Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2023) and Alberta's Top Employers (2022):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 17, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why PCL Construction was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2023) and Alberta's Top Employers (2022):
- PCL Construction provides a variety of learning opportunities for employees at various stages of development, including the PCL College of Construction (with over 2,000 courses and custom training), in-house apprenticeships, and the "Learn2Go" micro-learning initiative which employees can access anytime and from anywhere
- PCL Construction helps employees plan for life after work with retirement planning assistance along with a defined contribution pension plan -- and varying by position, employees may be able to take advantage of phased-in work options when nearing retirement
- PCL Construction's head office employees are encouraged to keep fit with free memberships to a 4,500 square foot onsite fitness centre that's open to family members and retirees
Employee ownership drives engagement at PCL
Madison Blom fondly recalls her first days working at Parliament’s Centre Block. Her PCL Construction team was about to begin the most complex heritage rehabilitation project ever undertaken in Canada. The assistant superintendent says one of her favourite moments was when the PCL team went inside and she could see what interested her the most: exactly what’s holding up this country’s most iconic structure.
“It’s amazing to see the trusses and structural members behind the century-old craftsmanship we walk past every day,” she says. “We spend multiple hours reviewing how we’re going to dismantle some of the stonework, figuring out how it was put together, and wondering how they ever manoeuvred some of the heritage assets – there are heritage elements 20 feet long!” It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Blom agrees, and one that PCL was uniquely positioned to offer.
“Not very many construction employers in this country can build projects to the scale we can,” says Harmony Carter, PCL’s vice president, people and culture. When it comes to “the stadiums and the arenas, power plants, roadways, even hospitals in all their complexity,” not to mention Centre Block Rehabilitation, “we’re there for the big iconic projects that impact our communities.” Building communities, legacies and people are PCL’s three purpose pillars.
For Carter, the size and success of the 116-year-old Edmonton-based company ultimately stem from the same reason PCL has landed on the list of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 14 consecutive years. “We are 100 per cent owned by our employees. Our ownership model means that everyone is an owner and has responsibility for our success.”
Through PCL’s strong mobility program, employees who relocate can take advantage of opportunities to develop their careers quickly. In 2021, more than five per cent of the company’s workforce transferred to different locations to take on new roles and projects.
“We like to put people with the best expertise at our projects and surround them with people who can learn from them,” says Carter. That can be on the job or in one of the many courses where the company’s veterans pass on what they know to their newer fellow employee-owners.
Then there are the leadership courses like the one in which Blom is enrolled. “There is no other company that invests in leadership programs like PCL does,” Carter says. “Not just for high-potential individuals, but also programs that allow any employee to come in and make leadership part of their role and part of their journey.”
Such programs cement PCL’s community ethos and facilitate career advancement, resulting in over 600 promotions company-wide last year. These programs are crucial tools in Carter’s job, which the VP sums up as recruiting top talent and keeping them engaged.
Carter herself, like Blom after her, arrived at PCL through its extensive educational outreach, moving from a post-secondary co-op term to full-time employment. Retention isn’t an issue, with a healthy number of employees in the company’s quarter-century club and even a few in the half-century club.
It’s all directly connected, Carter says, to the ownership model and the long-term thinking and commitment it fosters. It’s no wonder Blom, 28, takes joy in looking years ahead to a time where, “one day my kids will walk through Centre Block and I can say, ‘I was there.’”
PCL people take pride in building vital services
Sohayl Bhatti was born prematurely and spent a few weeks in the University of Alberta Hospital’s Neonatal ICU in Edmonton. Three decades later he found himself in the same ward, but this time working to demolish it and replace it with a state-of-the-art NICU as a project manager for PCL Construction.
“What are the chances that you would end up doing something like that?” Bhatti says with his characteristic enthusiastic smile.
Bhatti has made a specialty of leading renovations in healthcare facilities for the Edmonton-based construction giant. His work requires technical skill – but also diplomacy and solid judgment. The renovations often are done in the heart of busy hospitals where medical staff can be performing difficult procedures and patients are trying to recover.
Bhatti has worked next to operating rooms, ICUs, even a sleep lab. It’s not just the noise of procedures, like cutting holes through concrete; the vibrations can be disruptive for doctors – such as neurosurgeons in mid-operation.
“It’s definitely a lot to juggle,” he says about the careful nature of his job. “You’re working in a very complex environment, so I guess it makes it challenging, which can be fun.”
And hugely rewarding too.
