BEP WR has given assets to local schools to promote the program and students are urged to listen for school announcements and check their school’s newsletter in the New Year.

 

“As we spread the word about this fund, we are aiming to be top of mind for every educator who has a student approach them with an idea to better their community,” says April. “We want these educators to say, ‘That’s a great idea, apply to the Youth Creativity Fund to make that idea a reality’.”

 

Also, students who may have multiple ideas are asked to submit one application at a time. However, she says they are allowed to apply again in the future if they want to further develop their initial idea.

 

“We want our kids to know that perseverance, dedication, commitment, passion, vision and yes, dreaming, are the key ingredients for creativity, innovation, and change,” says Greg, adding the Chamber is proud to be part of such a worthwhile initiative. “But we need everyone’s help. Both Chambers have foundation dollars that must flow to youth programs which has enabled us to help get this program off the ground. HIP Developments has pledged to match every single donation to a maximum of $100,000, so this just shows their commitment to our future leaders and innovators.”

 

April says this a great program to support youth, especially since many are entering the workforce when the world is facing numerous challenges.

 

“By investing in youth today we are helping to build up their creative confidence, so they feel empowered and ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow,” she says.

 

Visit the Youth Creativity Fund to learn more.

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The living wage in Waterloo Region has increased to $19.95 an hour, according to the latest report from the Ontario Living Wage Network, which represents an increase of $2.75 from 2021.

 

But what impact this hike has on businesses that are certified living wage employers, or those considering a certification, continues to be weighed.

 

“It depends on the nature of the business,” says Jason Dean, Assistant Professor of Economics at King’s University College at Western, who also teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University, and notes that maximizing profits is the key focus of any business. “Any economist would tell you that profit is good in the sense it ensures as a society that our scarce resources are used efficiently, so without profit, we would not have that.”

 

However, Jason says increasing wages can be done in a way that it can boost the bottom line of a business.

 

“In principle, if you do it right, it can be a benefit to business,” he says.

 

Sabrina McGregor, Branch Manager, YNCU in Cambridge, agrees.

 

“By providing a living a wage, we’re helping reduce stress as many have struggled with increased costs,” she says. “Our employees are very important to us; we want to make sure they have the tools to thrive inside and outside of work.”

 

YNCU is one of about a dozen businesses in Cambridge that are certified with the Ontario Living Wage Network, which charges annually between $100 to $1,000 depending on the size of the private sector business. (Lower rates apply for public sector businesses and non-profits).

 

“We want all of our workers to feel empowered by their employer so they can flourish in our communities,” says Sabrina, noting taking this step helps improve health and morale within the workplace.

 

Stephanie Soulis, founder, and CEO of Little Mushroom Catering, which has provided a living wage to employees since 2017, says it’s something that has always fit nicely within her business plan.

 

“When we started out, we knew we wanted to be a socially responsible business in that paying a living wage makes sense. It fits our culture,” she says, adding she does understand why businesses with many part time workers would find it hard to justify an hourly rate of $19.95. “But I’m also one of those businesses. I have a lot of 18-year-olds who work for me and are living at home with their parents, and they still need to pay car insurance and try to save up money so they can move out.”

 

Sabrina says the minimum wage is not a living wage and providing one can help companies save on things like vacant positions, training, and recruitment.

 

“It should be helping with things like retention and talent attraction. We’d like to think it does but there is definitely a labour war going on,” says Stephanie, noting more restaurants and event companies are now paying higher wages. “In the last four or five months we’ve noticed a big shift. But even with the minimum wage being $15.50 and living wage now $19.95, there’s still that middle ground where other restaurants and event companies are going to pay a bit more than minimum wage – say around $17 – so we still have a bit of that leading edge advantage.”

 

As well as attracting more talent, she says being part of a growing network of businesses has resulted in her company being sought ought by others, both in and outside of the network.

 

“We have many companies, especially non-profits, who want to work with us because we are a living wage employer. It’s not just for talent attraction, but client attraction as well,” she says, adding that education is key before any business decides to become a certified living wage employer. “It’s about weighing the pros and the cons.”

 

 

Breaking it down

 

What is a living wage?

 

“There is no universal definition. It is essentially a poverty line with specific characteristics,” says Jason. “Generally, a living wage is the hourly wage that reflects what people would need to earn to cover the actual costs of living in their particular area. A popular definition: A living wage is a socially acceptable level of income that provides adequate coverage for necessities such as food, shelter, child services, and healthcare. The living wage standard allows for no more than 30% to be spent on rent or a mortgage and is sufficiently higher than the poverty level.”

