Theresa Sutton, from left, Abby Thiessen, Damon Pham, engineering vice-president Chris Carlsen, controller and investor relations manager Jesse Doenz and Melissa Kinzner of Birchcliff Energy. Wil Andruschak © Postmedia Network Inc.
Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.
Birchcliff Energy’s leadership group had one overarching job when COVID-19 sent the energy industry into turmoil last year — keeping its talented workforce safe and in the know.
“We definitely experienced a double-hit,” says Chris Carlsen, vice-president of engineering at Birchcliff, a Calgary headquartered exploration and production energy firm focused primarily on natural gas production.
Not only had COVID-19 created a vacuum of uncertainty for Birchcliff from March to June in 2020, but oil and gas prices plummeted as investors panicked over the prospect of cratering demand for energy.
“The best thing we could do was keep staff very informed, letting them know that, moving forward, the company would be OK,” says Carlsen.
Key to that was explicitly telling them no layoffs would occur. Also critical was ensuring the team remained connected.
“For the first six months, we had virtual staff meetings every week to make sure everyone was in the know, and that’s really unusual for a company of our size,” says Jesse Doenz, controller and investor relations manager at Birchcliff.
This overarching strategy was not new to the company, which prides itself on being a top choice for bright new talent.
“Our best asset is our people,” adds Doenz.
In turn, ensuring its workers are able to be at their best has always meant leadership must be and remain connected with its team. This came organically to Birchcliff during the pandemic, as it has always spent considerable time nurturing the next generation of innovators. Over the past six years, for example, 40 summer students have worked at the company. This past summer is no different, with 13 accounting, engineering and other post-secondary students working at Birchcliff.
What’s more, the company’s community commitment is a major attraction for talent — and a point of pride for staff, with Birchcliff donating more than $5 million to various charities and community organizations over the past five years.
That focus on responsible corporate citizenship also extends to the ESG (environmental, social and governance) space, including membership in the Natural Gas Innovation Fund, “focused on supporting clean-tech innovation,” says Carlsen.
Birchcliff has had much to be optimistic about, even in the darkest days of the pandemic — something leadership communicated frequently to its team. That strategy is paying off, with the company forecasting its best year ever in 2021, Carlsen adds.
“After getting through 2020, this is really exciting news for everyone.”
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.