Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

High inflation, interest rates and housing costs continue to drive pessimism in Ontario’s economic outlook, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) eighth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER)

 

Despite this, many businesses surveyed remain confident in their own outlooks, with 53% expecting to grow in 2024.

 

“In spite of the fact there seems to be a mood of pessimism in the air, the reality of it is there seems to be more bright lights than there are dim lights,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “We’ve had years where business confidence and prospects of being confident are going to be over 60% but given where we are today, I think having around 50% of businesses confident they are going to have a good year and grow is a positive sign.”

 

However, he says that figure doesn’t minimize the economic issues facing businesses, including affordability and also notes the struggle to achieve necessary tax reform measures continues.

 

“We must also ensure there is a balance or equity in tax distribution from not only a cost perspective but also on deployment so when money is being handed out it’s being handed out appropriately,” says Greg.

 

The OER contains regional and sector-specific data on business confidence and growth, public policy priorities, regional forecasts, and timely business issues such as supply chains, employee well-being, diversity, equity and inclusion, economic reconciliation, and climate change.

 

The report, compiled from a survey of businesses provincewide conducted between Oct. 12 and Nov. 21 and received just under 1,900 responses, states that 13% of businesses are confident in Ontario’s economic outlook. That represents a 3% drop from last year and a 29% drop from the year before with the cost of living and inputs, inflation, and housing affordability as the key factors for the confidence decline.

 

The sector showing the most confidence was mining, with the least confidence being shown in the agriculture, non-profit and healthcare social assistance sectors. The most confident regions were Northeastern and Northwestern Ontario, both at 23%, and the least were Kitchener-Waterloo, Windsor-Sarnia, and Stratford-Bruce County. (The survey indicated these latter two regions had a high share of respondents in the non-profit and agriculture sectors compared to other regions).

 

“As the report suggests, businesses still need to grapple with economic headwinds and many of those headwinds are limiting their ability to invest in important issues within the workplace and that may well be part of the reason they are having difficulty hiring people,” says Greg. “That said, entrepreneurs are interesting individuals, and they always will find a way to wiggle themselves through the difficulties of the economy.”

 

He questions whether the pessimism around growth and confidence outlined in the survey is related to the economy or stems more from the fact many businesses are unable to hire the people they require so they can grow their business.

 

“There are lots of companies out there that need people and that’s always a good thing when you’re at a very low unemployment rate now which is hovering around the 5% rate,” says Greg, noting he receives calls and emails daily from local companies seeking workers. “As inflation starts to drop and as the Bank of Canada rates start to drop, I think we’ll see that pessimism go away.”

 

Read the report.

 

Outlook highlights: 

 

  • Small businesses are less confident (12%) than larger businesses (22%) due to challenges with repaying debt, fluctuations in consumer spending, inflationary pressures, and workforce-related challenges such as mental health.
  • Simplifying business taxes is identified as a major policy priority of 50% of surveyed businesses. 
  • Confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook varies considerably across industries and is lowest within the agriculture sector (3%), non-profit (8%), health care and social assistance (8%), and retail (10%) sectors. 
  • Confidence is highest in the province’s mining (46%) and utilities (27%) industries, both of which benefited from strong growth and investments in the province’s electrification infrastructure and electric vehicle supply chains. 
  • Businesses in Northeast and Northwest Ontario exhibit the highest confidence at 23%, where the mining industry is a major employer.
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The evolving nature of work continues to shape the employee landscape due to unprecedented changes driven by technological advancements, shifting societal expectations, and the aftermath of a global pandemic. As a result, organizations must adapt to emerging employee trends to foster a resilient and engaged workforce.

 

One way to accomplish this suggests Frank Newman, owner of Newman Human Resources Consulting, is to keep in touch with employees through engagement surveys.

 

“Listening to the pulse of your organization is going to be more important than ever,” he says. “Employers may also want to think about their work culture and in terms of what attracts people, and they want to make sure they are managing leadership effectively.”

 

Among the many trends employers must embrace is creating a more welcoming work environment, especially when it comes to Canada’s growing immigrant population.

 

More than 430,000 immigrants were brought to Canada in 2022 by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), with an additional target of 485,000 this year and a further 500,000 in 2025. IRCC data indicates in 2022, 184,725 of these new permanent residents came to Ontario.

 

“There is a large talent pool available, and employers have to be thoughtful in how they bring new talent into their organizations from our immigrant population,” says Frank. “The whole concept of diversity, inclusion, and equality is rising in terms of what’s important for companies and for individuals. If you’re not having that positive and diverse work culture, that’s going to hurt you in the long run.”

 

AI gaining importance

 

He says the introduction of AI tools, such as ChatGPT, Copy.ai and Kickresume, have not only benefitted Canada’s newcomer population by helping them become more proficient and fluid in the English language, but have become valuable assets for businesses as well.

