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.”
Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.