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Corporate culture at the helm of the crisis

It seems to me that we have seen all the seasons pass during the month of March.

The past few weeks have been surprising to say the least. As a company, we have embarked on the train of uncertainty and crisis management, a train which is advancing at lightning speed. First there was the observation of a phenomenon which seemed distant to us. Without really wanting to panic, we have all personally and gradually changed our social habits. Then, the measures taken by our governments brought us into action, until the interruption of work on certain sites.

It is in this type of situation that we realize how fortunate we are, at Pomerleau, to be able to rely on a strong and unifying organizational culture, which becomes the real rudder of our decisions.

Amidst this socio-economic crisis which will go down in history, I retain three main observations which attest to the immense power of corporate culture as the foundation of the before, during and, above all, the post crisis.

1- Culture as a lever of agility

At Pomerleau, we challenge ourselves every day to redefine construction together, from idea to realization, everywhere, at all times and without compromise. This cannot be done without agility, and, in this time of crisis, we have put to the test what agility really means.

The speed with which we had to act as an organization to protect our employees, suppliers, partners, and their families demanded that we rapidly find our bearings in order to act effectively. At the first warnings by our governments, we assembled a crisis cell that has turned into an emergency response team.

Preparing (in record time!) our COVID-19 pandemic response plan would not have been possible without strong adherence to our values of authenticity, love, and adaptability. We have lived these values in all our decisions: ensuring our relationships were our top priority for the greater benefit of the community, demanded creative agility and an extraordinary degree of compassion and collaborative spirit. Even before the crisis, we embraced these values daily, and today they form the cornerstone of our strategy for managing it.

2- Culture as a pillar of change management

We chose to manage the change together, despite the distance that was imposed. For employees in all our nine offices from coast to coast, the first impact was telecommuting, a mode of working that we had just started to implement at Pomerleau. For our colleagues on the construction sites, we redoubled our efforts and our commitment to health and safety with improved sanitary measures and better-defined rest areas.

Like many in our industry, the closure of some construction sites has forced us to find solutions to maintain employment ties with all our colleagues. Because we were aware of the financial consequences this would have on our employees and their families, empathy and compassion drove us to find the best solution for them. I was impressed to see the consideration and collaboration shown by our colleagues.

Here again our organizational culture allowed us, on the fly, to implement significant changes, but which, in the end, proved to be second nature given the way our team was able to integrate them quickly and efficiently. Our team leaders took the challenge resiliently to mobilize their colleagues under the circumstances.

I have a lot of admiration and gratitude for them and am proud of the solution we initiated.

3- Culture as the foundation for sustainable transformation

There is no doubt that corporate culture is the solid foundation of a home which can then be continuously renovated and improved. I am convinced that some of the enormous transformations we are currently experiencing will continue, well beyond the “return to normal.”

As we begin our fifth week of adaptation, I have asked our team to reflect on what changes they think will remain after the crisis. In our industry, we will inevitably see a gap between the health and safety practices of the past and those of the future. Standards will be raised by regulatory authorities, and Pomerleau will strive, as it always has, to exceed them for the well-being of its workers. Human relationships will also be called upon to be transformed, mainly from more traditional environments, such as ours, to ones that will gradually adopt a hybrid collaboration formula composed of virtual and face-to-face meetings.

And this is what will constitute our new normal. This normality will influence our future decisions which, at Pomerleau, will time and again be driven by our family first and caring culture.

One thing is certain: we are witnessing a sustainable transformation of our corporations. There are opportunities to be seized, and it is up to all of us to infuse them with the spirit of our culture. 

 

Francis Pomerleau