Sylvie Mastellone of Fruv Freedomwear didn't know she'd been chosen as one of Whistler's outstanding employees until an email congratulating her arrived in her inbox.
"It was a total surprise! Such a very nice thing to get," she said.
One of 45 Whistler employees nominated for the Whistler Chamber of Commerce's inaugural Spirit Story Campaign by her store manager Eliza Hardy, Mastellone has worked with the yogawear manufacturer and retailer in Marketplace Whistler for the past year.
The Spirit Story Campaign was initiated by the chamber for Employee Recognition Week, April 1 to 7, inviting employers to nominate up to four members of staff as STAR employees and asking them to provide brief stories about why the staff stand apart. Twenty-seven companies participated. The stories and nominees can be seen on the Chamber's website: http://www.whistlerchamber.com/Spirit-Pass/Whistler-s-STAR-Employees.html
"Sylvie's such a fantastic employee. She's amazing with customers, with building a rapport with people. She connects with people very well and quickly, which is amazing," Hardy said.
Since the entire company's success hinges on retail, on selling products designed in Whistler and made in Vancouver, directly to the public, Hardy added that Mastellone's capabilities have been key to establishing Fruv Freedomwear, which is now two years old.
"If your staff is doing such a good job then it's very important that you recognize that, let them know how you do appreciate them," Hardy said.
Mastellone, who is from a small town in Provence, France, arrived in the resort four years ago. She says of her employer: "It's a really nice team, it has a family vibe, and I like the products we are selling."
Chantelle Boudreau, originally from Nova Scotia but in her second season in Whistler, was one of three employees nominated from Ski Butlers, the ski and snowboard rentals and delivery company.
Boudreau was picked out, according to her Spirit Story, for assisting clients who had arrived late on a Sunday in a snowstorm. After she left them, she discovered that the remainder of their party would likely be delayed because of an accident on the Sea to Sky Highway and went out of her way to inform them so they wouldn't worry.
"We take the rental shop to the accommodation and the idea is to make it an easy experience," she said.
"I guess I was surprised by the nomination, but Ski Butlers tries to go above and beyond itself so when my boss Karen points out good things I do I just think that's expected."
Fiona Famulak, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, said the Spirit Story program replaces an annual employee awards evening that had taken place for 20 years after losing American Express as a sponsor. Telus had picked up sponsorship of the gala event for several years, but the Chamber wanted to do things differently this time around.
"This year, we decided that in order to try and recognize a greater number of employees in a more public way, we would champion a social media and print media campaign that still allowed us to achieve recognition for employees, allowing us to open it up wider," Famulak said.
Each participating employer was asked to donate one prize per employee with a value of at least $25, which went into a prize pool, somewhat like a Secret Santa, ensuring that all nominees received a prize.
"We just wanted to make a big deal of our employees. The stories provide great examples of how the employees are operating in the resort," said Famulak.
"We want the resort as a whole to learn about what they do, because maybe those examples could be used in other businesses. We want other employers to learn from those experiences and maybe replicate it for themselves."
Famulak said making a big deal in recognizing the best employees was of key importance to Whistler.
"If the individual isn't being recognized for good and positive behaviour, then all the learning and review in the world isn't going to make a difference," she said.
"I'd want this to encourage everyone in the community. This isn't just a business piece, it can be enjoyed by the community at large, and I would encourage everyone to visit the Chamber's website to read the stories. Often people will know the nominees and it's great to celebrate them because they are worth it."
Arlene Keis, the CEO of program sponsor Go2, B.C.'s tourism human resource association, echoed Famulak:
"The success of our industry relies on skilled committed staff to deliver exceptional guest experiences," Keis said in a release.
"Ongoing recognition is key to maintaining employee morale and service levels; we are glad to see that the Whistler community has taken the initiative to acknowledge staff's hard work and, together, we celebrate their success."