 

“I think we are going to see more employers looking for people who have some AI experience,” says Frank. “Being able to say you can demonstrate use of those tools is a good thing for potential job candidates.”

 

However, there are potential downsides such as the creation of AI generated resumes and materials that can help a candidate embellish their qualifications.

 

“There are tools to test a document to see if it’s been AI written and you may now see many sophisticated employers doing just that,” he says. “They may also be thinking of asking a potential employee to provide writing samples.”

 

Managing performance key

 

Another trend is the emergence of ‘The Great Stay’ phenomenon, which experts say has been replacing the ‘Great Resignation’ experienced during the pandemic as employees re-evaluated their priorities and migrated to other opportunities.

 

“I’m not sensing The Great Stay too much in this region and am still sensing a fair bit of fluidity, but having people stay longer is always a good thing because it’s less costly,” says Frank, noting it can cost at least three times an employee’s salary to replace them considering the recruitment process, training, and upskilling. “Employers still have to focus on managing performance if people are going to stay longer and they have to invest in leadership and coaching if you want to maximize your investment.”

 

He notes employees may also be a little reluctant to move due to the ‘shakiness’ of the economy.

 

“I think employers may want to continue to monitor salaries which have stabilized quite a bit and want to make sure they are staying around that 3-4% annual change,” says Frank. “But I think in general, employers are cautiously optimistic about things going forward.”

 

 

Job Market Trends 

 

Hybrid Work Models

Employees now seek a balance between the flexibility of remote work and the collaboration offered by in-person interactions. Organizations that embrace hybrid models will likely attract and retain top talent, offering employees the autonomy to choose where and when they work.

 

Employee Well-being Takes Centre Stage

Organizations are placing a heightened focus on mental health, work-life balance, and holistic wellness programs. Employees value employers who prioritize their well-being, leading to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

 

Continuous Learning and Development

With the rapid pace of technological advancements, the demand for upskilling and reskilling is on the rise. Employees expect continuous learning opportunities to stay relevant in their roles and advance their careers. Forward-thinking organizations invest in robust training programs and partnerships with educational institutions to foster a culture of continuous development.

 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Employees prioritize working for organizations that are committed to fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces. Companies that actively address and rectify disparities in hiring, promotions, and pay will not only attract diverse talent but also create a more innovative and collaborative work environment.

 

Emphasis on Employee Experience

Employee experience encompasses the overall journey of an employee within an organization. Companies are investing in enhancing the employee experience, from onboarding to offboarding. Personalized employee experiences, feedback mechanisms, and inclusive company cultures contribute to higher employee satisfaction and retention rates.

 

Remote Employee Engagement

With remote work becoming a staple, maintaining employee engagement is a challenge for many organizations. Companies are leveraging technology to create virtual team-building activities, foster communication, and build a strong remote work culture. Employee engagement tools and platforms play a crucial role in keeping teams connected and motivated.

 

Job Search and Career Success Hinge on Ethics

Employers are still looking for candidates who create undeniable value, not just put in clocked times, who have above-average communication skills, have a strong work ethic, will be reliable, possess the ability to think critically and above all, will fit their culture. Regardless of the uncertainty ahead, the key to creating job search luck will be the same as it has always been: preparation of hard work. 

 

 ‘The Great Stay’

The current global economic situation, the state of China and other major economies, as well as the ongoing geopolitical conflicts will see recession talk intensify, leading companies to focus on vital roles and hold off on hiring for roles that aren’t ‘must-haves’. Taking these factors into consideration, the next year it will be ‘The Great Stay’ as opposed to the ‘Great Resignation’ when many people switched jobs/careers during the pandemic.

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In the fast-paced world of business, the success of any organization hinges on the quality of its workforce. Hiring mistakes can be both expensive and detrimental to a company's growth and stability, especially in this changing job market which is now seeing an influx of potential candidates in certain fields.

 

“I really do feel that the market over the last year has softened,” says Lisa Marino, Senior Recruitment Specialist with H2R Business Solutions, noting there are always a handful of roles that are specialized resulting in fewer available candidates.

 

Her colleague Sue Benoit, Head of Recruitment Services at H2R Business Solutions, agrees.

 

“On the trades side there still is a labour shortage, especially since those types of roles are really hard to fill,” she says. “But if you have an accounting or bookkeeping role to fill there’s 100 plus applicants.”

 

As a result, finding the right person to fill those types of positions means putting systems in place that can help you avoid potential pitfalls, such as taking too long to decide on a potential hire which is a common mistake many employers make, says Sue.

 

“If they’re taking too long in the decision or interview process, they can lose that great candidate who might have been hard to find in the first place,” she says. “Then it it’s a matter of having to start over a lot of the time because employers are not going to just settle, necessarily.” 

