Following the success of the recently held Turner International New Hire Conference (TINC) in India, experienced senior officials from Turner elaborate upon the company´s activities.
Bringing effective talent onboard is the key to success at Turner. Indeed, the company is acclaimed world over for how it welcomes and treats budding professionals in its family. And this is what makes the Turner International New Hire Conference (TINC) - its most recent edition was held in Mumbai last month - even more imperative for the company.
These conferences provide skilled potential employees a platform and channel their energy through effective induction and processes orientation. This has helped Turner retain talent, reduce employee turnover, and foster pride in working for a company that values employees and lays stress on the theme of quality throughout its HR operations.
Throughout the globe, the company has a robust and strong orientation process guided and led by Sal LaScala, Chief Learning Officer. At the Mumbai conference, experienced senior staff from various Turner offices or projects was invited to give an orientation on the Turner system to all staff hired during the year. The entire programme was supervised by Jairam Panch, Managing Director and Abrar Sheriff, President & CEO.
Along with increasing productivity, an initiative such as TINC, has certain objectives to achieve. These include:
“We drive ourselves deeper into the supply chain and come closer to the supplier.”
- Mark A Boyle, Senior Vice President & Chief Procurement Officer, Turner Construction
Please introduce us to the technical and commercial aspects of procurement. The concept of the Global Sourcing Solutions Group is that most of our competitors push all the procurement down to their subcontractors and they focus on mitigating risk. Our approach is totally opposite: We drive ourselves deeper into the supply chain and believe this reduces our risk. This way, we come closer to the supplier. By getting rid of all the intermediaries, we reduce the price, have direct factory relationships and control quality. Ultimately, our aim is to deliver a quality product at an affordable cost.
How do you ensure high-quality construction materials at a competitive price? Our motto is to source alternate products from across the world at equal or better quality. We ensure this in different ways. First, I personally inspect every factory - in terms of quality, manufacturing process and cleanliness - before doing any business with them. I look at the workers to ensure that there is no inappropriate use of labour. And, I look at environmental issues. If the factory does not abide by these, we do not do any business with them. So, that is the first level of inspection.
At the second level, that is, if we decide to do business with the factory, we place an order with them. We have third-party inspection agencies that are stringent in specific criteria that they test, depending on the product. So, different products have different testing criteria. On the first shipment of any order, it is 100 per cent inspection for dimensions, product quality, load testing, stain testing, etc. Usually it is around 20 per cent inspection for all orders after that. That is how we ensure that we are delivering a quality product.
At what stage of project development do you step in?
The ideal procurement plan is to engage global sourcing early in the process where the client survives budget expectations for the various product categories, and then global sourcing engages directly with the architect; and we understand their vision and work in line. So we work directly and only present products that fall within the client´s expectations to the architect. We bring the two together. We refer to this process as the lean procurement process. With this process, we take the responsibility of aligning our client´s budget expectations with the architects´ appetite and avoid cost overruns. And then, we are involved till completion. We ensure our products are delivered and placed inevitably.
How would you strategise to strengthen key national and international supplier relationships while collaborating with local purchasing activity?
It is all about communication; in the procurement group, we refer to this as connecting the dots. On a monthly basis, we get all regional procurement managers on a phone call and talk about what is going on in the region, if there are any problems with suppliers or subcontractors. We also have a major matrix that we share with everybody and we track activities, both bidding and awarding, of all our major subcontractors and bidders world over. We use this for a couple of technical purposes, but the main one is concentration of risk. This is how we keep procurement tight.
In a scenario of delays and cost overrun, what services could Turner offer to control the situation?
There are two aspects we should talk about. The first is that because we have removed all intermediary barriers in the supply chain and deal directly with the factory, Turner´s clients would not be experiencing any escalation in cost that the industry may be. The second aspect is our product knowledge. We know all our products sourced inside and out. So we would be able to isolate the cause of the escalation and attack that. Our deep knowledge of products and shorter reach into the supply chain will benefit our clients by controlling risks, whether owing to delay or escalation.
“We are a people-first company; and here, safety is first.”
- Chris McFadden, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Turner Construction Company
What does your scope of work involve?
As for communications, this is an internal and external communication function for the company. So, from the internal side, it is employee communication. We are a company of about 8,000 people working around the world at 1,500 locations and 50 permanent offices. So we build a bridge, wherein someone working on a mall project in Delhi connects with someone working on a mall project in Cincinnati, Ohio, where project challenges could be the same. Further, on the external side of things, our focus is on interacting with the media and the external world about what is happening in our company.
How does the marketing business contribute to the overall development of the company?
It is part of understanding our company´s strengths - what we are all about, our offering within our markets and to our clients - as well as understanding the client´s needs. So, part of the marketing role is to communicate with the client and industry partners what we offer, our strengths, what can we provide and how we add value to a project. With that, we can build relationships that are long term. We build lasting relationships time and again.
How do you strategise to keep the company ahead of its competitors?
Part of the company´s culture has always been to find a sustainable competitive advantage. From our establishment in 1902, we took the process called steel-reinforced concrete and brought that product to the market. It brought safer, stronger and more durable buildings. Today, we are still in that process of inventing ways to build better, safer, and deliver a better product for our clients.
What would you say is Turner´s strength in the present day?
We are a people-first company; and here, safety is first. So what is our strength? It is our people, and our philosophy and culture that gives us our strength. We are a service organisation and the focus is always on our people. It is our connectivity with each other that enables successful projects.
“We invest about $3 million in training on an annual basis.”
- Sal LaScala, Senior Vice President, Chief Learning Officer, Turner Construction Company
Please comment on the need for safety and training in construction in the present day. Safety comes first. We have a programme called building LIFE and LIFE stands for ´living injury-free everyday´. We conduct a lot of internal safety training including CPR, how to give emergency treatment to someone; we certainly train in protective equipment such as hard hat, safety goggles and protective boots, and we ensure that happens in the field.
At present, you are responsible for all Web-based and instructor-led training programmes. What is the focus on?
The focus is on developing skill-sets as required. We have an annual performance management system where the supervisor or employee discuss improvements that are necessary, and then the trainings move in that direction. The instructor-led learning helps with interpersonal skills and the Web-based learning helps with a lot of technical skills. Also, in some of our programmes, we develop the same with our national subject matter experts and then deliver it to different units to train their local employees.
How much do you invest in these training activities?
At the headquarters level on an annual basis, we invest about $3 million in training. In terms of time, it is a hundred thousand of hours in total that is invested in training.
As green is an important focus area for the company, do the training programmes also focus on this?
Internally, we have green professionals collaborate and share best practices on different projects. We have just started working with IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) in India. Further, we encourage all our employees to get their certificate in some form of sustainable construction.
How does the training you´ve been offering to different departments contribute to the company´s overall growth?
It is not always easy to measure one for one. But safety training is something we do measure and care about and it is important to us. We look at accidents reported across various projects because we have more safety training and awareness. We also know how to respond to small incidents that happen on our projects. This type of training gets rewarded and observed instantly.