How a workshop that connected developing professionals and leadership helped Stantec’s strategic plan reveal its full benefits
A crucial driver for a company’s success is its ability to attract, retain, and develop the right people. People with strong technical knowledge and skills who are inspired by their work and are highly engaged with the organization.
That’s why one of Stantec’s six strategic objectives for 2019 is building an inspired culture.
Early in 2019, Stantec’s Developing Professionals Group (DPG) in Vancouver, British Columbia, was hashing out ideas on how to engage leadership with staff. One of their ideas was a strategic planning session that connected developing professionals (DPs) and leaders. The response from leadership? They were ecstatic.
The session involved a half dozen groups of six or seven DPs each with leadership contacts assigned to each group. DPs came from a variety of professional backgrounds and were mixed together so a range of Stantec business lines, perspectives, and skillsets were represented in each group.
Through networking, collaborating, and discussing, each working group got to engage with critical elements in Stantec’s strategic plan. They talked about how to use and develop the plan’s ideas, how to improve communication lines, and how to drive business, relationships, and connection to communities.
Following the event, we asked three attendees to share their opinions and thoughts about Stantec’s strategic plan and how the DPG can make it a reality.
Jamie Lee Cue (Vancouver, British Columbia) is a project coordinator for programs and business solutions. She’s currently working with the Healthcare studio on major healthcare projects.
Gina Weaver (Vancouver, British Columbia) is an executive assistant who supports the regional lead. She’s also the DPG regional lead for British Columbia and co-chair for Women@Stantec in British Columbia.
Russ Wlad (Calgary, Alberta) is the executive vice president and regional operating unit leader for Canada. Over the last 30 years with Stantec, he’s touched many different sectors and taken on many different leadership roles.
What does a strategic plan do for a company like Stantec?
G: It’s a cohesive plan for all our business lines to work towards. Unlike a business plan, a strategic plan links all our various sectors, puts forward a common goal, and sets a theme for the year.
JL: A strategic plan gives a company a passion and a drive. You can’t have a passionate company if your people don’t know where you want to go or what you want to be. The best way to do that is to know how you want to get there and get buy-in from everyone. Driving towards a common goal unites not only a team, but a company.
R: A strategic plan establishes our Company’s direction and priorities. We put a significant amount of work into the plan, including market research that tells us where we have opportunities to grow, innovate, and win business. With the size and diversity of our operations, a strategic plan is critical to ensure we are all working towards the same goal.
Why should an employee be familiar with the strategic plan?
JL: One of the things a strategic plan does is set out how a company is going to operate. To be fulfilled at work, you have to work with a company that shares your values. The strategic plan shows the gap between where the company is and where it wants to go allowing employees to find new and exciting opportunities that align with the Company’s vision.
G: Some people might think that the strategic plan is too high level, over their heads. For me, I see how important it is to understand the direction of the Company. It gives me a kind of “guiding light” in ascertaining the purpose of my work and why it matters. Also, exposure to impactful initiatives like coastal resilience and smart cities—even if I’m not working on them—appeals to my sense of altruism. I like knowing that the Company I’m supporting is bettering the world we live in.
R: A plan is just a plan until we look at what parts we can contribute to. There is so much opportunity out there for us—and we need all our employees to do their part, to set goals and be accountable for making sure that our efforts support the growth and success of the Company.
How does the plan turn into action?
R: I can’t stress this enough—every employee plays a part in our success. Every employee can influence how our Company meets goals.
JL: Engagement. The plan has to be shared with employees and made visible and transparent. As a result of the Vancouver Strategy session, we took what the DPs wanted to see, made a plan of action, and created a team to do that. Once it’s obvious where the Company is headed—and what values you share—it’s easy to get behind plans that drive the business forward.
G: The DPG Strategy Taskforce that we formed after the Vancouver Strategy session wrote up two SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals under each strategic objective. One idea, tied into building an inspired culture, is championing the DPG’s involvement and voice in mentorship and sponsorship programs that will train early-career professionals and support retention.
What benefits have you seen from the DPG’s engagement with the strategic plan?
JL: The strategic plan bridges gaps, gaps between DPs and leadership, and gaps between colleagues in different sectors. When we sat down and talked about it, we saw that we each have the same goals and mindsets and need some of the same tools. When we created those connections, we could better support bottom-up change in the Company. At the end of the day we’re all working towards the same goal and want to help each other—this session made the space and time to do just that.
G: The feedback about the event has been so positive. DPs really felt like they had been heard, but even more amazing was the reaction we got from the leadership who participated—they were excited about the connections they’d made with employees.
R: Really, it’s been the new, fresh perspective on our challenges. I think the DPG looks at our business differently. The group has great ideas around innovation, culture, and how we can work with our different businesses and geographies to be the best we can be, together. I think some of our leadership could benefit from knowing a few of the things the DPG does—specifically with technology, project execution, and client relationship building. We need opportunities to incorporate those best practices into our work so they can drive our business.
After the Conversation
The goal of the DPG is to create a space where employees can develop technically and professionally. As part of building our inspired culture, that means getting them engaged with leadership and getting leadership engaged with DPG ideas.
One result of the Vancouver Strategy Session was the formation of the DPG Strategy Taskforce. Another was the exposure of leadership to new and innovative ideas. Combined, that means top-down and bottom-up change can be cultivated by the Company and channeled by the strategic plan.
There will always be different perspectives and ideas on how to implement big picture thinking. By supporting events like the Vancouver Strategy Session, programs like the DPG and individuals like Jamie Lee and Gina, Stantec—and leaders like Russ—can engage the entire potential of our Company and drive our success now and into the future.
Learn more about our Developing Professionals Group (DPG) at Stantec.