Employment

As Canada’s oil and gas sector faces a period of low commodity prices and economic slowdown, we recognize our organization needs to respond quickly and resourcefully to achieve our sustainability objectives.

Our Performance

Employment Graphic 1

Zero layoffs

during the reporting year.

New short-term and long-term

incentive programs introduced.

Employment Graphic 2
Employment Graphic 3

Women’s Interest Network

launched to promote diversity.

Our Approach

We have always believed the support and strength of our employees are imperative to our success. Toward this, we have established strong employee programs and support for a wide range of labour pool development initiatives, including those designed to increase Aboriginal representation and diversity in our workforce. We feel this focus will also enhance attraction and retention rates, and build an organization of proud and motivated employees. As well, we prefer to hire from within the local Wood Buffalo region whenever possible.

2015 Workforce

Syncrude’s employee workforce was reduced by 270 people in 2015, reflecting a multi-year effort to steward the workforce down to a target of 4,900 through natural attrition. This target was achieved without any employee layoffs. We welcomed 75 new employees during the year, including 11 Aboriginal employees, bringing Aboriginal participation to a 10-year high of 9.4 per cent of the employee population. Aboriginal participation in leadership positions, at 6.1 per cent, also was the highest in 10 years. Local residents comprised 51 per cent of all new hires, down significantly from recent years, as many of the new hires are recent university graduates from outside the region.

Engaging with our employees

Syncrude aims to maintain a direct relationship with our employees. In support of this objective, leaders and HR representatives build personal rapport with employees and create a positive and productive work environment through regular employee sensing. This direct interface enables increased organizational flexibility and cooperation toward common goals, as employees are free to discuss what is going well and not so well within their work teams and the broader workplace.

A training program for front-line leaders introduced in 2015 is helping them make business decisions that are aligned with Syncrude’s corporate values, policies, and business plans; it is also providing leaders with tools that allow them to better engage with their team members to resolve work-related issues and manage workforce performance in a manner that is fair, equitable and consistent across the organization. Feedback has been positive.

Employees are also engaged through a variety of interfaces, including company-wide channels such as videos, newsletters, bulletins and a dedicated employee website.

Employee Compensation & Retention Initiatives

Syncrude introduced several changes to its compensation and retention programs in 2015 to help attract and keep high-quality employees.

A new short-term incentive program, available to all employees, provides an annual payout for achieving continuous improvement in several key corporate performance areas. A new long-term incentive program, available to all administrative, professional and technical personnel and qualified panel operators, is also designed to align monetary rewards with business results while incentivizing employee retention. It offers annual awards of phantom restricted share units that are paid out after three years. A separate retention program is provided to our occupational employees.

Syncrude’s housing support program, which offsets mortgage interest and rental accommodation costs, continued in 2015 with no changes. Our industry-leading defined benefit pension plan also is unchanged. It rewards employees for career-long service.

Career Development for New Graduates

Syncrude’s Initial Professional Development Program (IPDP), welcomes new graduates working in a variety of different professional and technical disciplines. IPDP ensures they get the opportunities and training they need to grow and succeed at Syncrude. This typically includes two to three different development assignments and mentorship from more experienced professionals.

Participants spend three to four years in the program, which includes a rapid learning curve and progressive assumption of responsibilities. About 125 employees were active in the program in 2015, 25 of who emerged as fully qualified professionals.

The Syncrude Network Advisory Program (SNAP) hosts quarterly networking events for our co-op/ discipline students and employees who are recent graduates. Bringing them together with Syncrude leaders, managers and executives helps promote better understanding of working life and culture at Syncrude and also fosters valuable cross-functional interfaces.

(Above) A heavy equipment operator at Syncrude's mine.

Women’s Interest Network

Syncrude launched its Women’s Interest Network (WIN) in late 2015. It is creating a supportive environment for women in our workforce by offering mentorship, personal development, networking, community involvement activities and more. More than 300 employees have joined the network, including a number of male employees. The network aims to help members manage such challenges as single parenting, work-life balance, and serving in roles that are often dominated by the opposite gender.

