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 WalterFedy was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2016):
- WalterFedy starts new employees with three weeks of paid vacation and offers additional paid time off over the winter holidays -- long serving employees can also apply for an unpaid leave of absence of up to six months in duration
- WalterFedy seeks employee feedback to help direct its annual charitable program -- employees are also encouraged to volunteer with up to two paid volunteer days as well as company-matched charitable donations, to $200 for every 20 volunteer hours contributed
- WalterFedy helps employees balance their work and personal lives with alternative work options, including flexible hours and compressed work week options
WalterFedy is all about building community
Garth Cressman's first experience at WalterFedy came back in 1999 when he was a co-op student at the University of Waterloo doing a placement in mechanical engineering and looking to see what different workplaces had to offer. After stints at other companies, he eventually chose WalterFedy - an integrated, Kitchener, Ont.-based firm with architects, engineers and construction management professionals - as his first full-time job.
"What I loved about the environment was that every day there was something different," he says. In four short years, Cressman went from providing support on projects to running his own projects to heading up the mechanical engineering team within WalterFedy's engineering services group.
And then his uncle started a construction business. As a kid who grew up on a farm, Cressman has what he calls a "get-my-hands-dirty approach to life." He wanted to see what else was out there above and beyond his first job. He took up his uncle's offer and worked in construction for seven years.
"I loved it and learned a ton," says Cressman. "In mechanical engineering, you see a slice of building systems, but not the entire building. In construction, you get a much more holistic view."
Yet, despite all this, Cressman, who completed his MBA while working at the family firm, came to realize that construction wasn't the best fit for him. He reached out to Al Hayes, then CEO of WalterFedy and now leading the firm's expansion into Hamilton.
Cressman wasn't looking for a job, but rather some advice. He had kept in touch with a number of his WalterFedy ex-colleagues and was always interested to hear what they had to say. Hayes was then in the process of starting up a new business line in energy management. It was part of WalterFedy's commitment to the environment and sustainability.
"He proposed something to me that was completely out of left field and really intrigued me," says Cressman. After thinking it over, he decided to rejoin WalterFedy. The new position combined entrepreneurialism with working in a great firm. According to Cressman, who has since taken over as the Business Unit Leader for Engineering Services, "it was like coming back home."
Paul Reitzel, who was recently named CEO of WalterFedy after 17 years with the company, says one of its key priorities is investing in the development of staff. While employees have always been "very dedicated to keeping up to date on their professional skill sets," says Reitzel, "we try to encourage the development of their leadership skills. We want to grow our next set of leaders here within the organization."
He cites the company's three priorities as financial stability, community building and environmental responsibility. The energy management unit that Cressman helped start - which has done studies in hospitals, schools and private businesses to evaluate their energy use - now generates more than $1 million in revenues, up from zero less than two years ago.
Reitzel is also proud of a sustainability program put in place by staff at WalterFedy. Among other things it covers recycling, composting and commuting. It encourages employees to carpool, cycle or take the bus, regularly sending out afternoon reminders on their computers.
As an architectural and engineering firm that has participated in building and revitalizing the Kitchener-Waterloo region, WalterFedy wants to "encourage our people to get out there and give back to their community," says Reitzel. The company's volunteer program gives employees two full days off work to volunteer during the year. And if an employee completes 20 hours of volunteer work, WalterFedy will make a $200 donation to the charity of their choice.
"As Kitchener-Waterloo has transformed itself over time, we've enjoyed the success of the community," says Cressman. "Maintaining strong community relationships is important to us."