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What Construction Companies Can Learn from PCL’s Culture of Giving


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From food drives and fundraisers to charity golf tournaments, fun runs, and volunteer hours, giving and social responsibility are ingrained in the company culture of PCL Construction. 

For decades, the company has partnered with the United Way, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and other nonprofits to raise money and awareness about important causes. PCL’s employees regularly volunteer thousands of hours each year at many different organizations nationwide, and the company donates millions to a variety of charities, often including matching employee donations. 

For its efforts, PCL, a group of independent construction companies that works in the US, Canada, the Caribbean and Australia, was recognized as one of 2017 Best Workplaces for Giving Back by the Great Place to Work Institute and Fortune magazine.

The success of these kinds of programs starts at the top, and this guides the overarching giving mission of the company. 

The success of these kinds of programs starts at the top, and this guides the overarching giving mission of the company, says Stephanie McCay, manager of US communications at PCL. This is essential for construction companies hoping to start philanthropic initiatives. 

Having a giving spirit and being devoted to a cause serves construction companies well. Potential employees are increasingly more eager to work for philanthropic companies, and companies with volunteer, donation, or other philanthropic initiatives report greater employee satisfaction. 

Fostering a Culture of Giving 

PCL’s philanthropic company culture is rooted in the fact that it has been employee-owned for more than forty years. McCay says this came about thanks to former CEO Bob Stollery. 

“He had this idea of sharing the company with employees,” she explains.

“He had this idea of sharing the company with employees,” she explains. 

Today, PCL encourages and supports its more than 1,600 US employees in their desire to improve the quality of life in their communities through volunteer efforts. McCay says each company branch and employee is encouraged to focus on a cause that is near and dear to their hearts or that is important locally. 

For example, after the recent Hurricane Harvey, Houston, Texas-based PCL employees worked together to restore colleagues’ homes. Employees from PCL’s Transportation Infrastructure Group has built a footbridge for the Bajo Cobre community in Panama with Bridges to Prosperity and architect partner HDR, Inc. PCL has also recently committed to a two-year contract with the Red Cross to donate $75,000 in both 2018 and 2019, which McCay says was a decision that came from the top. 

In 2016, PCL donated $6.6 million to charitable organizations companywide and matched a total of $1.4 million in employee donations. 

In 2016, PCL donated $6.6 million to charitable organizations companywide and matched a total of $1.4 million in employee donations.  

Across the company, employees are encouraged to volunteer and participate in community organizations — and, with supervisor approval, they are given time during the workday to do so. Additionally, McCay says most company executives serve on the boards of nonprofit organizations. 

“We need to have a lot of employees who are passionate about giving, passionate about volunteering, and an organization that supports them,” she says. 

The company makes it fun, too, by actively participating in golf tournaments, walks, runs, cook-offs, and other charitable events. During the holidays, PCL works with local food banks, and many offices participate in holiday trees where they buy presents for people in need. While the holidays are an important time to give, McCay says the company also does a springtime food drive because that’s when food banks tend to be low on food donations. 

Setting Up a Philanthropy Program 

Giving back is good for communities and companies alike. Setting up a social responsibility or giving program can also bring benefits to companies and employees. 

Executive-level buy-in for a company’s philanthropic efforts sets the tone for the entire organization to be socially responsible and care about giving. From there, McCay suggests, it takes a grassroots effort to make successful volunteer and donation-drive efforts work. 

“I think we've been successful because our executives believe that it's important,” she says.  

“I think we've been successful because our executives believe that it's important,” she says. 

Research shows that corporate-level social responsibility is also a major factor in attracting top talent, particularly millennials. In a recent poll conducted for Forbes, about two-thirds of people ages 18-34 reported that they were more likely to choose to work for a company that gives to charity, than one that was not involved in any giving programs.  

McCay says PCL has a strong community presence and reputation for giving, and potential recruits have come to them after visiting the company’s website and seeing how involved they are with the community. 

The construction industry has a unique skillset to offer to a variety of organizations, she says. Along with PCL, many construction companies across the country also work with Habitat for Humanity or other charities where their building skills are needed. 

“I think construction is an awesome industry to help those nonprofits in improving their facilities or anything like, and I see a lot of that going around,” McCay says. 

The programs also boost employee morale as they give a common goal and keep teams invested in their work.  

Charitable giving and social responsibility programs heighten a company’s reputation in the community and can provide valuable networking opportunities. The programs also boost employee morale as they give a common goal and keep teams invested in their work. 

While a top-down philanthropic strategy can permeate an organization, McCay recommends letting employees focus on the causes that matter to them most and providing them the support to make a difference — encouraging them to get out in the community and see for themselves the difference they are making. 

“That’s really helped make people understand,” she says. “Any firm needs to align their philanthropic giving with the passions of their employees. We have offices across the country, and each office supports something different because that’s what the employees are passionate about.” 

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