Investing in Career Awareness and Training

Toward developing the next generation of employees and oil sands workers, Syncrude makes regular and significant investments in career training and exposure opportunities for young people. In 2015, this included support for:

  • Keyano College Mobile Heavy Equipment Operator Training - The program delivers hands-on training to students in Fort McMurray and the region’s remote Aboriginal communities. Read more in our Aboriginal Relations chapter.
  • Keyano College – Power and Process Engineering Lab - This new facility opened in early 2015 and tripled the previous output of students. Local delivery of power and process engineering education is supporting the oil sands industry in a high demand skills area. Syncrude contributed $3 million to the project.
  • Skills Canada Alberta - Multi-year support from Syncrude enabled the continuation of the Skills Canada Alberta competition Read more in our Labour Relations chapter.
  • Canadian Mining Games – These annual student-organized events provide an opportunity for mining engineering students from universities across Canada to test their mining knowledge and their learning and adaptive capabilities. They also provide the opportunity for future employee recruitment, as sponsors such as Syncrude interact directly with students during competitions and evaluate students’ response to new and challenging situations.
  • CAREERS: The Next Generation – Multi-year support from Syncrude enabled the continuation and expansion of the organization’s full suite of career awareness and apprenticeship programs in the trades and technologies. Also enabled was a 2015 Career Expo in Fort McMurray. During 2015, CAREERS reached more than 40,000 Alberta school students, created 2,000 internships and placed 1,500 students in the Registered Apprenticeship Program; more than 1,300 Alberta employers were involved.
  • Trades Alberta – For the third consecutive year, Syncrude was a key supporter of the Trades Alberta campaign, initiated by CAREERS: The Next Generation. The campaign used print and digital media to generate interest in careers in the trades and technologies. It shared stories about people who work in these areas, as well as information on the programs, organizations and resources that provide career pathways.

Corporate Awards

  • Alberta’s Most Respected Companies - Syncrude was named one of three Alberta energy companies chosen as among Alberta’s most respected organizations. The results were determined by a Leger Marketing poll conducted for Alberta Venture magazine. Syncrude was recognized for such reputation attributes as innovation, environmental and social responsibility, honesty and transparency.
  • NAABA Best Practices – The Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association recognized Syncrude for establishing and maintaining relationships with Aboriginal stakeholders and setting standards for quality of service and delivery in its supply chain.
  • IABC Capital Award – Syncrude was honoured by the International Association of Business Communicators with an Award of Merit for our Let’s Build Something recruitment brochure targeted at skilled trades professionals.
  • Hermes Creative Awards – Syncrude was recognized with Platinum awards for the 2013 Sustainability Report and the 2014 Pathways Aboriginal Review. The awards honour excellence in corporate reporting.
  • Emerald Award for Environmental Excellence – The Alberta Emerald Foundation recognized Syncrude with an award in the Large Business category for the Sandhill Fen Watershed Research initiative. The Fen is the first reclaimed landscape in the oil sands built on a foundation of mine tailings.

Performance Data

Permanent Workforce

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total 5,515 5,083 5,188 5,121 4,851
# under age 301 - - - - 541
# age 30-501 - - - - 2,817
# over 501 - - - - 1,493
% under age 301 - - - - 11%
% age 30-501 - - - - 58%
% over 501 - - - - 31%
Temporary and casual (#) 145 133 156 127 119
Trades and operators (#) 3,094 2,827 2,848 2,827 2,661
Administrative, professional and technical (#) 2,421 2,256 2,340 2,294 2,190
% employees covered by collective bargaining agreements 0 0 0 0 0

Leadership

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
% under age 302 - - - - 4.40
% age 30-502 - - - - 61.3
% over 502 - - - - 34.3

Recruitment

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total new employees 234 326 508 138 75
# under age 301 - - - - 48
# age 30-501 - - - - 23
# over 501 - - - - 4
% under age 301 - - - - 64
% age 30-501 - - - - 31
% over 501 - - - - 5
Trades and operators (#) 172 189 331 95 30
Administrative, professional and technical (#) 62 137 177 43 45
Male (#) 189 238 395 110 43
Aboriginal (#) 36 32 32 16 11
Female (#) 45 88 113 28 32
New hire acceptance rate (%) 89 94 82 91 94
Local hires (% of all new hires) 71 76 74 82 51
Job applications received (#)1 25,452 57,899 55,598 29,572 16,776

