How Vermilion Energy Builds Community Within the Company

Five ways Mona Jasinski creates camaraderie, adds value, and boosts the bottom line

An Alberta native, Mona Jasinski has spent most of her career at oil-and-gas companies. A certified HR professional since 2002, she earned her MBA from the University of Calgary. Formerly HR manager for North American OnShore Production at Royal Dutch Shell and, previous to this, TransCanada Pipelines, Jasinski joined Vermilion Energy Inc. in 2009 as vice president, people, and was promoted to executive vice president, people, in 2011. As an executive at Vermilion, Mona Jasinski is tasked with enhancing the company’s greatest asset: its employees. With operations spread across Canada, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Australia, managing employee development in the technologically fast-paced and highly competitive energy business requires both diligence and vision. “Organizations can become much more effective and productive, but only if you truly pay attention to what the environment is like for the people working there,” Jasinski says. To that end, she works to create a sense of community among Vermilion’s employees. “We spend a lot of time focusing on what kind of culture we want to create and how that culture adds value to our business,” she says.

1. Be flexible

“There is no one human-resources strategy that fits every organization,” Jasinski says. Most importantly, HR policies must take into consideration the many types of people who comprise the workforce. “People are very diverse in terms of their interests and motivation,” Jasinski explains. Understanding their needs and adapting the company’s policies to meet them is paramount. “It’s a multifaceted approach where we determine what the key interests of our employees are and develop interesting programs that meet those interests,” she says.

2. Engage the local community

Vermilion focuses on investing in community organizations to combat poverty and homelessness. “We believe we have a responsibility to give back,” Jasinski says. In 2008, the company partnered with the Calgary YWCA to create the Vermilion Energy Skills Training Centre, a trade school that helps women and their families escape poverty by learning the skills to find employment. Vermilion invested $4 million to launch the centre, which has successfully trained more than 200 graduates who are now employed, boosting the local community. Working with an external employee survey firm, Vermilion found that its employees cited that sort of community investment among the top reasons they worked for Vermilion. It was a source of pride employees had in the company. In addition to a Day of Caring, where Vermilion encourages its employees to spend the day working at selected charitable organizations, the company supports a child-care centre in Drayton Valley, Alberta. Most of the company’s charitable partnerships are suggested by the employees themselves. “It’s not about simply writing a check,” Jasinski says. “It’s about the energy and effort that our people can bring to make a difference in their communities.”

3. Plan in advance

“You can’t predict everything,” Jasinski says, “but we push out our strategic planning process to encompass approximately a 10-year period.” The planning process takes into account what the business will look like and how the industry will develop during that period. “Getting an idea of where the company wants to be in 10 years lets us figure out what we need to do to get there,” Jasinski says. That level of planning allows HR to anticipate how the workforce will change and how the company needs to adapt to manage that change.

4. Recognize employee commitment

Employees at Vermilion can look forward to a number of company events designed to foster a sense of family among its workforce, including an annual employee retreat. “In Canada, we take the employees and their families up to a beautiful mountain resort for the weekend,” Jasinski explains. During the retreat, the company offers a variety of recreational events and even provides babysitting services and children’s activities for families with very young children. “We purposely bring families to that event,” Jasinski explains. “We want to thank families for the commitment they show us.” The annual retreat, she adds, is always a huge success. “We believe these events build strong relationships among the staff, and that enhances our ability to do business.”

5. Find the right people

The oil-and-gas exploration industry poses unique challenges for HR experts, Jasinski says. Detecting and exploiting oil-and-gas deposits, which are often buried deep under ground, requires advanced technology, which becomes more sophisticated and complex with each passing year. “We have an ongoing shortage of talented people, and the right people are the source of tremendous advantage for our company,” she notes. “We probably spend more time recruiting than many of our peer organizations.” The company focuses on excellence within the organization and recruiting the best employees industry can offer. “Once you develop a good reputation in your industry, extraordinary people want to work for you,” Jasinski says.