 

As well doing their due diligence regarding reference checking, her colleague suggests making a select group of others in the company part of the hiring process.

 

“Bring in one or two other people from the company into the process rather than letting the hiring manager do it all because somebody from another department may be instrumental helping you gain a different perspective of the candidate,” says Lisa, adding incorporating some of type of skills testing during that process, depending on the level of the role, can also be helpful. “It can give some insight of how a candidate thinks.”

 

She also says once a candidate has been hired, an employer should be diligent when it comes to monitoring the performance of that person during their 90-day probationary period and watch for potential ‘flags’. These can include absences, struggling to meet deadlines, or an overall disconnect with their new workplace or colleagues.

 

“Hopefully, the recruiter is good enough to catch some of those flags in our pre-screen conversations,” says Sue. “How interested are they in the organization? Have they done any research? Employers really want someone who is truly interested in what they’re doing.”

 

 

Tips for avoiding hiring mistakes

 

Define Clear Job Requirements

Before posting a job opening, employers should thoroughly analyze and document the skills, qualifications, and experience necessary for the role. This not only ensures that candidates are well-informed but also assists in filtering applicants more effectively.

 

Create a Comprehensive Recruitment Strategy

Develop a well-thought-out recruitment strategy that includes a timeline, sourcing channels, and a structured interview process. By outlining the steps from job posting to offer, employers can maintain control and consistency throughout the hiring journey.

 

Leverage Technology

The use of technology can significantly streamline the hiring process, from applicant tracking systems (ATS) to video interviews. These tools help in organizing candidate information, assessing qualifications, and conducting efficient interviews. 

 

Thoroughly Assess Cultural Fit

A candidate might have an impressive resume, but if they don't align with the company culture, it can lead to a discordant team dynamic. Incorporate questions and assessments during interviews that delve into a candidate's values, work style, and how well they would integrate into the existing team.

 

Conduct Behavioural Interviews

Conducting behavioral interviews allows employers to gain insights into how candidates handled situations in their previous roles. This approach provides a more realistic preview of a candidate's capabilities.

 

Check References Thoroughly

Reach out to previous employers, colleagues, and supervisors to gain a comprehensive understanding of the candidate's work ethic, reliability, and interpersonal skills. A candidate's performance history can reveal valuable information that might not be apparent during interviews.

 

Utilize Probationary Periods

Implementing probationary periods for new hires allows both the employer and the employee to assess the fit within the organization. This trial period provides an opportunity to evaluate job performance, integration into the team, and adherence to company values before making a long-term commitment.

 

Invest in Continuous Training for Hiring Managers

If possible, equip hiring managers with the skills necessary to conduct effective interviews, assess candidates accurately, and make informed decisions. Continuous training on fair hiring practices, diversity, and inclusion can help mitigate biases and enhance the overall quality of hiring decisions.

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Effective leadership communication is the cornerstone of any successful business or organization.

 

A leader's ability to convey their vision, build trust, and inspire others can determine the difference between an average outcome and an extraordinary one.

 

But to arrive at that point requires the ability to be a good listener.

 

“There’s a lot of people that listen but they don’t hear,” says career consultant and corporate soft skills trainer Murray Comber of Life Concepts. “You cannot be a good communicator unless you are a good listener. It’s all about understanding yourself and understanding others.”

 

Since 2001 he has trained more than 8,000 people, noting that many in the workplace don’t realize becoming a better communicator is a very learnable skill.

 

“It’s all about the pattern of human dynamics,” says Murray, adding that boards of education or even in families, do not teach people how they are hard wired. “I teach my clients that. I always say to them you need to know who you are, and you need to know who you are not.”

 

He says at least 71% of companies that fail do so because the leader didn’t understand who they were and who their employees were.


“Good communication is based on a relationship. You don’t communicate with people you don’t relate with,” says Murray, who regularly uses personality and temperament studies to determine a course of action for his clients. “Unless you know how to relate to a person, it’s going nowhere.”

 

He admits this type of soft skills training is often considered ‘fluff’ and is usually one of the first things cut from the budget or put on the backburner when economic times get tough.

 

“The truth is when things are going south, that’s when they should be put on the front-burner,” says Murray. “Training shouldn’t be seen as an expense but as an investment.”

 

In terms of advice for business leaders looking to take their first step at becoming better communicators, he says there must be a willingness to learn and connect with employees not just as a manager with subordinates. 

 

“What I’ve learned is that there is more emphasis put on product knowledge than there is people’s knowledge,” says Murray. “When you respond to what you’ve heard and have listened, you build trust with your employees and good communication is built on trust.”

