A contractor’s boom requires it to bring measurement and management of labor up to a new level.
By Yvette Cameron
Graham is one of the largest general contractors in Canada, with operations in most provinces, as well as in parts of the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Midwest. The company’s divisions handle a full range of projects—from commercial buildings to infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and even mining facilities. “We have experienced an unprecedented boom,” says Kim Johnson, executive vice president for corporate development and CIO of Graham. “Consequently, we are facing some organizational challenges as we transition from what in many ways resembles a startup company culture to a larger enterprise that requires more formalized systems and processes to sustain growth.”
Graham has since implemented Saba Enterprise as its people management platform. Graham is rolling out a broad array of people solutions including Saba Goals and Objectives, Saba Performance Reviews, Saba Succession, Saba Compensation, Saba Learning, and Saba Centra.
Improving Performance Measurement
The initial focus for Graham has been performance management. For many years, Graham had operated as a typical small company where everyone knew one another—goals were self-evident, and people did what had to be done. Reviews were informal, with the help of written documents that managers were expected to complete in advance.
“Unfortunately, I would say that our completion rate was less than 50 percent,” says Johnson. “It was challenging to get managers to do the write-ups.”
With Saba Performance Reviews, Graham has structured the casual process, while preserving the company’s commitment to its more than 3,000 employees and affiliated personnel as its most important asset.
The new model has enabled Graham to continuously align workers with the company’s goals and objectives, and make the review process more relevant—tying rewards closely to results. The solution has also helped streamline the review process. “We are now completing well in excess of 90 percent of our reviews,” notes Johnson. “The process still requires work—but because of its relevance to the company’s success and an improved framework, our managers execute more consistently.”
The performance review process is linked to monetary recognition at Graham. The company implements a yearly bonus pool that is based on a percentage of pre-tax company profitability, with the review contributing one factor to the calculus. It makes up for one-third of the recommended distribution; the rest is accessed by group performance and alignment to annual business plan. Prior to Saba, there was no link between performance and rewards.
Identifying, Training, and Rewarding Future Leaders
The demographic distribution of Graham’s workforce has also created challenges in career and succession planning, training, and compensation. With many of Graham’s top people within five-to-ten years of retirement (and a scarcity of middle management throughout the industry), the company needs to identify and groom future leaders, train its large number of staff and field personnel in their 20s and 30s, and establish a compensation program that drives better results and encourages the best people to stay with the company.
“We are in the process of implementing Saba Succession and hope to be an early adopter of Saba Compensation in 2010,” Johnson says. “We expect Saba solutions will help us identify and fast-track the most promising 20- to 30-year-olds within our organization—and prepare them for the demands they will face in the future.”
Graham is also excited about what Saba Learning and Saba Centra can bring to the company’s educational arm, Graham University, especially for less experienced employees. “Our younger people have very different needs from our seasoned employees,” explains Johnson. “They also learn differently—are more used to a distributed, self-serve model. Saba supports a full range of learning environments and styles—from classroom to e-learning—and will enable us to efficiently meet our requirements.”
In addition, Johnson sees Saba Social likely being part of Graham’s people management mix in the future. Graham’s younger employees often prefer to learn on the job. Saba’s industry-leading experience in informal learning and collaboration—as well as enterprise social networking tools—helps create the connections that allow people to easily find needed answers and share knowledge.
Taking Advantage of an Integrated People Platform
One of the qualities that Graham likes the most about Saba’s people management solutions is that they are all part of an integrated people platform, designed to work seamlessly together—and integrate well with Graham’s other business and organizational development systems. Graham also likes that Saba is available as either on-premise software or OnDemand solutions.
“Initially, we have chosen to run the Saba solutions on our own servers,” says Johnson. “But I can see our company moving to OnDemand delivery as the ‘cloud computing’ concept becomes more of a reality.”
While Graham hasn’t yet calculated an ROI for its Saba solutions, Johnson knows they will prove their worth.
“Implementing Saba’s people platform was more of a necessity for us to manage effectively,” says Johnson. “There is no doubt we will receive significant business value from Saba over time.”