 

Why are businesses hesitant about offering a living wage?

 

“Businesses exist solely to make profit. Which can be a good thing as this is good for society as a whole because it ensures our scarce resources (labour, land, natural resources etc.) are used efficiently which is translates into a higher standard of living,” says Jason. “Many business owners do not believe their goal is to alleviate poverty and would suggest that this is the role of the government. Moreover, most businesses that pay a non-living wage (such as the minimum wage) have narrow margins and probably would not be able to pay a living wage even if they wanted to.”

 

Can increasing the minimum wage to a living wage help alleviate poverty?

 

“Likely not,” says Jason. “It is also important to point out the following statistics from a Fraser Institute Study: 8.8% of all workers earn the minimum wage; 92.3% of minimum wage earners live in households that are above the LICO (Low Income Cutoff); most minimum wage workers are not primary breadwinners: and 53% of all minimum wage workers are between the ages of 15 and 24.”

 

What advice can you offer businesses who are considering about taking this step?

 

“It can be profitable to pay higher wages in an effort to boost productivity and reduce turnover,” says Jason. “Efficiency wages: refer to employers paying higher than the minimum wage to retain skilled workers, increase productivity, or ensure loyalty.”

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The weather may be colder, but things are heating up fast when it comes to the winter tourism season in Waterloo Region.

 

In fact, tourism spending in Canada in general is expected to recover quicker than anticipated according to Destination Canada’s latest tourism outlook which is predicting a return to 2019 levels by 2024, up from 2025 as predicted last spring. As well, the report indicates Canada’s tourism sector could generate more than $142 billion by 2030 which represents a 35% growth over the next decade.

 

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Explore Waterloo Region CEO Michele Saran, noting that domestic travel has recovered much quicker than international visits.

 

“When you’re talking about Waterloo Region, keeping in mind we receive 96% of our visitations from the GTA, we expect to be fully recovered here to 2019 levels by 2023,” she says. “In fact, we’re almost there now.”

 

Michele credits this local rebound not only on a growing pent-up demand for travel opportunities following pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, but the fact the region has so much to offer.

 

“When you talk about the winter season, in Waterloo Region we always do quite well,” she says. “Interestingly, I’ve never seen a destination that doesn’t take a hit at this time of year except for us, and Christmas really seems to be our ‘thing’.”

 

Michele credits the numerous holiday festivals and activities for providing a major boost to our local tourism and hospitality sector, including Cambridge’s ‘Winterfest’ which offers numerous events and displays until the end of the month, Kitchener’s recent ‘Christkindl Market’ and KWFamous ‘Holiday Pop-Shoppe’, as well as Bingemans’ ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and ‘Gift of Lights’ events.

 

“Everybody (tourism operators) seems very positive about this season,” she says. “And we’ve been doing our Road Trip campaign for the last few months on social media, and we’ve been talking about winter and amplifying all the fabulous things you can do within an easy drive of our target market.”

 

Besides Christmas activities, Michele says Waterloo Region is loaded with a variety of winter attractions such as Chicopee which should be welcoming skiers and tubers soon, as well Shades Mills Conservation Area in Cambridge for walking and cross-country skiing.

 

As well, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada has once again started its plant tours, which provide an inside look at its Cambridge facility via a motorized tram.

 

“Also, St. Jacobs and Elmira are always beautiful and magical places to visit in the winter,” she says, adding Explore Waterloo Region has been encouraging people to utilize the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit. 

 

The credit, which expires at the end of the month, allows Ontario residents to claim 20% of their eligible 2022 accommodation (cottage, hotel, or campground) expenses up to $1,000 as an individual or $2,000 if you spouse, common-law partner, or children, to get back up to $200 as an individual or $400 as a family.

 

“We’re actually lobbying as an industry to keep the tax credit in place for next year as well,” says Michele. “As you know, we were the first industry hit and the hardest hit and the last to recover, so we would love to keep this value added as part of our marketing arsenal.”

 

In terms of any potential threat from what has been dubbed as the ‘tripledemic’ (Flu, RSV and COVID-19), she remains optimistic that local tourism operators are prepared.

 

“I think everyone in the tourism industry is really good at listening to public health recommendations, and because our industry was the first hit, we’ve had to create all different types of scenarios about how to open safely and serve the public,” says Michele. “We’ve become really good at it and have a lot of practice.”

 

Visit Explore Waterloo Region to learn more.