“When you’re in the midst of a project, you’re working hard, there’s a million problems you’re trying to solve,” he says. “But then at the end of it you realize it was worth it. There’s a recognition of the importance and purpose of what you do.”
The pandemic added another level of complexity to PCL’s in-hospital work. Over and above the rigorous construction- industry regulations, PCL had to add such things as COVID-19 health-screening and masking restrictions. The pandemic also generated a greater sense of urgency to the work.
“Everyone saw very quickly that it was important to get the ICUs up and running ASAP,” Bhatti says. In fact, the new pediatric cardiac ICU they completed in the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute was immediately converted into a COVID-19 ward.
PCL employees gain satisfaction knowing that facilities they build support essential services in Alberta, says Mike Olsson, vice president of human resources and professional development.
“Our purpose is not only building infrastructure,” Olsson says. “We’re building communities, and a better future.”
Another focus at PCL, which has offices across North America and Australia, is training and development. The company offers technical and behavioural training in many different forms, and leadership-development training to any employee who’s worked at PCL for over a year. “We really do believe in investing in our people.” Olsson says.
The pride staff take in their work is further fuelled by PCL’s employee share ownership program. All company shares are held by employees.
“We want to have employee ownership for the next 100 or 200 years,” Olsson says. “We don’t want to think quarter to quarter, we want to think long-term.”
Bhatti says the employee-ownership component means you’re not just there to collect a paycheque. “Everybody’s success depends on the next person’s success,” he says. “So you will go out of your way to help another person.”
Similar concepts are at play in PCL’s community involvement and charitable initiatives.
The company’s participation in the annual United Way campaign is “huge,” Bhatti says. Making staff feel like stakeholders in their work and part of their communities is pivotal – and motivational.
“Some member of your family might end up in the same room that you are building,” Bhatti says. “So it gives people that extra bit of incentive to do their best.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2022):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 17, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why PCL Construction was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2022):
- As part of the PCL Student Program, students receive ongoing support and feedback from their immediate supervisor as well as an assigned buddy, and have various opportunities to engage in meaningful work throughout their 4 to 16-month term
- PCL Construction manages an accelerated superintendent development program and an accelerated estimating and construction risk management program for early-career leaders -- the intensive programs range from 9 months to 2 years in length and focus on identifying personal leadership strengths, building technical knowledge, and developing mentoring relationships
- PCL Construction collaborates with the University of Alberta, recruiting master's and PhD students to work on research projects relating to the civil, mechanical, electrical, and computing science areas of construction
PCL helps young colleagues build out their careers
After four co-op placements led to a successful full-time job at PCL Construction, Rupert Sison was convinced he landed in the right place to advance his professional career. What surprised him was how well the company promoted other aspects of his life too.
When Sison asked for extended time off to get married during the pandemic, PCL “totally accommodated” his request.
“I’m really thankful that my company cares about both my professional and personal life,” says Sison, a project coordinator. “There’s a life balance. And given the pandemic, it’s very important that they care not only about your personal life but about your mental health as well.”
The Edmonton-based global construction company has been investing in Sison since he first applied for a placement as a University of Alberta mechanical engineering student in 2014. Over 20 months of co-op work, he received a breadth of experience, extensive training and one of the annual monetary scholarships awarded to outstanding prospects in PCL’s student program.
“That’s how PCL takes care of their students,” Sison says. “They hire you with a long-term vision of honing your skills and talents for a permanent role.”
Once he was hired full-time – which was made official even before his graduation ceremony – his training only accelerated. Sison has since worked on projects that allowed him “to see the full construction cycle.” With a particular focus on the energy sector, Sison has worked on oil & gas and wind projects, and now power generation projects.
Sison has been continuously impressed by how vigorously PCL handles safety and health protocols – especially amid the pandemic. Work teams have daily check-ins, mask protocols and social distancing, he says, and he calls the contact tracing superb.
“Knowing that your company abides by the government regulations and health authority guidelines and restrictions gives you peace of mind,” Sison says.
The company places a huge emphasis on hiring young people, says Mike Olsson, vice president of human resources and professional development. He notes 70 per cent of PCL’s entry-level jobs typically are filled by former students.
PCL works with about 50 post-secondary institutions across Canada to look for would-be hires. Last year, PCL had almost 500 student placements.
Once they’ve joined full-time, younger workers are offered instruction geared to advance their careers, including technical and behavioural training as well as leadership development. Younger employees are further incentivized because they are given “big responsibility right off the bat,” and meaningful work, says Olsson.
“We’re building infrastructure, projects and communities,” he says. “Our purpose is building a better future.”
