Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2019) and Alberta's Top Employers (2019):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 8, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why PCL Construction was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2019) and Alberta's Top Employers (2019):
- PCL Construction encourages employees to make health and wellness a priority with onsite fitness classes such as yoga, Zumba and boot camp, a separate fitness credit of $200 a year, monthly work-life balance workshops and a wellness fair, which featured over 40 community partners
- PCL Construction supports a number of charitable initiatives each year, including the United Way's annual fundraising campaign -- impressively, employees raised more than $6.7-million in 2017 for United Way and member organizations throughout North America (with matching contributions from PCL)
- PCL Construction is one of Canada's largest contractors and is 100% employee-owned -- the company offers a full suite of financial benefits including profit-sharing, a share purchase plan (available to all employees), signing bonuses and referral bonuses of up to $2,000
At PCL, building is about far more than infrastructure
Late this past summer, an employee of Edmonton-based PCL Construction celebrated his 60th anniversary with the company. While that is hardly an everyday occurrence, there are hundreds of people who have marked 25 years there. "We're employee-owned," says Mike Olsson, Vice-President of Human Resources and Professional Development, "and the attributes of ownership help people see this as a great place to be for the long term."
PCL was operated solely by the Poole family, who founded it in 1906, but it evolved into an employee-owned operation in 1977. "It's pretty unique in the construction industry but it really makes our people want to do the best work for all the stakeholders," says Olsson. "We're accountable to each other so we really care about our work - the whole dedication/caring/commitment level is just ramped up because of the employee ownership model."
When Jayne Aspell left one general contractor six years ago to join PCL, the difference in environments struck her immediately. "The culture of our company is much like a family - everyone cares about the company and cares about each other," says Aspell, a Project Manager. "If someone has a reason they're not able to perform, that impacts us because we all have a stake in the company."
But at PCL, the concept of building extends far beyond infrastructure. "We have a saying that's been around for 50 years that sharing is not only the right thing to do, it's good for business," Olsson says. "We believe a big purpose of what we do in our communities is to help build the community itself."
Not only is that reflected in the pride PCLers take in developing landmarks like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg or the currently under-construction Calgary Cancer Centre, but it's also there in their relationship with charitable giving. Each year PCL and its employees donate more than $10 million to different causes; over the course of PCL's 50-year association with the United Way, employees have raised some $25 million. "Giving and growing our communities is one of the things we're most proud of," says Olsson.
Building leaders is another huge part of the culture. For anyone at any level, there are a leadership academy and various leadership courses, as well as specialized programs for high-potential employees, mentorship programs and more. "Supervisors and managers are always really keen to push you along and give you opportunities," says Aspell. "And we're all tasked with making sure that as we move through our careers, we're teaching and mentoring the people behind us so once we move we have someone to fill our shoes."
PCL also relies heavily on the younger generation to provide diversity of ideas. Last year alone, there were more than 500 student placements, and about 45 per cent of current employees are millennials. "Our best pipeline of future PCLers come in from student programs," says Olsson. PCL provides scholarships to those who make a big impact during their work term with the company. "They've become a really integral part of our culture and have really helped us grow."
But while PCL offers a diverse range of projects and locations, moving departments is often enough for new-experience seekers. "That's really interesting from a diversity perspective," adds Aspell, who has worked on major projects but is moving to smaller, quicker jobs next. "It's not just about gender or race but about how different people think. It's really opened my eyes about asking people I wouldn't normally ask for answers or suggestions or help solving problems. That support network is one of the things that really sets up apart."
There's an extra level of commitment at PCL
In 2015, Michelle Sylvestre, a project manager with PCL Construction, was standing in the bottom of a massive excavation, working on the foundation of a 69-storey tower in Edmonton - the tallest in Canada outside of Ontario.
People would come from all over the company to watch what was going on. "These are guys who have been in the industry for 40 years and they're looking down and saying: 'Wow, we've never seen anything like this,'" says Sylvestre, who was only two years into her job at PCL Edmonton Buildings. "You are seldom going to see the same thing twice so you're always going to be challenged. It definitely takes a certain personality to take on that excitement, but that's what makes the company so interesting - the amount you can learn is endless."
Given the size of PCL Construction and the overall diversity of the projects, there are plenty of opportunities for advancement. "PCL is really good at letting you decide what you'd prefer to do," says Paul Walker, construction manager for PCL Calgary. "You can pretty much map your own path - based on your performance, obviously - to where you want to go in your career."
New hires are teamed up with a mentor who helps develop them. And there is informal mentoring as well. "That's one of the things I've benefited from the most," says Walker, "from my peers and supervisors along the way." And the diversity of the staff - from the field, from different countries and different educations - means there's a vault of knowledge at PCL, as Sylvestre says. "There are so many people you get to learn from every day."
The company has very much a family feel to it, as Walker discovered when his son required surgery and Walker had to leave for five weeks in the middle of a big project. "Everyone completely supported me, and I was able to leave without having to worry about what was going on at work," he says. "It was phenomenal and something I'll always remember."
Some of that family feel stems from the fact that PCL is an employee-owned company; everyone is personally invested in its overall success and, therefore, give a bit more every day, because they're all in it together. "What you're doing, no matter what it is, has an impact on the company and an impact on you personally," Walker says. "It's just that extra level of commitment and feeling you're a part of something big - and that's pretty important."