 

A few things to check out:

  • Cambridge Winterfest – runs until Dec. 31 and features light installations and a variety of events in all three downtown cores.
  • Bingemans - Jingle Bell Rock, runs until Jan. 7 and outdoor light displays, surrounding a 40-foot dancing tree illumination. Gift of Lights runs until Dec. 31. Drive through holiday light display featuring over 300 animated and static light displays.
  • KWFamous Holiday Pop-Shoppe - Until Dec. 30 featuring more than 80 local makers and creators taking part at shop located across from Kitchener City Hall.
  • Jakobstettel – Celebrates 170 Years of St. Jacobs, featuring a series of events until Dec. 18.
  • The City of Waterloo hosts  Winterloo on Jan 28, 2023
  • Toyota Plant Tour – a 90-minute tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada’s Cambridge facility. Tours currently run Monday to Wednesday.
  • Chicopee 

 

*  With files from the Toronto Star    

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The City of Cambridge’s holiday season is packed with an array of unforgettable sights and lights thanks to Winterfest.

 

Previously known as ‘Christmas in Cambridge’, the festival – which runs until Dec. 31 - offers a wide range of activities and events to entice people to visit the downtown cores of Galt, Preston and Hespeler, providing a valuable opportunity to check out local businesses.

 

“The festival takes place in all three downtown cores which brings prosperity to all three,” says Leanne Bond, Recreation Co-ordinator, Special Events for the City of Cambridge.

 

She says many of businesses are extending their hours to ensure festivalgoers get the chance to check out what the downtown cores have to offer.

 

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher says the festival is a great opportunity for businesses to showcase themselves.

 

“More important than ever before because it’s so easy and convenient to online shop that we need to encourage people to remember they have small businesses in their communities that help build a strong economy locally and employ their friends and family,” he says. “It’s important to do what we can to support the small businesses in our community.”

 

Greg says support is especially needed since the holiday season is the most important time of the year for small businesses.

 

“Having an event like Winterfest gets people out and about, and maybe opens their eyes to opportunities where they can help a business and themselves by finding that special gift. It just makes good common sense,” he says.

 

The fun kicked off Friday night (Nov. 25) when hundreds of people took part in the annual Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night walking tour, which began with an official ‘countdown’ at City Hall followed by a leisurely stroll through Galt’s core to enjoy more than 30 light installations accompanied by the American composer’s music.

 

“We used to have it (Unsilent Night) on a Thursday night leading into our Cambridge Christmas Market, so it was two events in one,” says Leanne, noting Unsilent Night has grown exponentially so having it to kick off the month-long schedule of events made sense. Also, she says of the 37 cities hosting this event Cambridge was the only city in Canada selected.

 

“There’s some pretty good kudos with that,” says Leanne, noting the festival has been named for the past three years as one of the top 100 festivals by Festivals and Events Ontario. “We’ve really been adapting, pivoting and changing and making some big differences to the City of Cambridge and are really proud of that.”

 

Throughout the pandemic, the City of Cambridge turned to hybrid and outdoor pop-up holiday events, including the successful Winter Illumination display which saw a variety of light exhibits placed around the community, including a giant heart outside the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce office on Hespeler Road.

 

“We’re really proud of the fact we kept everything moving forward as best as we possibly could,” says Leanne, adding having an array of sponsors and community partners, including the Chamber, has been vital for the success of Winterfest. “We really couldn’t do this festival without them.”

 

Winterfest at a glance:

 

CP Holiday Train preshow (Wednesday, Nov. 30) – Starts at 3 p.m. at Malcolm Street Train Station. This event raises support for the Cambridge Food Bank.

 

Preston – Winter Ice and Lights features light displays all month in Central Park, plus a pop-up concert Thursday, Dec. 8 starting at 7 p.m.

 

Galt – Cambridge Christmas Market will feature the work of more than 60 local artisans and crafters, plus a range of live entertainment at City Hall Civic Square both days starting at noon. It takes place the weekend of Dec. 10-11 at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts and David Durward Centre.

 

Hespeler – Music and Lights in the Village takes place Friday, Dec. 2 at Town Hall, and the Idea Exchange starting at 7 p.m. and features a variety of holiday lights, tree lighting, musical entertainment, crafts, and food. (The event coincides with the village’s annual Santa Claus Parade on Saturday, Dec. 3 starting a noon.)

 

New Year’s Eve Party – Winterfest wraps up Dec. 31 by ringing in the New Year with a family skate at the Hespeler Arena from 4-8 p.m. The fun will include entertainment, games, an inflatable obstacle course and concession stand snacks.

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