 

 

To lead effectively, one must be a skilled communicator who can inspire, guide, and unite a team. A few things to consider:

 

  • Active Listening: Leaders must pay close attention to what others are saying, not just with their ears, but also with their eyes and heart. By showing genuine interest and empathy, leaders can better understand their team's needs and concerns, creating a foundation of trust and respect.
  • Clarity and Conciseness: Leaders must articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. Avoiding jargon and complex language ensures that the message is easily understood by all team members. A clear message prevents confusion and promotes alignment with the leader's vision.
  • Empathy: Leaders who demonstrate empathy can connect on a deeper level with their team members, making them feel valued and understood. This skill helps resolve conflicts, build trust, and foster a positive work environment.
  • Adaptability: Effective leaders are versatile in their communication style. Whether it's a one-on-one conversation, a team meeting, or a public presentation, adaptability ensures that the message resonates with its intended audience.
  • Body Language: Leaders should be aware of their own body language and the signals they convey. Maintaining open and approachable body language encourages a sense of comfort and trust within the team.
  • Feedback and Constructive Criticism: Leaders need to provide feedback and constructive criticism in a manner that is supportive and motivating. Constructive feedback should focus on specific behaviors, offer solutions, and be delivered in a private and respectful setting.
  • Conflict Resolution: Leaders must be skilled in addressing and resolving conflicts, promoting a healthy and productive work environment. Effective communication is essential in facilitating conversations that lead to resolution and growth.
  • Storytelling: Leaders who can weave a narrative around their vision and goals are more likely to capture the hearts and minds of their team members. Storytelling is a powerful tool for making the message memorable and relatable.
  • Consistency: Leaders must align their words with their actions and decisions. When team members can rely on a leader's consistency, they feel secure and are more likely to follow their guidance.
  • Openness to Feedback: Leaders should be open to receiving feedback from their team members and actively seek it out. Constructive criticism can help leaders improve their communication and leadership skills.

 

By honing these skills, leaders can create a positive and productive work environment, foster strong relationships with their teams, and achieve success in their leadership roles.

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Our Chamber of Commerce over the years has not only learned how to pivot, but how to address the concerns, issues and needs of the small and medium-sized businesses in our community.

 

The events of the last few years have only strengthened our reason for being. We not only champion small and medium-sized businesses but are a source of information, guidance, and the most powerful connector there is.

 

We have now taken that connection to a new level thanks to ‘The Link’, a place where YOU, an SME business owner/manager can source solutions in a one-stop shop atmosphere. And since this is Small Business Week (Oct. 15-21), it's very important to always remember and celebrate the contributions SMEs make to our economy.

 

For the last seven months, our Chamber has undertaken this huge project (for us). To say we’re excited is a dramatic understatement because for you, we’ve invested and created an exciting, inspirational space that will not only knock your socks off but provide a place where you can share your troubles and find connections to help you navigate those issues that sometimes surface for every business.

 

At The Link you can source HR solutions, legal forms and information, access grant writing, and discover business services of all types that help you streamline, or even eliminate operational costs, and yes, of course, we also have direct access to financial resources only for business.

 

Another aspect to this renovation project is the creation of additional meeting spaces. We can now offer two boardrooms, one that can seat more than 20 and the other between eight and 10, plus a more informal meeting space for five and a private soundproof meeting “pod” also for up to five people. As well, have casual conversation areas and provide a wonderful coffee service.

 

The Link is modern, accessible, and a great place to have a coffee and share conversation all contained in little over 2,220-square-feet of prime real estate at Highway 401 and Hespeler Road.

 

Along with this incredibly cool and unique space comes some unbeatable programming to help you and your team get onside, get ramped up, and get excited for what comes next.

 

Programming at The Link has already been released and space is very limited, so you need to get in early and make sure there is a seat for you. Our Program Manager, (Amrita Gill), is already developing new and different ways for us to connect with meaning, with passion, and as always, with inspiring ideas.

 

The doors opened Oct. 1 and we already have some committed entities ready to set up shop at The Link, but there may still be room for you and your organization. Do you serve only small and medium-sized business? If so, send me a note and maybe, if all the checkmarks are in place, we may just have a spot for you at The Link, but you need to hurry. Yes, there is a cost because we are not a “funded” organization and our support comes from our membership.

 

Speaking of membership, did you know the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has NOT increased its membership fees in more than 25 years? Talk about an inflation stopper, wow! That is what serving business means to us. We will always find ways to support you and now we are looking for your support to continue the work we do.

 

So please share your expertise with us and book a pod at The Link, or come in and get help from organizations and businesses that are here for you. Even better, drop in and enjoy a coffee, latte, cappuccino, espresso, or my personal favourite, a mochaccino. Hey, I might even buy you one. See you soon at The Link, 750 Hespeler Rd., the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

 

 

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There comes a time in the life of most businesses when its founder, or owner, decides it’s time to step away. In the case of family-owned businesses, it can be especially difficult and requires often frank conversations when it comes to creating a viable succession plan.

