March 12, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Choosing the right employer 

There are businesses in Whistler you can’t work for, because their employees never want to leave

By Kara-Leah Grant

We’ve all worked for people who embody the Peter Principle, the theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.

Beyond the Peter Principle, there are employers who just don’t get it; employers who ignore the labour laws, abuse the staff, care only about the bottom line and lack compassion and integrity. Employees may recognize that they aren’t being treated fairly, that the boss is wrong, perhaps their rights are even being abused. But, confronting a bad employer and going to the labour board is a time-consuming stressful step – especially in the Whistler labour market. Our resort town is flush with a constant incoming tide of young Australians, Kiwis, English and Canadian workers, guaranteeing someone can fill your shoes tomorrow.

But employees are not powerless. There is something you can do, and all it takes is a little research. Before you commit your body, mind and soul to a new employer, find out if you really want to work for this person and this company.

That’s exactly what Laurie Cooper did before she accepted a position with the new Four Seasons, and what she discovered impressed her. Of the big hotels that crowd Whistler, the Four Seasons is the only Canadian company on the Fortune Magazine’s Top 100 companies to work for. The company gains much ink in publications around the world because of its treatment of employees.

Cooper has now been with the hotel for a couple of months, and she has discovered her initial research was correct and the articles had it right. "The other day, all I could hear was laughter bouncing around the building, all day long. Everybody wants to be here, everybody wants to have a good time," says Cooper. "It already feels like a family, even though we’ve just started here. I was very impressed when I realized the Four Seasons’ attitude is to treat all staff in the same manner as they treat guests. In fact, the company term for staff is ‘internal guests’."

The impressive employee experience at the Four Seasons is no accident, but a carefully cultivated corporate culture that started with the company’s founder and CEO, Isadore Sharp. It’s a culture maintained with precision hiring and careful training of new staff. Even a dishwasher goes through four or five interviews, the last one with the hotel’s general manager, to ensure that the company and the employee are a great fit. But that’s what’s different at the Four Seasons. There is no "just a dishwasher". Every employee is accorded the same value, and it’s a value reflected in company perks.

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