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Business development leaders address Whistler Chamber members on challenges



When it comes to productivity, Canadian businesses are known for not doing themselves any favours, and there are many reasons why.

Members of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce got the scoop from three leaders in business development about why less than stellar productivity levels seem to pervade company culture along with some tips to ensure they stay a cut above.

The message was welcomed by at least one local business: Ziptrek.

Liza Walli, director of human resources of Ziptrek Ecotours, said she was pleased the chamber arranges "these kinds of bite-sized learning opportunities for Whistler businesses to be exposed to topics that weigh in outside of our resort."

She said companies at the resort can feel insulated from the national realities.

"To be briefed on national productivity levels, recruiting market analysis and the impact of technological innovation and growth is welcome, particularly when the speakers are engaging, informed experts that have a connection to and understanding of the unique nature of resort living," Walli said.

"As a resort we clearly understand the need to establish service excellence and connections to our visitors to be the business or destination of choice, but I think productivity represents a significant opportunity for improvement."

Since Whistler has extreme seasonal peaks and valleys in business levels and a reliance on a transient workforce, it has an even tougher job in many ways than urban centres around productivity, she added.

 "I was pretty shocked to see that Canada clearly lagged around productivity metrics when compared to other nations... Add to that Go2's research on an aging workforce, and significantly reduced number of young workers entering the job market and it's easy to feel the pending push on Whistler's recruiting reality."

The September chamber luncheon had 58 attendees, all there to find out how poor output hits their business activity and, ultimately, their bottom line.

Michelle Osry, an associate partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP, talked productivity; Peter Larose, directory of Policy and Research at go2, discussed workforce development; and Mike McCarthy, vice president of Small and Medium Business BC at Telus, gave the technology angle.

Chamber president Fiona Famulak told the luncheon that in a competitive international market like Whistler's "setting ourselves apart from the competition is absolutely essential."

Since the resort's economy is grounded in tourism it, too, is fragile and susceptible to external challenges that cannot be controlled from the resort.

"We need to stay active in order to stay competitive," she added.

Osry picked up the topic, explaining information that Deloitte & Touche has gathered on how Canadian productivity, already low when compared to other OECD nations, has actually declined in the past decade. For productivity to consistently increase a company needs to be in a state of growth, investment and research and development. To assess productivity meant looking at the efforts of skilled workers and working in innovative ways.

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