Attrition

All employees, including retirements (%) 5.5 14.2 7.5 4.0 6.5
Employee initiated termination (% of total attrition) 2.6 7.4 4.7 2.0 36.3
# under age 301 - - - - 44
# age 30-501 - - - - 124
# over 501 - - - - 158
% under age 301 - - - - 13.5
% age 30-501 - - - - 38
% over 501 - - - - 48.5
Company initiated termination (% of total attrition) 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.9 20.5
Retirements (% of total attrition) 1.9 5.8 2.0 1.0 43.2
Aboriginal (% of total attrition) 5.6 10.4 8.2 6.0 7.5
Female (% of total attrition) 6.5 12.7 8.3 28.5 21.7
Trades and operators (%) 4.9 12.1 8.5 45.8 46.6
Administrative, professional and technical (%) 6.3 16.1 6.8 54.2 53.4

Aboriginal Representation3

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Number of employees 492 474 452 451 461
% of permanent Syncrude workforce 8.6 9.1 8.7 8.9 9.4
% of new hires 15.4 9.8 6.3 11.6 14.7
% of leaders2 5.5 6.0 6.2 5.8 6.1

Female Representation

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Number of employees 950 958 988 958 909
% of permanent Syncrude workforce 18.6 18.8 19.0 18.7 18.7
% of new hires 19.2 27.0 22.2 20.3 42.7
% of leaders2 11.8 12.7 11.6 12.3 12.6

Employee Productivity

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Thousand barrels of production per employee 19,174 20,628 18,785 18,391 18,682
Average employee service (in years) 9.6 9.5 9.0 8.9 10.7
   Female 8.6 8.5 8.2 8.2 9.6
   Aboriginal 10.2 10.2 10.7 10.7 12.3

Employee Development

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
# of hours in training per employee4 - - - 45.41 41.57
# of total hours of training related to aspects of human rights5 - - - - 2,932
% of employees completed training related to aspects of human rights5 - - - - 8

Wages, Compensation and Benefits

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Ratio of standard entry level wage to minimum wage6 3.5 3.5 3.6 4.0 3.6
# of recognitions to employees7 6,415 5,081 6,519 5,457 3,838
Annual scholarships, bursaries and endowments ($) 940,415 1,033,200 971,964 814,329 749,045
Numbers of employee student scholarships 516 558 553 461 425
Number of tuition refunds to Syncrude employees 144 130 106 129 122
Male employees who started parental leave (#)8 - - - 16 19
Male employees who returned to work after parental leave (#)8 - - - - 14
Male employees who returned to work after parental leave (%)8 - - - - 88
Male employees who returned to work after parental leave ended who were still employed 12 months after return to work (#)8 - - - - 13
Male employees who returned to work after parental leave ended who were still employed 12 months after return to work (%)8 - - - - 93
Female employees who started parental leave (#)8 - - - 48 60
Female employees who returned to work after parental leave (#)8 - - - - 40
Female employees who returned to work after parental leave (%)8 - - - - 83
Female employees who returned to work after parental leave ended who were still employed 12 months after return to work (#)8 - - - - 35
Female employees who returned to work after parental leave ended who were still employed 12 months after return to work (%)8 - - - - 88

Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) Utilization

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
# of clients as % of Syncrude workforce 18.5 16.3 16.8 19.7 16.3

Ethics and Business Conduct

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Anonymous reports of non-conformance9 14 11 18 18 11
Confirmed cases of non-conformance 0 0 1 1 0

1 New classification starting in 2015 to align with Global Reporting Initiative standard disclosure guidance. Refer to previous reports for prior data categories.
2 Calculated as percentage of permanent Syncrude leaders.
3 Self-declaration only; Syncrude does not mandate employees to disclose minority or cultural status.
4 Per annum. New indicator starting in 2014 to align with Global Reporting Initiative standard disclosure guidance.
5 Includes all training related to harassment and discrimination, diversity awareness and Aboriginal cultural awareness per annum.
6 Based on basic wage for entry level trades/operators position and Alberta hourly minimum wage of each reporting year.
7 Includes service and safety awards.
8 New indicator starting in 2014 to align with Global Reporting Initiative standard disclosure guidance.
9 Anonymous and confidential reporting is enabled through EthicsPoint, an independent third-party hotline managed by NAVEXGlobal.