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Case Study

How XL Construction Protected Its Craftspeople When COVID Struck

Jeff Seacrist

Groundbreaking Empathy

“Groundbreaker”. At Procore, we use the term to celebrate those in construction who embody not just boldness, but innovation, compassion, and courage fueled by sound convictions. XL Construction, regularly ranked among the Best Places to Work in the Bay area by the Silicon Valley Business Journal/San Francisco Business Times, certainly fits this description with the organization's “people first“ philosophy.

But when COVID hit in the spring of 2020, XL took that Groundbreaker ethos to a whole new level by putting its long-held motto into meaningful and direct action by creating a fund for its craftspeople.

Construction safety set up

Locked Down, But Not Out

Like everyone else, the company was caught flat-footed by the lockdown order and sudden idling of project sites. “Up here in the six counties,” said Jeff Seacrist, a Project Executive with XL, “the Greater Bay Area issued the COVID stay-at-home order—I think it was on March 16.”

Seacrist and team quickly realized the impact would be unevenly experienced across the company. “The professional staff—the salaried staff—we continued to do what we could to keep advancing projects. But our craftspeople—the actual guys and gals in the field swinging hammers and pouring concrete—there was nothing they could do. Ultimately, there were around 144 people with no source of income,” Seacrist said.

These craftspeople are the front line in the construction industry. Without them nothing gets built.

Jeff Seacrist

Project Executive

XL Construction

CEO Eric Raff called on four XL Construction people with diverse roles in the company to see what could be done in support of their craftspeople. As Seacrist explained it, to make sure the group came up with the best solution for everyone in the company, the members were drawn from all four corners of the organization.  “The group was myself as a project executive, we had an HR representative, and Sharda from estimating was tapped. One of our superintendents from our sister company, Bradley Concrete, was on the committee, too.” When the group’s action item took the form of a COVID fund to help XL’s craftspeople weather the lockdown, a plan began to take shape.

Building under Construction by XL

The Other Front Line: Construction Trades

XL Construction has long had a motto: We Not Me. That motto was in evidence as Jeff Seacrist explained the stakes. “You know, these craftspeople are the front line in the construction industry. Without them nothing gets built, and they're the ones who were going to be most severely impacted by the COVID-19 stoppage.” Seacrist emailed Eric Raff. The reply was swift and simple. “I’ll support you wherever needed.” And with that, Seacrist and the team pulled out the stops.

XL’s Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Laura Guzman, described a whirlwind of activity. Seacrist and his cohort were inventing processes as they went. “Jeff and the team were just calling people throughout the organization,” Laura said, “people who might—know something about something! Anything to get this initiative going. And this is where Eric came back in.”

Workers on a jobsite

“Once we finally got the messaging out,” Seacrist said, “there was a bit of trying to break through people's pride threshold.” In the end, XL Construction’s workers (and even a client) poured money into a COVID fund that covered XL’s craftspeople.  “We had contributions come through PayPal,” Seacrist said. “Contributions were made through donations of prepaid mileage, and people were donating their paid vacation days. That came to around $365,000…” He paused and reflected on what the trades mean—and have always meant. “The Pyramid, the Sphinx, the Roman Colosseum—all that stuff was put in place by individuals. Such monuments they built. Monuments, but built by individuals putting stuff together in the field. These are the people,” he says. “You know? Craftspeople. Workers. Ourselves.” Just what you'd expect a Groundbreaker to say. 

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