 

“You may assume the next generation is going to take over the business, but did you have that conversation with the children and does it algin with their vision? Is there alignment?” says Carlo Ciarmitario, Partner and Regions East Family Office Leader, KPMG Enterprise. “It really could get even more complicated with larger families with multiple family members where some are involved in the business, and some are not involved.”

 

According to a succession survey conducted by CFIB last year, at least 76% of Canadian business owners plan to exit their business within the decade resulting in over the transfer of $2 trillion worth of business assets changing hands during this period.

 

Couple this with the fact that only 1 in 10 (roughly 9%) have a formal succession plan in place to assist in the transition of the business and the economic landscape in Canada is in for major changes.

 

“Those discussions are tough discussions that not everybody wants to get involved with,” says Carlo, adding he spends at least 60-70% of his time in this area. “It’s really about the founder wanting to let go and they may not be ready to let go. For many of them, the business is part of their family, and they can’t fathom the idea that somehow they’re not going to be involved in the business going forward.”

 

However, he says having a communication framework is fundamental to all succession discussions and must involve everyone, including third generation family members if necessary.

 

“There can be a lot of emotions involved in that discussion,” says Carlo. “But I think people need to know that discussion has to happen.”

 

 

To assist, he offers the following information:

 

Q. Is having a clear succession planning something many SMEs often put on the backburner?

 

Founders may not be ready to let go. Many do not feel that the next generation is ready or even capable of running the business the way they have been operating the business.  Many of these owners started the business from the ground up and have been involved in every aspect of the operations: whether it’s relating to the hiring of staff, or the way the business operates, to working with the bank and investors on financing the operations and maintaining profitability. Things to consider:

 

  1. Succession requires a communication framework and strategy for all parties involved.  It’s not as simple as the founders of the business say they are going to retire and that the next generation steps in.  A plan needs to be put in place on how the transition will take place, who will be succeeding the founders and the timing of the transition.
  2. Many of the next generation family members are not prepared.  They do not understand their roles in the family business and the required accountabilities with accepting those roles.  This becomes even more challenging when certain members of the next generation are involved in the business while others are not involved.
  3. Lack of a common vision between the various parties.  The founders may have a particular family member in mind to succeed them.  However, their vision may not align with the next generation:  Does the next generation individual want to be the successor?  How do the other family members feel about the succession plan?  This could lead to a lot of difficult discussions and conflict around sensitive issues.
  4. The majority of the founder’s wealth may be tied up in the business. If they have insufficient assets outside of the business, they may be unwilling to let go as they are concerned that they will not be able to maintain the lifestyle they have been accustomed to.

 

Q.    What are the first few important steps towards creating a successful succession plan?

 

An estate freeze is a common succession planning tool but is part of the overall succession planning process. At a high level, an estate plan involves the founders freezing their current equity interest in the family business shares at today’s fair market value. 

This is typically followed by having a family trust, the beneficiaries of which would include the founders’ children subscribing for equity shares that will enable the future growth of the business to pass onto the next generation.  When structured properly, an estate freeze allows the founders to cap the taxes their estates will have to pay on death while transferring the future value of the business to the next generation. Things to consider:

 

  1. Does the next generation want to be part of the family business?  An outcome of these discussions may be that family should sell the business rather than keep the business in the family which often is a difficult pill to swallow for the founders of the business who may have always envisioned the business being passed down from generation to generation;
  2. If multiple children involved in the business, who should be the successor of the business?   These discussions will also involve how to deal with children who are not involved in the business.  Do each of the children get an equal share of the equity of the family business or does the future equity get allocated in a different proportion or do some children do not receive any equity in the business but are somehow compensated with other assets the family may have?;
  3. Does the next generation of family have the appropriate skills, both operational and leadership, to successfully continue the business?  If not, the family may decide to bring in an independent third party who has the right skills and experience to run the family business;
  4. How will future business and investment decisions be made?  Is the first-generation still making the key business decisions?  Or will decisions be made jointly by the first and second generation with the goal that over time the second generation of family will be making all key decisions;
  5. Families will need to have discussions around implementing a governance structure. This ranges from having a Family Council Structure where all family members, owners and non-owners are involved, to an Advisory Board where input from individuals who are not part of the business can provide input on strategy and direction but the family still has the final say on decisions; to a formal Board structure which may include the appointment of outside third parties to lead or participate on the Board.

