Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2024) and Alberta's Top Employers (2024):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 16, 2023)
Here are some of the reasons why Graham Construction was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2024) and Alberta's Top Employers (2024):
- Graham Construction helps employees take care of their physical and mental health with free access to an onsite fitness facility (at head office), a health and wellness hub with resources on nutrition, sleep, and mental health, and coverage for mental health care as part of its benefits plan (up to $2,000 annually)
- Graham Construction encourages employees to keep their skills up to date through its extensive in-house Builders Framework program (led by internal professionals), tuition subsidies, and manages a graduate program as a platform to develop future talent
- Graham Construction is 100 per cent employee-owned and supports an ownership mentality through a share purchase plan, available to all employees -- the company also helps employees build long-term savings through a defined contribution pension plan
Graham aims to take employees to the next level
Andy Trewick’s first job after graduating from university in the United Kingdom led to a 27-year career with the same company. He had the opportunity to develop himself as a leader, take on work that challenged him professionally and build new skills. That experience informs his vision for Graham Construction, the Calgary-headquartered company that he’s led for eight years.
“I want to create an environment for our people where we help them develop to their maximum potential,” he says. “People are precious; we don’t want to create the situation where they need to work for somebody else because they can’t see an opportunity to get to the next level.”
Graham has a structured development program for its leaders, during which the company finds opportunities across the organization for participants in the program to gain leadership experience and build relationships. It also has a formal mentorship program.
But some of the development Trewick has in mind is more informal: he wants to make the best use of employees’ transferrable skills. He gives the example of one of Graham’s project directors with strong people skills, who was briefly pulled onto the human resources team and helped transform the department.
“We want to find opportunities for people and move them around the company, even if those opportunities maybe aren’t the obvious choice,” he says.
Jennifer Scott, who leads Graham’s project oversight group in Vancouver, has seen this approach work first-hand. Scott, who just celebrated her tenth anniversary at Graham, initially joined the company as a bid manager, bidding for public-private partnership projects. She eventually moved over to manage bids for the construction and then infrastructure groups before taking her first maternity leave. When she returned to work, the department had substantially changed as part of a company restructuring, so she was asked what she was interested in doing.
Her interest in learning about the company’s core business and operations, and a recognition of her people skills and ability to get buy-in, led to her current role. The project oversight group sends experts to active projects to evaluate how they’re going, provide advice and support, and highlight areas where problems may crop up.
“No one likes having their homework marked, so buy-in and gathering support from the people working on the projects is a huge part of making the process a success,” she says. “Getting that buy-in and building alliances was a skill I learned through bidding projects but didn’t know I had.”
Scott says she appreciates that she’s always had the opportunity to pursue her interests within the company. Most recently, after noticing that the expert reviewers within the project oversight group always started their project reviews by looking at the same data, she suggested building a machine-learning program that could run a ‘health scan’ of projects the company is working on. “I was given the flexibility to run with something that was not previously part of the plan,” she says.
A company that values building employees up tends to attract people who are excited to share their knowledge and expertise with others, and Scott says she’s encountered many of them during her time at Graham and developed plenty of informal mentorship relationships.
“I’ve been lucky to work with people who have open-door policies and ask them tons of questions,” she says. “It makes the company an excellent place to work and an excellent place to grow.”
Graham lays the foundation for a lifelong career
Colin Aitken has held just about every role it’s possible to have within the operations business at Graham Construction. Over 32 years, he’s built both a broad array of construction projects across buildings, infrastructure, and industrial, and his own career with Graham, rising through the ranks from a field engineer all the way to executive vice president of buildings today.
“After you’ve been with an organization this long it’s a huge part of your life – the history, what you’ve accomplished and created, the relationships you’ve built. I’ve really enjoyed it, and it’s been a big positive for me,” he says.
Aitken says his career embodies the opportunities Graham offers employees and what he tries to tell young staff in particular. The company took him from his hometown of Calgary to Saskatoon, to Kelowna and back to Calgary, the construction and development company’s headquarters.
Early in his career, he was given the opportunity to explore different aspects of the business and find what appealed to him, and once he did pick a lane, “I was very well supported,” he recalls. When he started taking on management roles, the company supported him, giving him opportunities to work across Canada and into the United States.
“When I work with young graduates, I tell them there is an opportunity to spend your career here. There are lots of growth opportunities and education,” he says. “What we try to do for new people and young people is to let them try different sectors and regions – from Toronto to Fort Mac to Vancouver and Seattle – and let them hone their career based on what they love.”
Alicia Donnelly, operations director for maintenance and turnaround in Fort Saskatchewan, says she’s felt that support over her 18 years with Graham and a predecessor company it acquired. After starting in an administrative role handling payroll, project controls and accounting in 1998, she said she’s received support from the business to indulge her professional curiosity. She has held leadership roles for the majority of her career, and currently leads a division of mechanical tradespersons who maintain client assets in the oil and gas space.
“I’ve been able to take on different tasks, learn different parts of the business and grow my career, and now I get to pass that down to the next level,” she says. “It’s something that gets me up in the morning.”
Aitken notes employees can change as they grow in their career, but “the organization can change with them. That’s something we’re really focused on – we’re an organization that’s evolving to accept and promote change.”
Donnelly has seen that evolution first-hand. Despite being in a heavily male-dominated industry, she’s worked with “pretty keen leaders that were early adopters of workforce diversity” and worked hard to ensure women entering the business felt supported in growing their careers. Today, her team has a higher proportion of women than the oil and gas average. And five per cent of Graham’s construction craft workers are women, above the industry average for skilled tradespeople at two per cent.
In a historically male-dominated industry, part of improving workforce diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is about being able to identify the transferrable skills and potential to develop in the role, even if they don’t have the traditional background for it — something Graham is particularly good at.
“It’s really nice to see an organization creating a strategy on how to continue growth in that DEI space,” she says. “In the construction industry, it’s still predominantly male and does need some focus and strong leadership, and Graham is definitely leading the way.”