What the heck are soft skills and why are they important?

There is a significant shift underway in our workplaces. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs study predicts that 5 million jobs will be lost to artificial intelligence and robotics before the year 2020. Many other jobs will be created through this period of fast-paced change but in order to compete, workers will need to be highly reactive and adaptive.

Occurring simultaneously to the skills disruption resulting from rapid advancements in technology is a skills gap identified by employers who say that hires who have recently graduated have the skills to complete their assigned tasks but overall are unable to meet expectations because they lack the all-important “soft skills”. Investopedia defines soft skills as character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. Many of these employees have not developed crucial abilities such as critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution, public speaking, teamwork, attention to detail and effective communication including proficiency in their written work.

The real disconnect is that recent graduates describe themselves as feeling well-prepared to enter the workforce but managers overwhelmingly disagree. Co-worker relations and customer service suffer, often leading to a significant loss of productivity.

Soft skills are not only indispensable in the workplace but help people make better decisions, be more resilient and better able to overcome challenges in their lives. Now for the good news: in the short-term, the necessary skills can be gained on-the-job through instruction, experience and mentorship. An important long-term strategy will be to restructure the programs in our institutions of learning so our leaders of the future will have focused on their social and emotional development in addition to career-specific training. Survival and success in this new frontier of technically-dependent workplaces will be predicated on our level of agility and emotional intelligence.


Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Giving Thanks

It seems appropriate to devote this month’s space to expressing the gratitude I feel to be a resident of this community and a support-person for this organization in particular.

I have an immense appreciation for the beauty, amenities and people who choose to live and work on the Saanich Peninsula. This is a community that thrives due to the efforts of volunteers. In our organization, we continue to build community through business under the leadership of our dedicated volunteer board members.  The passionate volunteers who staff our Information Centre each year are the reason thousands of visitors and locals learn what is special about this area.

The team is crucial. We have a lot happening in the office on any given day and without Office Manager Pat Taylor and administrative support from Ilka McKenzie, the magic would not happen. They are skilled, committed to contributing to our members’ success and execute their tasks with precision and professionalism.

We exist to support our members. We are one of a number of volunteer community organizations but are the only one dedicated to the success of business and this is important because business is the heartbeat of our society.

Business leaders sponsor sports teams, contribute to the food bank and support the arts.  They contribute to the tax base that funds our schools, policing and infrastructure. There have been studies done that demonstrate a link between small-business success and improved community-well being in areas such as better health of citizens and lower crime rates. Researchers have discovered that in communities where locally-owned businesses dominate, citizens are more active, there are stronger social networks, larger numbers of community organizations and superior public infrastructure.

There is something to be said for doing business with people who know us.  The independent business community that exists here supports human connection. While errands and shopping get done, impromptu conversations are sparked with friends and neighbours. This kind of interaction is the foundation of an engaged and resilient community.  With this as our bedrock, all challenges can be tackled!

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

The Race Has Begun

The Race has Begun

Despite the municipal election being almost a year away, there has already been considerable conversation in the community about the issues and candidates that will surely feature large in this next election. The community benefits when residents and business owners stay engaged in the political process and that is definitely the case on the Saanich Peninsula. This chamber has been building community through business alongside our municipal counterparts since 1912. Suffice to say, the members of our organization make up many of this interested and engaged stakeholder group.

In the interest of community spirit, we offer a few words of encouragement to those good people who are considering putting their name forward for office. These suggestions are based on research with those who have walked before you as well as from those folks who will be working with you post-election.

Perhaps the most important criteria for your success is that you have at least a basic understanding of the issues you will be facing in your community. Single-issue candidates rarely do well. If your goal is to be elected to overturn a specific decision of a previous council, you are less likely to succeed as compared to a candidate who is focused on the future, is knowledgeable about the community and campaigns on a desire to create collaborative networks.

Start your education and campaigning early. Join committees. Attend council meetings. Talk to many people, especially those who do not share your views. Get familiar with local bylaws, annual reports, Official Community Plans, Local Area Plans, budget reports, committee reports and council meeting minutes.

