From staff housing to employee recreation: How one BruceGreySimcoe resort is sharing the local lifestyle with their staff

Posted by Allison Davies | March 07, 2019
From staff housing to employee recreation: How one BruceGreySimcoe resort is sharing the local lifestyle with their staff
BruceGreySimcoe is an amazing place to visit but perhaps an even more amazing place to live, work and play. The management team at Living Water Resorts wants to make sure that staff get to fully enjoy those perks—including experiencing the community spirit of the region. In an era of growing workforce shortages, the career page on the Living Water Resort’s website offers prospective staff some great insight into the lifestyle opportunities that come with a career at the resort. We caught up with Matt Pearson, Director of Human Resources and Shane Bage, Marketing Manager, to learn more about their unique approach to recruiting.
 

Tell us a bit about the resort properties you manage?
Shane: Our 700 acre property has two hotels, Living Water Resort and Spa and Living Stone Golf Resort under the Living Water Resorts umbrella. We have a 19 hole golf course, full service spa, 3 restaurants, a marina and multiple conference space as well.
 
How many staff would you employ?
Matt: Across the resort there would be about 500 people.
 
In recent years, staffing has become an increasing problem for local businesses. What has been your experience?
Matt: In the hospitality sector, we are not unique. Our biggest challenge is that we obviously experience a significant amount of seasonal turnover. We continue to have some recruiting challenges in spring and again in the fall as we prepare for the busy summer and winter seasons. I don’t anticipate that’s ever going to go away, with all the competing properties in the area, it’s just the way it is. What’s really become the major piece, is that in those off season’s when you’d typically find an abundance of labour that surplus has dried up. What happens now is that our recruiting challenges in spring carry on, we don’t meet our summer needs then come fall it just sort of bleeds out. There’s been no time throughout the year that we’ve been able to fill those needs 100% reliably.
 
We know you’ve been doing some innovative things to try and improve recruitment like creating videos, offering accommodation, offering employee perks and discounts. Tell us about what your unique approach?
Matt: One of the things we’ve done to encourage people to want to apply here is to put the emphasis on who we are as a company and our culture. We’re not ignoring compensation and benefits but we want to lead with ‘what’s it like to work here and be part of our culture’. It’s more than just your hourly rate or your salary, it’s a little bit more than just standard benefits. The perks and privileges—the why Living Waters is such a unique place.
I’ve worked for other companies where you’re encouraged to take advantage of the amenities that are offered but, in reality, it’s for the guest first or it’s just for employees. The unique part about us is—let’s take our swimming pools, if you are an employee here you are encouraged to bring your family to swim in the pool. That’s at the heart of who we are as a culture, the services we offer to our guests, we turn around and offer those same amenities and services to our employees. And our employees are actively encouraged to take advantage of those things.
 
 Housing has also been a huge issue for workers and businesses. Tell us about the solutions you’ve tried?
Matt: We’re proud of the accommodation we have available for staff. It’s in a great location in walking distance to both properties. There’s a real variety there. If you are a university or college student and you’re used to that dorm experience, we mirror that. We also have something more on the private end for someone moving away from that. My best guess is that we have 65 to 70 employees in staff accommodation. It’s a good percentage of our seasonal workforce and it’s something that our owner, Larry Law, is looking to further expand. If we had more housing available, I believe we could fill our labour shortage with International applicants, but they need housing first.
 
 
Do you have any kind of career laddering in place for staff? Can students who work year after year expect to advance formally?
Matt: Yes, absolutely - you’ll notice right on webpage, the headline is careers. We have jobs but we pride ourselves in offering careers. For an entry level position, individuals with successful attendance and performance would have opportunities to move to team leader roles, from a team leader you can become a supervisor then an assistant manager, then a manager and then a director. One unique piece about the property is the time share/fractional time share component. We have great diversity in jobs and a large number of different departments to choose from. The variety we have allows people to find diversity in their careers here.

You also offer additional training opportunities for staff?
Shane: Yes, the HR team does a lot of programs to help build people’s skill sets too. And help them advance an opportunity in a career here that they’ve now found an interest in.
Matt: That training ties in with recruitment. Recruitment challenges and struggles are not going away and they’re not something we’re going to find a quick fix for. One of the things we’ve made a commitment to is developing from within. We want to make sure we’re offering training so that a supervisor or assistant manager can be promoted from within and can continue to build their resume here. Whether it’s our own internal leadership program or taking advantage of our educational assistance program where we basically pay for our full-time team members to take secondary or post-secondary courses so they can build their skills and be ready for the next level.
 
Also, I hear you have some pretty legendary staff social events?
Shane: We have some cool things that people look forward to each year that continue to help with team building. We have an annual staff golf tournament, our annual Amazing Race that’s been running for 7 or 8 years. It’s a race around the community with some of the partners that we work with and it’s a great teambuilding experience. Monthly team building excursions, like a short 2km walk on our local trail systems, Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing on property and more.  We have other outings like heading to Toronto Blue Jays games that help keep the lifestyle and the fun factor going.
 
Is there anything else unique about Living Waters you’d like to share?
Matt: Yes, just that the support from our owner and CEO, Larry Law, also defines us. The foundation of who we are is about building a caring and fun community and that extends outside of the workplace. If you look at why people are attracted to work for companies, there’s this notion of a greater purpose, beyond making money. For Living Water, it’s about giving back to the community, it’s about scholarships to Georgian College, it’s about community Christmas dinners for those less fortunate, it’s about sponsorships of the hospital. There’s a lot of giving back to the community. It’s certainly something that we hear back from our staff. We often hear that our community investment caught their eye and made them want to learn more about working here.
 
Thank you so much for your time. Where should people head if they want to learn more about working at Living Water Resorts?
Thanks for calling! They can head over to https://livingwaterresorts.com/careers/ for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
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