Community involvement builds leaders


The business case for corporate community involvement has never been stronger. Here we look at how Turner Construction Company has successfully built mutually beneficial and enduring working relationships within its local communities by prioritizing social goals and developing valuable leadership skillsets that are most relevant to its operating context.

Turner, a North America-based, international construction services company, has more than 5,900 employees that work together to complete $12 billion of construction projects each year. Driven by the company’s core purpose to “Make a Difference in the Lives of Our People, Customers, and Community,” Turner recognizes teamwork, integrity, and commitment as its three core values. These values permeate what Turner teams do in every facet of their work: on-site, behind the scenes, and throughout communities. The values also contribute to the company’s culture, which is defined by a universal commitment to diversity and inclusion, innovation, sustainability, and being an active community partner.

As a community partner, Turner Construction embraces the same collaborative spirit that is necessary throughout its job sites, where teams must work together in order to erect massive structures. “Turner is about the community,” said Michelle Ballard, Turner’s director of community affairs. “We don’t just build buildings, we build communities.”

In building communities, Turner looks to empower its leaders and constituents. The company has worked to support minority- and women-owned small business leaders in a number of ways, including the Turner School of Construction Management program. This program, which is celebrating 50 years in existence, is offered at no cost to participants, and focuses on the essentials of the construction management business, from the technical (building information modeling, estimating, procurement) to the managerial (insurance and bonding, lean construction, leadership, safety), to the administrative (accounting, responding to an RFP, document management).

Turner Construction Company also runs programs that are geared toward younger, K-12 learners. Its YouthForce initiative, which began in 1989, offers members of the Turner community the opportunity to work with students who are interested in the engineering and building industry, in addition to awarding a scholarship/ internship to five students per year. Turner is also a longstanding participant in ACE Mentoring, which provides high school students with the opportunity to work on design and construction assignments—complete with access to technologies that are used in the workforce to estimate, schedule, and model assignments—while gaining valuable feedback from Turner employees.

Research suggests that, alongside the great services they provide to communities, volunteer programs such as Turner’s also generate favorable employee attitudes.

These attitudes not only facilitate retention and increase behaviors that help a firm function effectively—like having employees who will go above and beyond expected and required tasks—but they can also benefit a company’s bottom line.1

Perhaps nowhere is the passion and positivity the Turner team brings to its community-focused volunteer projects more palpable than in the partnership the company forged with the Eagle Academy Foundation, which develops and supports 6-12th grade schools whose all-male student populations come from challenged, urban communities. Each year, Turner Construction offers mentorship, academic, and personal guidance to a handful of Eagle Academy scholars.

“Turner shows their commitment through the people that they have,” said Richard Alvarez, project executive and Eagle Mentor, Turner Construction Company. “Turner is full of people who are passionate about not only building the buildings, but we’re also passionate about giving back to our community. We want to be in a position where we can help others. Changing a person’s life is the most amazing feeling in the world—there’s nothing more profound than that.”

The lasting bond that the program has fostered between mentors and their Eagle Academy mentees positions employees to carry out their company’s mission of truly making a difference by connecting with young scholars, while also demonstrating how beneficial science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills can be in the workplace.

“The Eagle Foundation has been a part of Turner for close to eight years now,” said Stephanie Burns, vice president, community & citizenship at Turner Construction Company. “Turner wants to make an impact in the communities where we build. It’s about changing lives in those communities. We want to build a generation of students who can think on their own and stand on their own two feet.”

Turner Construction positions its employees to make these meaningful connections by creating initiatives that are deeply aligned with Turner’s mission and core values. In turn, the company fosters both pride in and commitment to all of the work that the Turner Construction Company undertakes—while also attracting candidates whose values align with the company’s purpose.

Jones, D. A. (2010). Does serving the community also serve the company? Using organizational identification and social exchange theories to understand employee responses to a volunteerism programme. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83(4), 857-878.