Corlise Colbert is a woman who appreciates the power of ‘strength in numbers’. As Director of Human Resources, she is more than aware that to ensure a happy and productive workforce takes a team dedicated to supporting colleagues during their career with GIS.
There are more than one thousand five hundred employees across the state of Louisiana and beyond. GIS is the second major employer in the region with ‘Edison Chouest Offshore’ being the largest with approximately nine thousand staff worldwide. Edison Chouest Offshore are the majority shareholders of GIS. They are America’s leading organization providing vessel fleet, shipyard, port operation and subsea services. Corlise was previously a benefits consultant employed by this marine-based giant and still maintains relations with GIS’ sister company thirteen years later. With almost a decade of service with GIS under her belt, you would think that Corlise was unique in her lengthy career with one employer, however, as Corlise explains, she is not alone in making GIS a job for life:
Job For Life
“We don't have a lot of turn-around in our administrative positions or our field positions such as offshore, our biggest group. Our employee turnover comes from a transient workforce where staff are hired specifically for a project and then termed after the project ends. Our average tenure company-wide is eight to 10 years, so that speaks volumes about what we offer as a company. We try to help our staff feel happy and professionally satisfied”.
The GIS employee demographic makes Corlise’s job varied and challenging. The transient workforce is hired for specific projects throughout the year's summer months and works on a rotational basis usually work in various plant facilities across Louisiana and Texas. GIS has a large offshore workforce that works on a rotational basis on numerous rigs throughout the Gulf of Mexico. One of her tasks is to assist in managing the large two hundred-bed facility that houses provides temporary housing for employees awaiting crew change or working locally at GIS’ Fabrication yards and support their individual needs. Permanent members of staff have a host of career and welfare support, but it is the unique corporate culture, cultivated from the top down, that ensures employees feel appreciated and connected with their managers.
“It's how the company started 70 plus years ago in 1948 by Clyde and Ouida Pregeant, and from there, though we've grown incrementally, we have kept that same ‘mom and pop’ culture, and that's what we wanted. Even when we were bought out by a huge corporation, we kept that hometown feel where you can walk into the CEO’s office. Mark Pregeant is very visible to our staff, you will see him on the yard, and he makes the time to engage with the employees and see first-hand the business from the ground up. And that's the culture we’ve always had. We have an open-door policy, ‘putting people first’ is our motto; it’s our culture. Although we have the standard policies and procedures, we do operate a little differently where management has discretion and autonomy to make decisions that are employee-centric as we are all individuals”.
CULTURE OF CARE
Since inheriting the position of CEO, Mark Pregeant has certainly made his mark on the Human Resources front by creating the Culture of Care. This initiative ensures that each division and employee has a voice and they are able to give the executive leadership open and honest feedback to enact change wherever needed. One of the most important parts of this welfare initiative is to allow field employees to have direct contact with the management team and share their issues, concerns, and areas of improvement. Corlise believes that it is one of the main factors improving morale.
“We also have an employee outreach program where HR representatives call and reach out to employees just asking - "Hey, how's it going? What can we do to be an employer of choice? Are there any issues you're having? Any way we can improve? Anything you want Mark to know?" and we do that every day.
In addition to that, we’ve just rolled out our diversity equity inclusion program, where we held ‘Town hall’ sessions explaining our mission and vision to drive towards a happier, equitable workplace. We have also formed equity teams comprising of employees who have the passion to drive change within our organization. They're going to set strategic goals and initiatives; it's completely employee-driven, helping us get to a place where we are an employer of choice, whether it be increasing our workforce diversity, increasing our community outreach efforts, or improving internal communication”.
It is evident Corlise’s HR department has been in overdrive transforming and humanizing welfare support and connections between operative and management. Career pathways have also had an overhaul with a new career card system in place where Corlise and the individual staff member develop a plan for future growth and personal development.
And it is the personal touch and effort that has become the ethos and practice within Corlise’s department. The days of waiting for a reply from the HR office are well and truly gone at GIS.
“Our goal is always to respond to every inquiry before we leave work. If an employee comes into the office, we stop what we're doing, and we give them our complete attention. We have that high level of customer service in my department, we're the first point of contact and that leaves a positive impression. I don't know another company where every employee has the HR director's cell phone number, with the freedom to call and email me at will. I go to different sites, and I make sure that the staff knows who I am, so we're very hands-on with the employees. I think just having that connection; our staff are not just a number here at GIS and they know that. 'Oh, I have a problem, I'm calling Miss Corlise,' and they feel comfortable doing that, no matter the issue or concern”.
The ever-growing staff numbers at GIS are certainly in safe hands with Corlise at the HR helm. GIS have set their sights on providing an ambitious and inclusive personnel department based on an inviting and supportive culture, communication, and professional respect. ‘Putting people first’ are not just words on the company logo, they are the spirit behind GIS’ success and future progress.