Another important element that helps young people rise at PCL is mentorship, says Olsson. Because the company is employee-owned – 100 per cent of the shares are held by staff – everyone in the company wants new hires to be successful. He points to an old PCL motto from the Eighties, “Each one, teach one,” which has since been expanded to “Each one,
“It’s all fuelled by the conviction that you’re part of the PCL family,” Olsson says. “As owners, we want our fellow owners to do well.” Sison concurs that mentorships are a key building block at PCL, adding they have definitely helped him.
“Industry experts are eager to share their years of experience and knowledge with younger people like me,” he says. “It’s just really inspiring and shows how they truly care for you to succeed.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2022):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 19, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why PCL Construction was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2022):
- PCL Construction encourages employees to reach out to one another and share their best ideas on building sustainability into all aspects of its operations, such as contributing their ideas through short videos to share "My Sustainability Story" on how to make projects (and offices) more sustainable
- PCL Construction employees are encouraged to volunteer with office sustainability committees to develop and execute environmental plans -- employees can also volunteer to join the company's Solar Centre of Excellence that provides opportunities to work on some of Canada's largest solar facilities
- PCL Construction is a founding member of the City of Edmonton’s Corporate Climate Leaders program, which works alongside businesses encouraging them to become leaders on climate action (and save money) by helping them find environmental efficiencies across their operations
PCL is building a more sustainable future
As the employees at PCL Construction have shown, saving the planet sometimes requires a little ingenuity.
That was certainly needed when the construction giant took on a project in Saskatoon to renovate facilities at the University of Saskatchewan’s Huskies football field. The construction team had hoped to send the old turf to be recycled, but soon found out a local company wouldn’t accept the old rubber because it was mixed with sand.
“So instead of sending it to landfill we asked the university to reach out to alumni and community partners to see if they wanted a piece of the old field as memorabilia,” says Mark Wiegers, a Saskatoon-based project manager. The plan worked, allowing PCL to divert 375 tons of waste.
In another case, a team working on a big-box store renovation rescued tons of perfectly good ceiling tiles and donated them for re-use in local public schools.
“Stories like this are happening all over the company,” Wiegers says. “It really inspires us all to do better every day.”
Across its operations, which span North America and Australia, PCL has worked with project partners to achieve diversion rates of 90 per cent or greater. In 2020, for instance, it reached a 91 per cent recycling rate for all projects in its home base of Edmonton.
Waste diversion is just a small part of PCL’s overall sustainability program, which covers its own operations and extends to the projects it builds. It has been expanding those efforts by promoting its Sustainability Strategic Plan, which aims to create better environmental awareness among staff and external partners.
“Just like operational excellence, safety and quality, sustainable construction practices are ingrained in our people and operations,” Wiegers says.
One of the keys to success is the company’s network of “sustainable construction advisors.” The SCAs – who include Wiegers as the rep for Saskatoon – work with local teams to provide expertise on sustainability for company offices and construction projects.
To further spread the message and support PCL’s learning culture, the company offers all staff “Sustainability 101” training, an in-house program that teaches the technical aspects of sustainability, says Mike Wieninger, chief operating officer, Canadian operations.
He says PCL already has over 260 staff who have LEED certification, a globally recognized designation of environmentally responsible construction practices. That’s helped give PCL the expertise to work on some impressive projects. Wieninger points to Limberlost Place, being built for George Brown College in Toronto. The building will be a 10-storey tall-wood, net-zero carbon emissions structure on the city’s waterfront.
“The knowledge, the size of our organization and the experience we have allows us to build these pretty spectacular innovative projects for forward-looking clients,” Wieninger says.
PCL has also pushed heavily into renewable energy. PCL Solar has already worked on more than 40 major solar projects in Canada, is expanding into the U.S. and Australia, and will have powered over 500,000 homes and businesses by the end of 2022, he says.
PCL’s green drive has led to the use of some significant innovations, including a cloud-based system that uses sensors to monitor and regulate such things as temperature, humidity, vibration and sound. PCL uses Job Site Insights, a smart construction platform, during and after construction to make buildings “a little bit greener,” Wieninger says.
Company leaders have encouraged PCLers, as they’re known, to partner with local organizations to make a difference in their communities and build a better future. In addition to monetary contributions, employees have donated thousands of hours to events like tree planting, adopt-a-highway cleanups and recycling events.
“There’s certainly a strong focus on community involvement,” Wiegers says. “Being socially responsible is both good for business as well as for the communities where we all live and raise our families.”