Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 28, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why AGNORA Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2016):
- Agnora lets everyone share in the company's financial success through a profit-sharing plan
- Employees working at Agnora's head office can take advantage of an onsite fitness facility, complete with a basketball court, instructor-led classes such as circuit training, a yoga studio and an onsite "Wallyball" court, which can be used for volleyball and racquetball
- Agnora encourages ongoing employee development with generous tuition subsidies for job-related courses of up to $3,000
AGNORA offers best-in-glass health and well-being
There are any number of things James Cole loves about working at Collingwood, Ont.-based AGNORA, which fabricates the largest pieces of architectural glass in North America. And the company gym is one of them. He's been a regular since it opened in December, 2014. "We can use the gym whenever we want," says Cole, a Senior Project Manager. "I've lost 25 pounds since I started working out and I've never felt better."
He's been helped along by an on-site personal trainer, who doubles as a yoga instructor at lunch hour on Wednesdays, and can take advantage of a masseuse who visits twice a week. Along with the gym, there's AGNORA's volleyball court and company-organized tournaments to promote fitness and well-being.
"It sounds crazy, but it's phenomenal," says Cole. "The quality of the work environment is second to none."
And that is by design, says AGNORA President Richard Wilson, who founded the company in 2011 with his wife Laura. "Most people spend more time at work than they do with their families," says Wilson. "Our objective is to keep our employees happy. If they're healthy and happy they'll perform better and their personal lives will be more harmonious."
Wilson and his wife started with six employees, but the workforce has since grown to 66. A-list clients all over North America have installed AGNORA glass in their buildings. They include high-end retailers such as Dior, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana, the technology company Apple, as well as leading cultural institutions such as the Onassis Cultural Center on Fifth Avenue in New York, the Aspen Museum in Aspen, Colo. and the Art Institute of Chicago. AGNORA creates large-scale, custom pieces measuring up to 130 inches wide by 300 inches long, some of them nothing short of spectacular.
AGNORA has developed a sophisticated approach to hiring. As Wilson puts it: "We hire for fit and then train for the position." The heads of human resources and production interview prospective candidates for jobs on the shop floor. Those that make
the cut are assigned to three mentors who work with them for a three-month probationary period. At the end, the mentors decide whether the new hire stays or not.
"We've empowered everyone on the production floor to make sure that we're bringing in the right people," says Wilson. "We have to work as a cohesive team."
Gregg Bartja is the lead hand on the afternoon shift and manages anywhere from three to 15 employees, depending on the volume of orders. Bartja worked for a number of different industrial companies, including a manufacturer of automobile windshields, before joining AGNORA four years ago.
"It's one of the best jobs I've ever had," says Bartja. "It doesn't feel like I'm coming to work."
That said, the work is challenging. It requires considerable concentration and attention to detail. Bartja notes that he and his colleagues work with sophisticated and complex equipment. They are handling oversized pieces of glass and every piece they produce is different.
A workout in the gym or a yoga class at lunch can, in fact, enhance performance on the job. "It clears your mind," says Bartja. "If your body feels better, your attitude is going to be better."
For his part, Cole notes that there is no divide between the office and the production floor. At both levels, employees are part of the same team. "I've worked in places where you had to give direction and watch people minute by minute," he says. "AGNORA truly has a great atmosphere. Everybody knows their job and does their job."