 

Q. When is the right time to create a succession plan? Are there signs to watch for?

 

There is no real right time to start a succession plan.  Just as the business did not grow over night your succession plan won’t happen overnight.  The process evolves over time

A good idea is to begin the process five to seven years prior to either selling the business (if that is what the family decides) or from the founder retiring/stepping back from day-to-day operations.  This will allow for enough time to affect a proper transition of the business or get it ready for a potential sale.

 

 

Q. Is creating a succession plan a difficult process?

 

The most difficult part is getting the conversation started as noted above.  The natural tendency is to avoid the conversation.  However, once the process gets started, most succession plans do have a positive outcome.  The key is getting everyone’s input and making the decision collectively.

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The following piece is one of several that appears in the special summer edition of  our INSIGHT Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.

 

As dignitaries gathered for the ground-breaking ceremony of Toyota Motor Corporation’s much anticipated Cambridge assembly plant on May 6, 1986, the Waterloo Record reported that four windsocks painted to look like fish hung outside the tent where officials had gathered.

 

Called ‘koinobori’ or carp streamer, Toyota Motor Corporation’s late president Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda explained the significance of the gesture, noting the fish is known as one that fights its way, even up a waterfall.

 

“The carp streamer is used as a symbol of vitality for parents who wish good health and strong development for their children,” he was quoted at the time. “We have hoisted the koinobori here in the hope that our company will grow to become a business appreciated and respected by everyone as a whole.”

 

Nearly 40 years later, it’s clear this ‘hope’ for success has manifested as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. continues to be a major industry and economic leader, and community partner for Cambridge and southwestern Ontario as a whole.

 

From the moment the first Corolla rolled off the assembly line at its Cambridge facility shortly before 10 a.m. on Nov. 30, 1988, the company has continually succeeded creating hundreds of new jobs over the years through the expansion of new product lines.

 

Cambridge was selected from over 40 municipalities in Canada for the plant and federal government incentives were a consideration. Former Cambridge MP Chris Speyer, quoted in an article in the Dec. 12, 1985, edition of the Cambridge Reporter announcing the news, said there were incentives in the contract to encourage Toyota to buy Canadian parts and that the provincial government would contribute $15 million over five years toward a program to train Ontario workers.

 

“I’m extraordinarily proud of our community that Toyota would choose us to locate such a major enterprise. This is the happiest day of my political career,” he told the Reporter, before describing the “tremendous positive impact” the plant would have on the local economy, noting the average salaries at that time would range from between $25,000 to $30,000.

 

“Just think of what that means to housing in our area, to shopping and small business as well as the spin-off effect by other industries locating within our area in order to service Toyota,” said Speyer.

 

The Cambridge plant was expected, in the beginning, to produce 50,000 cars a year with the capacity to reach 100,000 when market conditions permitted, providing work for 1,000 employees.

 

In a Reporter article published a year before the plant opened, it was reported that a progress report indicated it would provide 1,000 direct manufacturing jobs that would result in another 2,000 new jobs in the automotive and service industry.

 

To date, TMMC now employs more than 8,500 people across its three production lines in Cambridge and Woodstock. In Cambridge alone, its North and South plants encompass three million square feet on 400 acres located at the corner of Maple Grove Road and Fountain Street North.

 

The company, which has won numerous awards recognizing it as a ‘top employer’ and ‘greenest employer’, continues to thrive and evolve.

 

In August of last year, it marked a special anniversary when a red Lexus NX 350h hybrid electric luxury SUV, rolled off the line in Cambridge representing the 10th million vehicle produced by TMMC.

 

“Today’s milestone speaks to how far Toyota’s manufacturing operations in Canada have come over the past three decades,” said TMMC President Frank Voss in a press release at the time. “In 1988, the year we opened our first plant in Cambridge, our team members built 153 Toyota Corollas and it took over 11 years to produce our first 11 million vehicles. Today, we’re Canada’s largest automaker and leading maker of electrified vehicles, building half a million Toyota and Lexus vehicles for the North American market every year. Our world-class team members have been trusted to build some of the most popular vehicles in North America and that’s something we’re very proud of.”

 

 

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The following piece is one of several that appears in the special summer edition of  our INSIGHT Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.

 

When Adam Warnock left his native Scotland for Canada in the mid-19th century, eventually settling in Galt in 1835, he would forever change the economic future of this community.

 

Known as a ‘man of prominence’ throughout most of his adult life, Adam Warnock’s entrepreneurial drive led him down several paths, including forming a partnership with James Crombie in woolen mills they operated in Preston and Plattsville. The Preston mill, known as Geo. Pattinson Company, became one of the town’s largest employers and one of the largest woolen producers in Canada.

 

It also set the stage for the creation of the Galt Knitting Company, where Adam Warnock was one of eight men known as ‘The Syndicate’, which set up shop after purchasing the former Robinson and Howell textile mill on Water Street in downtown Galt.

