‘Poole’s Rules’ help establish powerful legacy
In 1903, when Ernest E. Poole, the founder of what would become PCL Construction, left his home in Prince Edward Island for Canada’s untamed west, it was out of a spirit of adventure but also borne of a desire to build a better life for himself and his family.
His ingenuity, sense of purpose and principles are still reflected over a century later in PCL’s culture, and foremost among these enduring virtues is Poole’s initiative. How else could one explain the outstanding growth of the organization into the international construction powerhouse it has become? Poole’s legacy has earned PCL Construction entry into Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures ( Enterprise category) for 2015 in Waterstone Human Capital’s annual competition.
Established in 1906, the PCL family of companies is the largest general contracting organization in Canada, a position it has held for more than 30 years, and the sixth largest general contractor in the United States. PCL’s diverse range of operations in the civil infrastructure, heavy industrial, and buildings markets are supported by a strategic presence in 31 major centers across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and in Australia; truly an organization with impressive credentials.
“As we’ve grown f rom those humble beginnings, we’ve developed a proven reputation as a construction leader: a strong, reliable, and successful contracting entity that prides itself on producing a quality product that meets or exceeds client expectations,” says PCL president/chief executive Paul Douglas. “It is a credit to the work of our employees, past and present, that we have achieved such success.”
“A key contributor to PCL’s success is the cultural foundation first established by Ernest Poole many decades ago,” says Dave Filipchuk, deputy CEO of PCL Construction. “His example is well recorded in t he historic Poole’s Rules. Those principles continue to guide us to this day.”
A good businessman with long-term vision, Poole knew that the key to securing client confidence was to not only deliver a project on time and on budget, but to deliver it using the time-honoured principles of honesty, fair play and providing good value for one’s construction dollar. In the 1940s, Poole wrote down the principles that had guided the early success.
Formally called “Poole’s Rules,” these principles have helped shape what PCL is today and are still very much a part of the culture. They are: ❚ Employ highest- grade people obtainable. ❚ Encourage integrity, loyalty and efficiencies. ❚ Avoid sidelines. ❚ Do not permit sidelines by employees. ❚ Be fair in all dealings with owners, architects, engin- eers and sub-contractors. ❚ Keep your word as good as your bond. ❚ Give encouragement and show appreciation. ❚ Be firm, fair and friendly. ❚ Avoid jobs where design is not good or financing doubtful. Let your competitors have these. ❚ Good accounting and cash keeping are essential. ❚ Do not let finishing up of jobs or collecting payments lag.
PCL’s values are strengthened by an employee ownership structure, which was implemented in 1977. Today, the PCL organization is 100 per cent employee- owned, with more than 90 per cent of salaried employees as shareholders.
“Being a company brimming with employee owners is a true differentiator,” says Mike Olsson, vice- president of human resources and professional development for PCL. “Our model is unique in our industry and gives us a strategic advantage in the markets in which we operate — it allows employees to benefit directly from the success of the business, and provides a further incentive for us to do our best work and create value for customers, partners and other stakeholders.”
Over the years, this employee- owned structure has become a pillar of PCL’s strength and central to its identity as an organization. PCL’s employee- ownership model is more than an op- portunity for reward — it is a cultural mindset that promotes pride, commitment, and excellence.
This sense of ownership and empowerment extends to the development of individual employees’ careers. PCL’s College of Construction, with campuses in every district, provides professional development opportunities for every employee. Through an i nnovative blended learning model that includes e-learning, instructor- led training, coaching and mentoring, the college provides employees with t he t ools t hey need to achieve exceptionally high performance.
“PCL e mployees are highly motivated to engage in learning, which makes the college so effective,” adds Olsson. “Through the college, they foster their supervisory and l eadership abilities and develop and enhance their construction technology and business skills. PCLers really see the benefit of taking hold of their own career development.”
The newest professional development initiative at PCL is the PCL Leadership Academy, launched to support employees as they develop their leadership skills. It will build on existing PCL leadership initiatives and strategically expand the leadership programs, products and services available to PCL employees.
“We’re r eall y e xci t ed about the development of the PCL Leadership Academy,” says Olsson.
“There are l eaders in every role and job function at PCL, and the academy will provide them with a full leadership toolbox to help create success.”
“Ours is a culture of continuous learning, empowerment and ownership at every level of our company,” says Olsson. “When employees have that sense of initiative, it’s a truly powerful force. Empowered employees enable PCL to ignite innovation and bring leadership to every project we deliver.”
IT IS A CREDIT TO OUR EMPLOYEES, PAST AND PRESENT, THAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED SUCH SUCCESS OURS IS A CULTURE OF CONTINUOUS LEARNING, EMPOWERMENT AND OWNERSHIP AT EVERY LEVEL OF OUR COMPANY. WHEN EMPLOYEES HAVE THAT SENSE OF INITIATIVE, IT’S A TRULY POWERFUL FORCE. EMPOWERED EMPLOYEES ENABLE PCL TO IGNITE INNOVATION AND BRING LEADERSHIP TO EVERY PROJECT WE DELIVER — MIKE OLSSON, VICE-PRESIDENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, PCL CONSTRUCTION
Ernest Poole´s legacy lives on in the thousands of PCL employee owners
across North America and Australia.