Every modern business, regardless of industry, size, or mission, wrestles with the same looming question: how do we attract and retain talent?

One area that may go overlooked is a city’s “desirability,” both as a home and as a destination. Where better than Vancouver, nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, to host a discussion on that very question? Last week, Weber Shandwick, in partnership with Tourism Vancouver and SAP Labs Canada, hosted a panel roundtable on how tourism can serve as an engine for growth in the city.

The panel – made up of Ty Speer, President and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, Kirsten Sutton, VP and Managing Director of SAP Labs Canada, and Zuleika Sgro, VP People at Saje Natural Wellness – held a candid exchange on the strengths and challenges that local businesses face when attracting and retaining talent in Vancouver. Sharing their own perspectives, the panel explored what makes Vancouver an attractive global destination and spoke to how this reputation helps generate global investment and attract new residents and talent.

Ty Speer described how Tourism Vancouver seeks to build those connections. “We want to find harmony between our residents and our visitors. We want to make this a better place to live and work and play.”

The huge influx of visitors the city receives every year has proven to be invaluable for organizations such as Saje Natural Wellness. Zuleika Sgro beams with pride when talking about Saje’s roots in Vancouver. “Being an international destination, our products are experienced by people from all over the world,” she said. “It’s critical to be known as a Vancouver business. It’s how we grow. It’s what we lead with when we talk about our business.”

Kirsten Sutton agrees when she noted that “people have incredible loyalty to the industry here. As long as people stay and don’t go looking for work elsewhere, it helps everyone.”

The city does, however, face a number of challenges in the years ahead. Speer notes that by next summer, Vancouver will have more visitors than hotel rooms to meet the demand. “Talk to any large business and they will say they don’t do meetings in Vancouver in the summer because it’s too expensive,” he said.

Speer admits that infrastructure is a challenge economically. But that didn’t stop Vancouver from attracting 33 citywide conventions, according to BC Investment — a record the city will easily surpass in 2019. Similarly, as cruise ship traffic increases, the Port Authority plans to overhaul the port at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver while scouting other options for a secondary port along the Fraser River.

While Vancouver continues to experience unprecedented visitor growth, many stories of our city and communities remain untold. “There’s an incredible amount of talent and entrepreneurs in this city, said Sgro. “People across the world should know about that.” Sutton agreed: “We don’t talk enough about how scrappy and resourceful people are. In British Columbia alone there are 200 First Nations. It’s so diverse and people have been so resourceful here for generations.” Speer recounted a story that summarizes this sentiment perfectly; at a function, the question was raised as to whether Vancouverites were tolerant, and to Speer’s surprise, someone said, “We don’t tolerate here — we include.”

That notion of inclusion will have to extend to all aspects of Vancouver’s future plans. It’s vital that tourism, industry, and infrastructure work in tandem to entice continued investment and visitor growth. These systems are interconnected and rely upon each other to ensure the sustained growth and innovation that the city has come to be known for. And if we continue to invest in Vancouver’s desirability as an international travel destination, it will be Vancouverites who reap the rewards of continued investment and growth.


Weber Shandwick’s recent Civility in America study with Powell Tate and KRC Research found 93 per cent of Americans think there is a ‘major’ problem with civility in their country. And the future looks bleak to them, too: More than half of those questioned expect social norms in America to deteriorate even further in coming years.

We Canadians can think ourselves insulated from the worst elements of incivility experienced by our neighbours. But we may not be so different. There are signs uncivil behaviour is on the rise in Canada—in social life and at work—and we can no longer be complacent. Business leaders can help stem this tide by making workplaces a beacon of the values Canadians hold dear. Stepping up for civility in the office is not only the right thing to do, it makes business sense, too. Here’s what you can do about it.

Is Incivility on the Rise in Canada too?

Whether it’s the sneers of MPs, the voices on social media seeking to exploit our anxieties about the future, the ‘fake news’ targeting us online, or a distressing rise in cyberbullying among youth, we continue to see a wearing down of social discourse at home.

Speaking earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reaffirm our status as a country “…that understands respecting someone else’s fundamental rights in no way takes away from your own…”, encouraging Canadians to come together and “have real conversations…in a respectful way that doesn’t shut down or shut off people.”

Many Canadians identify civility as an important national value, alongside multiculturalism, openness, compassion and equality. So how do we, as Canadian marketers and business operators help combat its breakdown?

The Workplace: Beacon of Civility

One bright spot for civility is the workplace. Despite having a not-so-rosy outlook on social discourse across the country, nine in 10 Americans polled in the Civility in America survey nevertheless described their office as ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ civil.

As GM of Weber Shandwick’s Vancouver office, I’m responsible for growing and maintaining our culture and reputation. I firmly believe when our values are under attack, the work spaces we share become an important place to champion civil behaviour (we spend a third of our lives there, after all). Faced with declining social norms, Canadian leaders have a unique opportunity to help build and preserve a culture of civility in the office.

Here are four ways business and HR leaders can make that happen:

  1. Organizational Values

Making civility the foundation of a culture that prioritizes respectful collaboration with peers and clients will help people understand what’s expected of them. It will also encourage employees to take responsibility for the co-creation of an organizational culture that values and promotes civil discourse.

  1. Employee Code of Conduct

Almost all organizations communicate to their employees the type of positive workplace culture they want to create. To go one step further, onboarding sessions and materials can include clear and unequivocal guidance as to the level of civility expected at work. Consider including a measurable and time-sensitive contribution towards creating that culture in employee assessment goals. 

  1. Forums for Debate & Discussion

It’s crucial to create a positive and inclusive space for discussion of civility and workplace norms, and to make time for those discussions to happen. Set the meetings, invite experts and speakers from outside the organization if possible, and make this compulsory time to reflect on and discuss the importance of a civil workplace culture for all employees. 

  1. DEI Committee

Establishing a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) committee is another indispensable part of creating a positive and inclusive space and wider culture of civility. Doing so holds the organization accountable to its goals and engages the broader workplace community to participate in the key parts of DEI strategy that reflect their needs and expectations.

Civility and Reputation

Why make civility a priority? Here’s another important reason: Disregard for social norms in workplace culture can profoundly affect reputation. Simply put, your brand as an employer is your public brand. And research tells us that corporate reputation still drives market value by up to 60 per cent.

An organization can work for years to create its story, only to lose control of its narrative when bad behaviour tests a culture of professionalism. Heightened sensitivity to sliding social norms in the workplace has prompted organizations—and entire industries—to overhaul their cultures to ensure survival. And while metrics are set, and met, we would do well to remember that protection and maintenance of reputation is a long-term, and an ongoing, project. There’s no magic pill, no silver bullet. The most effective strategy remains proactive management of risk as a best practice, within a culture of civility and preparedness designed to anticipate, prevent and diffuse negative issues.

“Civility costs nothing, and buys us everything.” The poet Mary Wortley Montagu’s words, written more than 250 years ago, still ring true. Worsening incivility on either side of the border creates considerable challenges for our business and that of our clients. Let’s strive to make our workplaces better prepared to weather the storm, by building and growing cultures that cause our shared values and respect for each other to resonate throughout our workplaces and shine in our work.

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