December 29, 2013. It’s almost the end of 2013. It’s a beautiful sunny day here in New Orleans and we’re just back from a Second Line< parade Uptown. The Second Line is a kind of like a rolling block party. You can catch one most Sundays throughout the year in various neighborhoods for a little local music and authentic culture. It’s a great way for people to put their troubles on pause for a few hours, which is what a lot of us do this time of year if we can.
Our company is resting up for a big year to come. Starting Jan. 1 we’ll be ringing in a new CEO, Jacque Hinman. Aside from knowing a thing or two about Second Lines, Jacque is a smart, savvy and thoughtful person. She has a good heart, which for me is a prerequisite for a good leader, and combines a reverence for our company’s unique Little Yellow Book culture with modern business sensibilities and a global mindset. I’m really looking forward to working by her side to grow the company, ramp up service to our clients, and expand opportunities for our people.
Outgoing CEO Lee McIntire moves to chairman, so we’re lucky he’ll still be around to help as we launch then next phase of our journey. I’ll always be grateful to Lee for taking a chance on me six years ago when I started as President of our Operations Management Business Group (then OMI). There are so many highlights for me from 2008 to 2013 that it’s hard to summarize them without leaving something or someone out. A few high points:
Safety. We’ve made steady progress towards the goal of Target Zero—keeping everyone safe, every day. Our Total Recordable Rate (a proxy for serious safety incidents) has dropped by 60 percent, meaning our associates are looking out for themselves one another better than ever before. Our projects have won more than 1,400 safety awards, including multiple recognitions from the National Safety Council, and three project locations have achieved the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s prestigious Voluntary Protection Program certification – the “Super Bowl of Safety.” This all is a great tribute to a lot of hard work, but continued vigilance on workplace safety is critically important. I’m also proud that the OMBG led the way on banning the use of cell phones while driving, which evolved into a company-wide ban.
Quality. We re-energized our Quality culture, adapting our Baldridge Award-winning approach to delivering Everyday Excellence and training. Each year, we conduct surveys among our internal stakeholders to gauge their satisfaction with our project support services, and we also survey our clients. We’ve maintained high marks for both internal and external customer satisfaction, thanks to our associates’ focus on continuous improvement and our “paid to think” culture.
Sustainability. 2013 marked the sixth year of our sustainability program in the OMBG. Client needs drove its creation and passionate volunteer “Sustainability Champions” were empowered to lead the effort, putting those closest to tasks in leadership roles to drive change. We began with 45 projects and as the program has grown, we’ve worked to engage all our 200-plus project sites to develop a broad spectrum of goals – everything from water stewardship and energy management to emissions and waste minimization and ecosystem enhancement. During the course of the last three years, these efforts have added up to some extraordinary results:
• 17 billion gallons of beneficially reused effluent
• 22 million kWh of energy reductions
• 9,658 tons of beneficially reused biosolids
• 19 ecosystem enhancements
• 276 tons of material recycled
• 423,552 gallons of chemicals saved
• 3,847 volunteer hours
• 1,897 students reached through education
• $4.9 million in savings for our company and our clients
Growth. The OMBG ranks grew from 1,700 in 2008 to 2,300 associates now. We also expanded our portfolio across all markets, including the successful “internal acquisition” of the facilities services group in mid-2009 and the bio/pharma group in 2012. And we grew the business outside North America, in places like Kuwait, Australia, New Zealand and of course Mongolia.
Investment in people. I often hear from clients that they consider our people to be the biggest differentiator between CH2M HILL and our competitors. I like to think this is because our folks are not only smart, they also are genuinely nice people with whom our clients enjoy working. So it follows that investing in people provides the greatest returns. We declared 2012 as “The Year of the Project Manager,” revising training programs and processes to reflect the critical role PMs play in delivering our services and developing strong client relationships. We also implemented a diversity and inclusion strategy, and worked hard to diversifying our workforce and management ranks, though there is still work to do in that area as we strive to have our demographics better reflect those of our clients.
Among the many great memories I will take with me into my new position are of the outstanding Global Leadership Team I got to work with over the years. I am so grateful to them for their steady and passionate leadership, their commitment to our people, and their good humor. As much fun as our GLT has had, though, my favorite times over the last six years have been out in the field, visiting with our people and our clients. I’ve made over 100 project visits during that time, to project sites large and small, and have found a common thread of dedication to our E3 mission to enhance the environment and quality of life, empower people, and exceed customer expectations. I have been inspired by our associates’ dedication to safety and service, and I am so grateful for the warm welcome I got everywhere I went. I wish my capable successor Steve Meininger the best of luck and I know he’ll be a big success.
And so as we bid 2013 adieu and stand on the threshold of a new year: be happy, be healthy, be safe and keep clapping on the 2 and 4.