 

The company grew to greater prominence when his two sons, James, and Charles, took over upon his death in 1902 and began manufacturing a variety of knitted underwear, and eiderdowns shoe linings. After James died at a young age, Charles remained in charge until 1930, at which point James’ son Edward took the reins.

 

He was at the helm during the Second World War when the Galt Knitting Company created underwear for Canadian soldiers producing annually 360,000 units of blended wool and cotton fleece underwear.

 

But following the war, the company faced closure in the early 1950s due to various market forces and went into voluntary receivership in 1954. At this time, James Adam Warnock, Edward’s son, joined the business after high school and upon graduating from Ridley College put a plan in motion to revive the company.

 

Salvaging three out of four knitting machines during the liquidation of the Galt Knitting Company, he began work on a new line of men’s cotton briefs and shirts after renting a third-floor space of a four-storey building and hiring a handful of employees.

 

The company, known now as the Tiger Brand Knitting Company, remained small but was became successful thanks to his use of machinery and insistence of maintaining low overhead. Even more success followed when Tiger Brand no longer relied on manufacturing winter underwear and moved into the T-shirt stream, fueled by a surge in the market.

 

As the newly amalgamated City of Cambridge was unveiled Tiger Brand remained an integrated garment maker by producing its own textiles and clothing. It created its own branded fashion line called Non-Fiction and had contracts with a variety of large retailers, including L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, Cotton Ginny, Nordstrom, and The Gap.

 

By the time Warnock opened a new factory in Pincher Creek, AB, in 1977, Tiger Brand Knitting remained a bonified success and its peak employed 1,450 people and generated approximately $80 million annually in sales.

 

The company opened a warehouse in Oakland, Calf., in 1979 to serve the San Francisco Bay area and expanded locally into the former Riverside Silk Mills plant on Melville Street South near Queen’s Square – home now to the University of Waterloo School of Architecture- as well as the former Sheldon’s Inc. on Grand Avenue in the early 1980s.

 

A strong proponent for his employees, James Adam, whose tough exterior wasn’t as tough as it seemed according to many, opened and subsidized ‘Tigger House’ – an employee care centre. As well, he encouraged many of his immigrant employees to become Canadian citizens and provided English as a second language courses at the company. He often hosted Citizenship Courts at the plant.

 

But he also maintained a strong interest in the community and supported many charities and projects, including financing and organizing the completion of the outdoor amphitheatre along the Grand River behind Galt Collegiate Institute.

 

Also, prior to Cambridge’s amalgamation in 1973, served as a Galt councillor from 1968 to 1972, and as a member of the local hydro-electric commission between 1972 to 1974, and the Waterloo Wellington Airport (now Region of Waterloo International Airport) commission. As well, James Adam was active in the Red Feather/United Way campaigns and fundraised for the local branch of the Canadian Red Cross.

 

By the late 1980s he had slowly passed the company ‘torch’ to his children and stepped away completely following a near fatal car crash in Egypt.

 

He passed away from a heart attack in September of 2006 while on holiday in St. Petersburg, Russia, a year after Tiger Brand Knitting sold its factory to a numbered company which closed the plant to source its branded clothing line in China.

 

The company had been in bankruptcy since the fall of 2004 and the closure left 300 people out of work, according to the United Steelworkers in a piece printed in the Globe and Mail in April 2005.

 

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Finding the right employees continues to be a challenge. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the global market research and consulting firm The Harris Poll, 75% of Canadian employers expect to have hiring challenges in 2023.

 

According to the survey, commissioned by Express Employment Professionals, the three biggest challenges they are most concerned about are being forced to hire less qualified candidates (31%), high employee turnover (30%), and overall labour shortages (29%).

 

Bradley Jenkins, who owns and operates the Express Employment Professionals office in Cambridge which connects job seekers and employers, says recruiting employees continues to be a struggle as the Canadian economy remains ‘soft’.

 

“Right now, the Canadian Staffing Index is at the lowest it’s ever been since January 2021,” he says, noting the cost of doing business in Canada remains high and expects economic levels won’t return to ‘normal’ until next summer.

 

As a result, Bradley says many of his clients are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes hiring employees.

 

“Certain jobs aren’t there like they once were. Employers are being more guarded,” he says, noting industrial unskilled and semi-skilled positions, once the staple of the staffing industry in Ontario, are no longer as bountiful, due in part to automation.

 

But for businesses in need of employees, Bradley stresses the need for developing a solid recruitment plan, other than just using an online job site which could result in hundreds of potential candidates applying.

 

“Who do have you in your organization that is trained and skilled at screening and can conduct interviews so you can have a quick turnaround and have a qualified candidate in place in a matter of weeks?” he says. “How much time can you spend going through those candidates, while you’re not spending time running your business?”

