Managing change

August 26, 2014
Janet Gilmore

Janet Gilmore’s organization grew 85 per cent in three years.

With the oil and gas industry booming in Alberta, Quinn Contracting employs roughly 2,000 people, primarily represented in the skilled tradespeople and general labourers it contracts out to large-scale oil and gas plants’ maintenance and construction projects. As Quinn’s director of corporate services, Gilmore is responsible for the human resources, marketing and communications, and information technology departments. The quick growth of the company highlighted a need for change and Gilmore was ready to lead.

“Our company has experienced incredible growth,” says Gilmore, a Royal Roads MBA alumna. “When I inherited the HR team, that particular group was operating with too few people to get the job done and it lacked systems. What growth had occurred happened organically, not strategically.”

As an employment brand, more than 50 per cent of Quinn’s marketing and communications efforts were dedicated to recruitment of new hires.  Without a dedication to social media and website enhancements, the HR recruitment team would never be able to fill operations staffing requests.

“In oil and gas, the labour market is the tightest it has ever been,” she says. “It’s a highly competitive market for these skilled trades people.”

To keep up with the demand, and with the help of her management team, Gilmore dovetailed the marketing and communications team with the HR department, and then divided HR staff between recruitment and retention. For a company with more than four decades of history, it was a major change in the way it did business. Managing that transition was vital to the success of the teams and the company, Gilmore says.

“When you talk reorganization the first thing people leap to is their job security,” she says. “It was really important to have a lot of communication throughout the process so that people were clear that everyone was going to be fine.”

Having recently also completed Royal Roads Graduate Certificate in Strategic HR Management, Gilmore used the 5C model she learned in the classroom to help her staff through the restructure - a major transition in the way they did business.

Under the 5C model – which is outlined as communication, confidentiality, cultural compatibility, courtship and completion – that meant clearly communicating what was happening, how it impacted staff and making room for conversations and feedback, either directly to staff or with appropriate levels of confidentially.

It’s a sentiment echoed by associate faculty member Beth Page who developed the 5C model. “I ask change leaders to answer one question for themselves each day and that is, ‘What can I communicate about this change today?’ And then communicate it.”

Having a shared vision is just as important as communication, Gilmore says, “One of the most important things is the shared vision; the team members all know they have a purpose, and mirrored with their inherent sense of customer service excellence, we’re delivering on that.”

With the restructure implemented, Gilmore is moving forward with the promises made to staff. An automated system for tracking and processing applicants has been put in place and the appropriate staff trained to use it. The restructure has also allowed clearer succession plans to be in place so staff have more options for their professional development. There is also better communication between all levels of staff and clients, she says.

“It was the right thing to do for the business and our ability to deliver good service, but we also promised the group that the restructure would allow them to grow in their jobs,” she says. “People are smiling again. They feel like they are part of something bigger. That’s kind of magical – you see happier people that know if they have ambition, there is some place for them to go.”