Jen-Col is serious about building a better future.

When you first walk into Jen-Col Construction (Building a better future), I guarantee you will be impressed. The building is a combination of new and old with repurposed recycled wood in different shades throughout the building. The colours are bright and inviting. Everyone comes in through the same door and meets a most warm and welcoming receptionist who automatically elevates everyone’s mood when they met her.

I am greeted by Darren Boyde, and Barrie Latter, a recent immigrant to Canada, both Business Development Managers at Jen-Col. My purpose in meeting them is to ask what Jen-Col does to be purposeful and intentional about diversity and inclusion in an industry that is not known for its warm fuzzy workplaces – construction. Darren explains the overall picture of how Jen-Col creates a culture of inclusion and Barrie provides details of how he adjusted after arriving from Britain.

Vision in action

The entire experience is fascinating, and a real tribute to the difference it can make in the workplace to intentionally set inclusion goals and to implement practices that embed it into the culture.

During our conversation Darren points to the importance of a clear vision and goals for any company to ensure it aligns initiatives with mission and core values. Jen-Col exists to build a better future and they put this into practice by finding ways to build using existing work populations wherever they have contracts, ensuring they use as many recycled and recyclable materials as possible, engaging First Nations Chiefs and Councils, and rural Mayor and Town Councils in all negotiations for the building processes from the outset and throughout their projects. They are conscious of leaving as small an environmental footprint as possible and their building designs include a focus on transparency and interaction with the outside world so that those on the inside stay connected in some way with their environment.

They have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) of delivering unrivaled project experience by 2033 through applying their core values to all initiatives from start to finish.

These values, which are evident in everything they do are:

  1. Go above and beyond
  2. Tackle the impossible
  3. Say what you mean, mean what you say
  4. Work together for better results
  5. Help others grow
  6. Be all in – it’s personal

Transparency, collaboration and focus on people

On the people side, Jen Col promotes transparency and collaboration in all areas of the organization. As an example, employees can see all the details of estimates on the extra large monitors everyone has to walk past to get to the other parts of the building. Their departments are organized under three categories which promote thinking collaboratively:

  • Get work – business development, estimating

  • Do work – operations, project and field management, QA and QC, safety

  • Keep work – HR, accounting, IT, risk management

Jen Col focuses on finding the right person for the job no matter who or where that person is from. The company has examined its hiring and interview processes for bias, and hires internationally trained professionals, immigrants, and women. Last year they started a partnership with Women Building Futures and just hired six women supervisors from the most recent intern group. Employees come from a variety of nationalities and ethnic groups. To promote listening and to encourage feedback, there are both formal and informal feedback collection mechanisms. One of the informal mechanisms involves regularly asking these three questions:

  1. How are you feeling? What are you passionate about?
  2. How can we support you and eliminate obstacles?
  3. Where would you like to go and how can I support your goal?

Their social committee sends out surveys to find out what people want to see in the company, which recently resulted in a diversification of social activities that were inclusive of different demographics, religions and dietary restrictions with optional participation.

Leadership and learning

Learning and innovation are strongly encouraged and rewarded at Jen Col. There is a very systematic onboarding system and Jen Col focuses on having “the best training in the business” for all their employees at all levels. Projects created by interns working on their journeyman certificates can be seen throughout the building with names an explanations for the projects posted on the wall. Every year there is a competition to find the most innovative project that can be made for under $100 and with a focus on recycled materials.

Jen-Col’s management focuses on leadership from the perspective of helping others meet their goals and management regularly ask questions about how others are being resourced to do their jobs better.

Inclusion as the experience of physical space

After the interview, I am taken on a tour of the building and meet some of the employees in different departments. All departments are on the same floor, with transparent office walls and monitors so you can always see what is happening at any time. Everyone’s office has a glass wall that opens to a common area with sky light cutaways from the ceiling or a window facing corridor to ensure everyone can see and be seen, yet have the quiet and privacy to do their work without unnecessary interruptions. There is a large common room upstairs for breaks and lunch, meetings and success stories and there is no place to find coffee unless you go there. Breaks are scheduled at 10 and noon so that everyone who isn’t with a client is upstairs socializing with colleagues at least twice a day. If you are “caught” eating alone at your desk, you are told “not to let that happen again” because “Jen Col is a community where people interact”.

Continuously celebrating

One inclusion practice unique to Jen Col is a loud “calling all departments” system that looks like an emergency button, but is used to celebrate rather than to alarm. Anyone can call a “success meeting celebration” in the upstairs common room where they make a good news announcement. Celebrations have included: accounting finishing their year end, a new contract, a long project reaching completion, a birthday, a new pregnancy, a high school graduation and many more. Celebration moments happen throughout the week and can be called by individual employees, departments or managers, encouraging a climate of sharing and mutual wins, and reinforcing the idea that together we are better.

From the plaques on the wall, the art work and multiple sit down and chat spaces throughout the building, to the hiring and retention, and through to yearly partnerships with non profit groups to increase inclusion, Jen Col is a model of a happy workplace. Their philosophy is that engaged employees who are acknowledged and appreciated, trained and celebrated, will produce top quality work for clients. They also extend their policies of inclusion to clients and to the environment to offer a truly holistic building experience.

Jen Col takes intentional and planned steps to keep bringing their company wide practices and daily individual behaviours in line with their core values, build capacity and celebrate community achievements.

All I can say after this experience is “WOW!” A better future as envisioned by Jen Col is certainly something I want to be a part of. Count me in, I’m a fan, and I already feel like I belong there!

Want to earn an Employer Inclusive Workplace Certificate for your company?

If you want to learn more about building inclusive workplace practice, consider registering for our upcoming workshop for increasing your employee’s sense of belonging and engagement – and watch the sparks fly!

In May there is a Calgary opportunity to participate. Details on the Eventbrite registration page.


Calgary workshop May 9, web sessions May 16, 23


About Marie:

Marie Gervais, PhD, CEO Shift Management is a business-to-business entrepreneur who specializes in helping employers train their middle management to lead, get their workplace learning online and interactive, and conduct team assessments to figure out who to promote and how. She has a background in integrating internationally-trained individuals to the workplace and has supported many businesses in their efforts to hire, retain, support and promote immigrant and diverse employees.

Get in touch – she would love to hear from you: or 780-454-5661