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 Walter Surface Technologies was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2016):
- Walter Surface Technologies encourages employees to save for the longer term with matching RSP contributions as well as offering retirement planning assistance and a phased-in work option when nearing retirement -- the company also offers generous year end performance bonuses as well as referral bonuses when employees successfully recruit a friend
- Walter Surface Technologies encourages ongoing professional development through in-house and online training programs as well as tuition subsidies for courses at outside institutions
- Walter Surface Technologies starts new employees with three weeks of paid vacation along with up to five paid personal days off each year to help employees manage work and personal commitments
Walter Surface Technologies stresses 'green-ification'
When Mike Christodoulou arrived for his job interview at Walter Surface Technologies last year, the welcome mat was out: Pierre Somers, the owner, Chairman and CEO, met him at the entrance. It was not only a good omen - Christodoulou was hired as President and Chief Operating Officer - but also a good indication of the workplace culture.
"This is not the kind of company where employees, when they see the owner coming, run the other way," says Christodoulou. "Everyone is very comfortable with the owner. Senior management and the board of directors are open to ideas from employees. We encourage communication at all levels with all levels."
A leader in surface treatment technologies, Walter provides abrasives, power tools, tooling, chemical solutions and environmental solutions for the metal working industry. Its head office and Canadian manufacturing operations are located in Montreal, Québec.
Much of the company's product line supports the grinding, sanding, cutting and finishing of metal. Its newest products, however, are its Bio-Circle solutions, which use a natural process - free of petroleum-based chemicals - for cleaning industrial parts. For example, a truck that is driven into a diesel-engine repair shop may have its fuel pump cleaned with a Bio-Circle solution prior to repair.
Bio-Circle fluids clean without solvents, protecting both employees and the environment from highly volatile vapours and toxic chemical compounds. The Bio-Circle division already accounts for about 15 per cent of Walter's sales. "That's where I see much of our future growth coming from, in keeping with the increasing 'green-ification' of industry," says Christodoulou.
Last year, Walter hired 30 new employees in Canada. While the company recruits engineers and chemists for its R&D unit, the largest numbers of recruits are for positions in sales, marketing, finance, operations and human resources. "We look for well-rounded, capable people," says Christodoulou.
One of the ways Walter finds new talent is through its paid internship program, called Next to Succeed, which gives two university students the opportunity to learn from its top executives in R&D, finance, operations and marketing for three months during the summer.
David Wright, Business Development and Analytics Manager, joined the company full-time in February, 2016 after completing an MBA at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. He had been a Next to Succeed intern the previous summer.
"I was attracted to the internship because it puts you right next to upper-level management," says Wright. "That wouldn't happen at a large company. Also, the company is interesting: they develop their own products, and customers want to use them specifically." In addition to an application and a resume, would-be interns have to submit a 60-second video pitch and, in the final stage, do an interview in person or by video-conference.
Much of Wright's work as an intern was helping the company prepare its 10-year strategic plan, an exercise that involved gathering input from senior executives in the company's four sales regions - Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. "The hardest part was the forecasting uncertainty," says Wright. "You have to get these things right, because a lot of people are counting on you."
New employees such as Wright start at Walter with three weeks of paid vacation. All employees can take up to five paid personal days off each year to manage their personal commitments. The company matches its employees' RSP contributions. It offers retirement planning help and a part-time work arrangement for staff wishing to transition into retirement.
Walter views the skills development of its employees as key to company growth. It provides in-house and online training programs. It also reimburses tuition costs for courses taken at outside institutions. "I'm a great believer in self-development," says Christodoulou.