On the flip side of the election coin, our members have asked how they can have their views better represented by councillors who have been accused of putting the interests of residential tax payers above those of businesses. To these members we offer the following advice: take advantage of the opportunity to talk to the councillors who attend our mixers, events, board meetings and Tours of Industry. Engage with candidates while they are out in the community, concentrating on those whose views you do not share and make them aware of your concerns. Express appreciation for their public service and publicly acknowledge the efforts of the municipality for the positive steps taken to bolster business interests specifically and the community generally. If you find one or more candidates whose goals align with your own, you have the option to contribute to their campaign.

It is going to be an interesting election and we look forward to working with those of you who bravely step forward to apply your time and talents in support of your community.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Why the Model Still Works.

Why, after more than 400 years, the Chamber model still works

Let’s call networking what it actually is: connecting. Strategically, many business owners see networking as strictly a means to generate referrals. One of the benefits of belonging to our chamber is that, unlike many other networking groups, we don’t restrict participation based on gender, industry type or geographical location. What you will discover when you attend one of our events, is that our members are friendly, interested and most of all, very willing to support another person doing business on the Saanich Peninsula.

One of the referral groups I have been asked to promote to our members is Business Networking International (BNI). Being a proud supporter of chambers of commerce for many years, I thought it worthwhile to consider how our two organizations differ. BNI members join with the expectation that their participation in weekly meetings will generate referrals that convert to actual business.

So how are we different? First off, chamber membership is much less expensive and our benefits go well beyond referrals. Your membership payments support initiatives that exclusively benefit our community. We are continually evolving to increase the value to members. Did you know that we certify documents for goods being exported? Or that we offer a discounted Panorama Employee Wellness Pass for small businesses? Even as a solo entrepreneur, our Chambers of Commerce group insurance plan has coverage options.  Do you or one of your employees wear glasses or contacts? We have a member discount for that too. Soon we will be offering discounted home insurance. All this and more, including networking and the opportunity to expand your client list, is available to you through chamber membership.

I will leave you with this recent evaluation from one of our members, who, because he had not actively participated in any of our events concluded that he was not getting benefit from his membership and had decided not to renew. Then he asked his new customers how they had heard about him and discovered that they had learned about his business from our online Member Directory. Not surprisingly, he renewed. Like this member, you may not fully appreciate the ways in which your membership is working for you, but it always is.


Productive Engagement

Voltaire said, “I might disagree with your opinion, but I am willing to give my life for your right to express it.” I have a slight disagreement with Voltaire. I am willing to give my life for your right to hold an opinion if it is based in relevant expertise but even then, I do not agree that you have a right or an obligation to express it.

We have many opinions. In fact, we express our opinions on a variety of subjects every day just by the choices we make: the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the food we eat. These, and many others of our opinions have been formed by our life experiences, world views, and often, our privileges.

There are various levels of opinions – the most legitimate being those grounded in science and expertise. Then there are those that are based on our politics and ideas of what others should do and finally there are those that include our personal experiences, likes and dislikes. One’s subjective beliefs are more difficult to defend. The saying “everyone is entitled to their opinion” only means that we can think whatever we like but our opinion is not more deserving of respect than anyone else’s and we are under no obligation to express it. And yet, people do. Opinions are voiced every day in letters to the editor, as comments online, and in other public fora. Often these opinions are trotted out like facts and are garnished with condescension, sarcasm, and cynicism.

Many opinions are not facts; rather they are judgments and assessments and are masquerading as passive-aggressive advice. Opinions can be wrong and ill-conceived and that they are widely held and shared does not make them valid.

The quality of public and personal engagement would be elevated if we considered the following when our opinions are burning to be shared: Do I have the information and actual expertise to form an opinion? Why do I believe my opinion ought to be shared? Am I sharing it with the right people? Have they asked for my opinion? Will the sharing of or my delivery of my opinion diminish other people’s willingness or opportunity to communicate their opinions?

It is important that our privilege and fundamentalist beliefs don’t give us the false idea that our opinions are more significant than anyone else’s. Listen to opinions that differ from your own – especially those based in expertise. Leave room for others to influence discussions. There is wisdom in knowing what you don’t know. Superiority is illusory.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Transformative Disruption in the Workplace

Gather two or more employers together and discussion naturally turns to difficulties they are experiencing in hiring and retaining employees. Many Peninsula businesses have ‘Help Wanted’ signs in their windows. Finding staff with the appropriate skills and experience is the most commonly-expressed challenge.

