Turner Construction Company: reaching out to the community

August 11, 2010

Turner Construction Company is the largest construction company in the U.S., with 5,800 employees in 46 offices nationwide and a presence in 20 countries. The firm, a subsidiary of German construction giant Hochtief AG, completed more than $9.5 billion of construction in 2007 and is constructing the tallest buildings in five different countries. Since its inception in 1902, Turner has made its mark as a company that reaches out to the communities it serves, and more recently has become recognized for its leadership in the sustainability movement.

Creating opportunities for women and minorities

Since 1969, the Turner School of Construction Management (TSCM) has been providing women- and minority-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) and other small-business owners with formal training to develop the skills necessary to be competitive in the marketplace and potentially work with Turner—or Turner’s competitors. The school offers training in business plan development, financial planning, estimating, construction law, bonding, and insurance.

Turner has held these training programs in more than 50 cities, graduating more than 21,000 entrepreneurs, and awarding 45,000 contracts, totaling $16 billion, to M/WBEs. Last year alone, 25 such training programs were held, graduating more than 1,000 persons. In 2007, Turner awarded 4,000 contracts, worth more than $1.3 billion, to M/WBEs.

In recognition of its support for minority business development, Turner was honored by the National Minority Supplier Development Council with the 2007 Corporate Leadership Award.

Turner’s outreach to women and minorities extends to its own operations. The firm’s Professional Women’s Group and Diversity Action Council provide a means for the company to respond to the changing demographics of the workforce and to ensure diversity throughout all levels of our organization.

Forty years ago, Turner became the first major U.S. construction management firm to create a formal community affairs department. Today, all 46 Turner offices are involved in either the ACE Mentor Program or YouthForce2020, both of which guide young people toward careers in construction. Last year, Turner was active in 180 schools, employed 700 interns, and granted 50 college scholarships totaling $130,000 to students across the country.

All Turner employees are measured on their participation in community activities as part of their annual reviews. One particularly active employee is Tom Paci, VP of Turner’s Sports and Public Assembly Group, who for the past five years has been visiting schools in the Washington, D.C., area, to introduce students to the construction industry.

For his work, Paci has been honored with the Greater Washington chapter’s ACE Mentor of the Year award. An even greater honor for Paci came last fall, when two of his ACE protégés started their engineering studies on full scholarships, one at Cornell University, the other at MIT.

A champion of sustainable construction

In December 2006, Turner became the first construction management firm to join the EPA Climate Leaders. “We are in the process of measuring the company’s current carbon footprint and developing a plan to reduce it,” says Michael Deane, sustainable construction operations manager. So far, Turner’s Kansas City office has become certified under LEED for Commercial Interiors and six other offices—Seattle, Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles, Denver, and Toledo—are awaiting certification.

Recycling programs are in place at many offices, and the company is implementing environmental purchasing programs for office supplies, as well as greening its vehicle fleet. Turner has set a target of recycling a minimum 50% of construction and demolition waste from every project; many projects already exceed that mark.

To encourage employees to achieve LEED AP status from the U.S. Green Building Council, Turner entered all of its LEED APs as of December 31, 2006, into a lottery. The prize: use of a Turner-provided Toyota Prius hybrid for three years. The winner: Joe Schilens, a LEED AP from Turner’s Cleveland office.

Career development at Turner starts with a Behavioral Interviewing process that uses construction-oriented questions to determine whether a candidate is right for a particular job and is a good fit with the company, says EVP Stu Robinson.

Once a candidate is given the green light, Turner’s “On-Boarding Program” kicks-in to welcome new hires even before their first day on the job. This is followed by a series of four-day programs directed at new hires. The Leadership Education Alignment Development Conference (LEAD) is tailored toward recent college hires, while the Turner Experienced Conference (TEC) acquaints veteran professional hires with Turner. Taught by Turner experts and senior managers, the classes focus on Turner culture, values, safety, and business methods.

Turner uses its extensive office network to enable employees to work in a new location. In 2007, the firm granted voluntary transfers to more than 700 employees—for new professional opportunities, for a lifestyle change, or to “trail” a spouse, according to Robinson.

The company offers confidential employee assistance for personal issues, as well as free legal, work-life, and financial counseling, including college funding, tax, and retirement strategies. Resources are also provided to help in locating services such as childcare, adult daycare, and adoption agencies.

The Turner Knowledge Network is an online system for delivering self-paced training to employees, clients, business partners, and students. Its courses include business ethics, mold awareness, and OSHA’s 30-hour safety certification course.

In addition to online learning, Turner also sponsors instructor-led courses on such subjects as business skills, construction technology, industry management, people skills, and organizational development—enough content to fill a 195-page course catalog.

Last year, Turner invested $7 million on training for its employees, who participated in nearly 200,000 hours of instruction. In 2006, Training Magazine recognized Turner as one of its Top 100 learning companies.

— Cheryl Cullen, Contributing Editor