 

As a company that works with mostly medium to small-sized companies, Bradley says the majority don’t have a dedicated job recruiter and often rely on someone in human resources to do the job which also presents problems.

 

“Hiring is hard work,” he says. “Good people are always going to be hard to find and that isn’t going to change.”

 

Bradley says once that right employee is found, he recommends an employer discover what is the key motivation of that worker.

 

“An employer must understand what motivates each team member and each team member is unique,” he says. “Having that understanding will keep your employee engaged and if they’re engaged, they’re performing.”

 

 

Recruiting top talent can be challenging in today's competitive job market. Employers need effective strategies to attract the right candidates who align with their organization. We reached out to Alliance Consulting Canada in Cambridge who provided these tips to help employers overcome recruitment hurdles and successfully recruit potential employees.

 

Cultivate an Irresistible Employer Brand:

Define and articulate your company's unique selling points, values, and mission. Showcase your positive company culture and share authentic employee testimonials. By building a compelling employer brand, you'll attract candidates who are genuinely enthusiastic about joining your team.

 

Diversify Recruitment Strategies:

Leverage digital platforms, social media, industry forums, and partnerships with educational institutions. Employee referral programs can also be highly effective. By exploring multiple channels, you increase your chances of finding the perfect fit for your organization.

 

Optimize the Candidate Experience:

Streamline your hiring process, simplify applications, and communicate promptly and proactively. A positive candidate experience enhances your employer reputation and attracts top talent.

 

Conclusion:

By focusing on building an irresistible employer brand, diversifying recruitment strategies, and optimizing the candidate experience, employers can overcome recruitment challenges and attract the right talent. These strategies will contribute to the long-term success and growth of your organization.

 

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Labour shortages remain the persistent challenge for both the corporate sector as well as small business owners who insist the lack of skilled and unskilled workers is the biggest impediment to increasing sales.

 

These shortages are expected to get worse as baby boomers retire, despite the fact the participation rate in the labour market appears to be higher. According to an analysis piece last month in the Globe & Mail, as of February, that participation rate – the proportion of the population 15 or older that is working or looking for a job – was 65.7% which is the same as it was in April 2018.

 

But when it comes to finding people to take on leadership roles, the outlook is much more positive, says leadership coach and expert Julie Dupont, Principal Strategist and Owner of Cambridge-based Reimagine Leadership.

 

“Filling leadership roles hasn’t been a struggle as much as trying to fill the technical or skilled talent roles,” she said. “People are usually happy to step up into a higher pay cheque.”

 

However, with that promotion also comes immense responsibilities which Julie says not all people are able to handle.


“Being a leader requires a different set of skills and mindset,” she says, noting some organizations often struggle to get the right people to fill the right roles. “And when they have them, there’s always this fear they are going to leave.”

 

To mitigate that fear, Julie says personal development is imperative and investing in leadership training will benefit the organization.

 

“You want to spend the money where it counts and that is on your people right now because they need to see there is a future for them,” she says.  “Leadership skills are an investment in long-term success. If an organization makes you feel unvalued, it hurts.”

 

Among the most important skills are the ones centred around emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

 

“These skills are so crucial right now because people need to understand themselves and discover what their triggers are and if they’re going to be resilient,” says Julie. “They need to be able to figure out if what they do works, or if what they do gets in the way of them being successful.”

 

She says an employee can be great at the technical side of their job, but as a leader may not be much of a ‘people person’ and will struggle.

 

“It’s about creating that employee-centred approach and is about valuing each and every person in your care,” says Julie, noting that mindset shift can be very difficult for many people but that times are changing. “We are moving slowly in that direction but it’s a big ship and doesn’t turn on a dime.”

 

In terms of making that change, she says identifying your strengths as a leader is key and reiterates the value of training to create a foundation to help leaders succeed.

 

“When people feel a little more positive in their abilities, they’re likely to give themselves the grace of making better decisions,” says Julie.

 

Five skills to developing good leaders:

 

  • Communication: Great leaders must be great communicators. We need people who can learn when to listen, ask the right questions, and speak words of encouragement and motivation to their staff. These skills can be taught.
  • Accountability: Not only do we need to keep emerging leaders accountable we also need to teach them how to hold their team members accountable. Many emerging leaders have never been taught the skills necessary to manage staff and earn their respect.
  • Time management: Moving people up in our organizations without giving them the skills to manage all the projects, paper and people in a timely manner will lead to burnout or, worse, a broken home life.
  • Servitude: Great leaders serve their people by removing roadblocks to their staff’s success. We need to teach our leaders strategies to empower their people by supporting their efforts.
  • Mentorship: Great leaders mentor and coach their team members so they can be successful. This isn’t a skill that comes naturally for many people. It needs to be taught.

 

•    Source Troy Media

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