This situation has arisen due to a convergence of factors: one being the low unemploymen (more…)

Building Bridges Between Institutions – Part 3

Employers report that new workers entering the workforce often do not have the skills required to fulfill the terms of their employment. In addition, much of the existing workforce requires retraining to update their skills so companies can continue to compete in the changing economy. Educational institutions and local employers would benefit from a closer working relationship. We are pleased to participate in organizing is the EduTech trade show, scheduled for the fall, which will do exactly that – provide a direct link between Peninsula employers, educators and students. (more…)

2017 Crystal Awards Nomination

Award Criteria by Category
  • Business of the Year Award: 1 - 15 Employees

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. Continuing business success through:
      • growth (can be revenue/sales, profits, employees, products/services, customer base)
      • employee satisfaction and retention
    2. Exceptional customer service by continuously striving to exceed customer expectations, and by delivering high standards of service with creativity and innovation.
    3. An on-going commitment to quality through employee motivation, quality processes, employee education and management involvement.
  • Business of the Year Award: 16+ Employees

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. Continuing business success through:
      • growth (can be revenue/sales, profits, employees, products/services, customer base)
      • employee satisfaction and retention
    1. Exceptional customer service by continuously striving to exceed customer expectations, and by delivering high standards of service with creativity and innovation.
    2. An on-going commitment to quality through employee motivation, quality processes, employee education and management involvement.
  • Not-for-Profit Organization of the Year

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. The organization’s commitment to its clients
    2. How the organization has contributed to the community
    3. How the organization supports employee growth and development and contributes to their well-being, satisfaction and motivation
    4. How the organization motivates, rewards and recognizes its volunteers
  • Contribution to the Community Award

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. How the business has ‘given back’ to the community through corporate sponsorship (i.e. cash donations, contributions of services, goods or materials, in-kind).
    2. The types of events the business has supported over the past year (i.e. community activities, festivals, events, sporting events or teams, cultural events, social initiatives)
    3. How the business provides mentorship and leadership in encouraging and facilitating community pride and spirit amongst staff while both at work and away from the work environment.
  • Green Business of the Year Award

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. A long-term commitment to environmental sustainability through leadership and the integration of environmentally responsible practices into culture of their business
    2. Key “green” projects that have been implemented in the business and how they have been tracked and measured
    3. How the company engages stakeholders and/or clients and/or the community in activities that support environmental sustainability.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit Award

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. Personal efforts to establish or expand the business
    2. An innovative product or a valuable new service, or one which has adapted and improved a current product or service to keep pace with the times and the needs of its clients
    3. A commitment to continuous improvement and growth
  • New Business Award

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. Being in business for two years or less
    2. Significant growth and a plan for continued growth
    3. A commitment to providing a high quality product or service
    4. Excellent customer service
  • Employer of the Year Award

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. A workplace culture reflecting the importance of work/life balance
    2. A commitment to providing a healthy and safe work environment
    3. A commitment to providing on-going training and/or professional development opportunities
    4. A positive workplace culture encouraging respect and engaged employees
  • New Product or Service (Existing Business) Award

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. The development or introduction of a new product or service between January and December 2016
    2. The innovative nature of the new product or service
    3. The usefulness of the new product or service
    4. The actual or potential benefit of the new product or service
  • Outstanding Customer Service Award

    Applicants in this category must demonstrate:

    1. How their customer service strategy contributes to an exceptional customer experience with positive reviews or recognition
    2. How their customer service strategy encourages customer loyalty
    3. How their customer service strategy has resulted in a more motivated and engaged staff
    4. How their customer service strategy has improved operational excellence

Nominate Your Choice Now!

Thank you for your nominations. Nominations are now being reviewed. Sept 8th, 2017

It Takes a Region to Raise an Economy – Part 2 of 3

Last month I discussed the strategy of growing the economy by attracting more people to live in an area and suggested the most desirable groups to target based on their ability and willingness to contribute to the overall health of a community are baby boomers, entrepreneurial immigrants and millennials. Now we will look at how the quality of place matters in attracting newcomers. (more…)