Little Canada’s director of people: ‘Be part of something small’

Step inside our perfectly miniaturised little nation

Little Canada’s director of people: ‘Be part of something small’

It’s not every day you get see your life play out in miniature – unless of course you work at Little Canada - Toronto’s next big attraction. Nestle in the heart of Downtown, Little Canada is a fully immersive experience – a perfectly intricate reconstruction of our nation.

HRD spoke to Leigh Billinghurst, director of people, culture & wellness for Little Canada. Billinghurst talked us through the magical charm of Little Canada – and revealed how COVID-19 impacted their search for top tier talent.

“Little Canada is a celebration of all things Canada,” she told HRD. “It’s a journey through the nation, complete with miniaturized landmarks and captivating stories – all on a tiny scale. It’s incredibly interactive – the sun actually rises and sets every 15 minutes, and the Toronto skyline is lit up with 30,000 led lights. As all this is happening, little cars and trucks are driving across the 14-foot skyway bridge and on to one of our busiest highways. There’s even a 50-foot little Niagara Falls. Little Canada is a place we're hoping residents and visitors can experience and connect with all of the wonders of the amazing country under one roof.”

Read more: Will workplace bullying rise as a result of COVID-19 vaccines?

The brainchild of Jean-Louis Brenninkmeijer, Little Canada was inspired by the likes of Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland. Brenninkmeijer, himself an immigrant to Canada, has always had a love for miniature worlds. After quitting his job, he turned his full attention to following his dream – and building a miniature version of the nation he loves so much.

“I believe it all started when his son had a project in school,” added Billinghurst. “The assignment was to research a province in Canada and learn about the history, the culture, the landscape. In doing this, Brenninkmeijer was inspired by the education – which is in itself a large component of Little Canada. We want to welcome schools and educational facilities, invite them to immerse themselves in the Canadian culture - actually give them the hands-on opportunity to learn.”

However, the outbreak of COVID-19 inevitably delayed Little Canada from opening their doors, throwing up questions around health and safety – for both employees and visitors.

Read more: Are we relaxing COVID measures at work too soon?

“We’re very much a safety-first organization,” added Billinghurst. “Our priority is making sure our teams are in an environment where they’re comfortable. However, in taking our time with the opening we’ve been able to create an even more immersive experience. While COVID did impact our recruitment plans, we've been quite fortunate compared to other industries and organizations. We’ve had a large volume of candidates that have been applying to us – mainly because the Arts worlds isn’t operating at full speed right now. So right now we’re looking for miniature makers, artistic types, who really want to be a part of something small – yet mighty.”

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, Billinghurst believes there’s still some challenges to overcome for HR leaders – in particular around heath and safety.

“We need to look at customising employee responsibilities and creating something that everyone’s comfortable with. The added stressors of everything happening right now, people don’t need to be anxious about work as well. We’re constantly reminding our people to prioritise mental health, both personally and as part of the organizational agenda.”

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