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No. 3 large company: Plains All American Pipeline

Erin Mulvane, Houston Chronicle
Published 9:30 pm, Thursday, November 7, 2013

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  • A Plains All American Pipeline employee works on a rail car at a terminal  in St. James, La. Photo: Plains All American Pipeline / ONLINE_YES

    A Plains All American Pipeline employee works on a rail car at a terminal in St. James, La.

    Photo: Plains All American Pipeline

 

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Leaders of Plains All American Pipeline say communication is key for its nearly 750 employees in Houston and thousands of others spanning 40 states and five Canadian provinces. It has more than 4,800 employees in all.

"One thing we try to do is establish a common vision, and everyone knows what we are trying to accomplish," said CEO Greg Armstrong. "That requires a lot of communication."

The Houston-based company stores and transports crude oil, refined fuels and natural gas liquids. It was ranked by WorkplaceDynamics as the No. 3 large company on the Top Workplaces list for 2013.

Armstrong said employees are in constant communication, with memos, emails and quarterly staff meetings that cover finances, new or ongoing projects and status updates on its yearly goals. Employees have the opportunity to offer feedback.

Because much of the operations are spread out, employees occasionally make "day in the life" presentations to let everyone know what it's like to work in certain parts of the company, such as rail facilities or trucking operations.

"There's not a lot of mystery to what we do internally," Armstrong said.

Employees surveyed by WorkplaceDynamics said they enjoyed the challenges and the autonomy they felt they had to meet them.

"I am not micromanaged, which is highly important to me," one said. "I am allowed the freedom to do my job."

In the last year, the workforce has grown 5 to 6 percent. Armstrong said leaders regularly recruit from colleges and job fairs, and they hire summer interns.

Plains has 100 to 150 projects going on around the country. Armstrong said the company has had 15 years of solid operating results. Even during the economic downturn in 2008, the company continued to grow, which helped maintain morale, he said.

Employees work nine hours a day for four days a week, and half-days on Friday. The company offers competitive health benefits and a 401(k) plan. Some employees have stock and equity participation in the company.

Company leaders work with parents to accommodate their children's schedules.

The company establishes an annual plan with a financial forecast and four to five major goals. It has a "pay for performance" model, Armstrong said.

"If we are going to expect solid performance," he said, "we want to be able to reward it."