Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 8, 2015)
Here are some of the reasons why Graham Group was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2016) and Alberta's Top Employers (2016):
- Graham Group lets everyone share in the company's success through profit-sharing, year-end bonuses and a share purchase plan -- the firm also helps employees save for the longer term through a defined contribution pension plan
- Graham Group is a leader in the construction industry, offering its new moms maternity leave top-up payments (to 100% of salary for up to 12 weeks) as well as flexible work hour options when they are ready to return
Graham Group: building leaders
One of Graham Group's key employee development programs is dubbed "Building Leaders." The double meaning is intentional. After all, Calgary-based Graham is one of Canada's largest construction companies, charged with building everything from roads and bridges to office buildings and hospitals. But it's also a company where employees have a direct stake in Graham's success.
"Leadership at Graham isn't a role; it's a choice," says Jeff Schippmann, Chief People Officer and Senior Vice President for Human Resources. "Employees can buy shares in the company, supported by a corporate loan program. We also believe absolutely everyone is responsible for our collective success. If you see an opportunity, or a problem, you're encouraged to step up and own it."
Graham, which started as a small family-owned business in Saskatchewan in the 1920s, shifted to an employee-owned model in the 1980s. It has since embarked on a major expansion curve, growing from about 70 employees to 1,300 and with operations now spanning Canada and parts of the U.S.
Through it all, the company has strived to stay true to what Schippmann describes as typical "Prairies" values and a strong work ethic.
"This company was founded in the Prairies where integrity, reliability and quality of work were held at the highest regard. Today, we're still committed to delivering the best projects, but our services and expertise have evolved. Now, Graham provides seamless integration of our multi-discipline construction solutions that build upon our strategic strengths," he says. "We also focus on our client relationships and take a lot of pride in the fact we are building things people need and use."
The tone is set from the top. President and CEO Grant Beck, a Saskatchewan native, embarks every spring on an intensive two-week tour of Graham's far-flung operations. Beck puts himself in front of employees to answer their questions about the company's progress and future plans.
Schippmann, an industrial organizational psychologist by training, joined Graham after a lengthy consulting career with a number of well-known companies. He says he's never seen a work culture as open and collaborative.
"This company lays it all out when it comes to its strategy and objectives," he says. "We focus on partnering with employees. We think it's our job to create opportunities, while individuals are accountable for seizing them."
While Graham offers competitive wages and bonuses, Schippmann cautions that "we are not the place to come to if you want to earn three times the market equivalent. But if you're smart and driven and looking for some real opportunities to shine - hey, that's what we're all about."
And that's exactly what attracted Eben Hamilton to join Graham 10 months ago after nearly a quarter of a century in the construction industry. A native of Washington, D.C., Hamilton had just spent six years in Ottawa with an even larger construction company, and was looking for a new challenge.
Hamilton, who is Graham's District Manager for southern Saskatchewan, wanted the opportunity to put his experience to work leading a 33-member team that is experiencing its own growth.
"Graham is a fairly large company, but one that's very open, from the CEO down, to listening to employees about where we think improvements can be made and where the energy, time and money needs to be focused," says Hamilton. "That's very different from some companies I've worked for."
He's also impressed with how Graham lives its stated values, one of which is to treat employees like family.
"We treat each other with mutual respect and an understanding we're all about doing things for the right reasons."
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Canada's Top 100 Employers winners, published November 9, 2015 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.