Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 24, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why AGNORA Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017):
- Located in the heart of Ontario's ski country, employees working at AGNORA's head office can take advantage of an onsite fitness facility that features instructor-led classes such as circuit training, a yoga studio and an onsite "Wallyball" court which can be used for volleyball and racquetball
- Along with in-house training and formal mentoring programs, AGNORA encourages ongoing employee development with generous tuition subsidies for job-related courses (up to $3,000 annually)
- AGNORA helps employees save for the longer term with matching RSP contributions and offers phased-in work options for those nearing retirement
Best in glass: how AGNORA succeeds
"I'd worked for Richard Wilson for about three years when he said, 'Hey, guess what we did?' And then he asked me to join AGNORA," says Wendy Sholtz, the company's Customer Service Coordinator, in Collingwood, Ont. "There was no guarantee of success, but I knew how they treated their employees, and I trusted Richard."
Wilson had started several companies over the years and earned a reputation as a strong leader and caring employer. In 2011, he founded AGNORA Inc. to meet a demand for a North American fabricator of oversized architectural glass. He also aimed to raise the standard of customer service in the glass industry.
With 71 full-time employees, AGNORA fabricates the largest architectural glass in North America. The company's specialized equipment can temper, machine, laminate, digitally-print and insulate glass in a variety of thicknesses up to 3.3 meters by 7.6 meters long.
From the all-glass storefront of H&M's flagship retail outlet on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to the glass enclosure surrounding Damien Hirst's ten-foot-tall woolly mammoth on display at the Faena Hotel in Miami, AGNORA has become the leading provider in North America of high-quality, oversized architectural glass.
Considering the size of the panels and the processes involved in fabricating glass, visitors arrive at the company's 280,000-square-foot facility about two hours north of Toronto "expecting to find a factory," says Wilson.
Instead they find a light-filled, awe-inspiring workplace where a 16-by-40-foot glass panel separates the offices from the shop floor and employees take a break to work out in a glass-enclosed company gym or play wallyball on an on-site court. The work environment not only gives AGNORA an opportunity to show off its glass-related expertise, it also encourages employees to excel.
"When people work in a nice environment, they'll do a good job," says Wilson. "Our environment is designed to make employees love coming to work and to inspire them to deliver their best."
For Curtis Appleton, Tempering Operator & Team Leader, the company has provided him with the opportunity to assume a leadership role. With over 14 years of experience in the industry, Appleton was recruited because of his fit with the company's culture and his passion for glass fabrication. "When the glass plant I worked for shut down, I was one of seven or eight people to be called in to work for AGNORA," he says. "We're a big happy family here."
For Wilson, a commitment to his employees brings a variety of benefits. Happy employees take fewer sick days, for example, and work more productively. "And if you start with satisfied employees, you'll achieve the ultimate goal of a satisfied customer," he says.
As a self-described "lifelong entrepreneur", Wilson has experienced first-hand the consequences of dissatisfaction in the workplace. "One person with a bad attitude can bring down an entire company," he says.
In order to protect and grow their customer-service culture, AGNORA goes to great lengths to invest in its team. This includes employing a full-time fitness instructor and massage therapist and encouraging ongoing employee development with an internal cross-training and skills-development program. AGNORA also helps employees to save for the longer term with matching RRSP contributions and offers phased-in retirement work options for those nearing retirement.
"Everything's about customer service and making people happy," he says. "You have to make people smile."
For Wendy Sholtz, Wilson has created a workplace that's the pride of her community. "I tell my friends to come and take a look," she says. "There aren't many companies in this area that are so committed to their people."