Listening key to engagement at Fidelity Investments (National HR Awards)

Winner, Venngo Employee Engagement Award
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/21/2015

When it comes to employee engagement, Fidelity Investments Canada has a slew of programs to help the cause. From peer networking groups and emotional intelligence training to telecommuting and walkstations, the company is devoted to having an “engaged, committed, energized and intellectually curious workforce.”

The level of engagement has a lot to do with successful business outcomes, which also positively impact engagement, says Nancy Lupi, vice-president of human resources at Fidelity Investments Canada in Toronto.

“There’s a very healthy cycle that we’re seeing where you can’t maybe have one without the other, and I think our results would prove that.”

Like many employers, Fidelity conducts an online employee engagement survey and the latest one, with a healthy score of 98 per cent, saw a three per cent increase over the last survey done two years ago.

Beyond the roughly 50 questions and results is valuable input from employees that the company uses to make changes, according to Lupi. With the reports separated by division and department, they can get a really good understanding of where people are coming from and make meaningful changes.

As an example, the last survey revealed several comments about the telecommuting program rolling out across Fidelity. 

“Although it’s a formal program and people are encouraged to telecommute, the commentary from managers is not as supportive as the employees would like. And so our challenge now is to try to figure out how we can get managers in a better place in order to support people in their telecommuting efforts,” says Lupi. “So that’s an example of how the survey helps us to make positive changes in the workplace that eventually contribute to engagement.”

Fidelity uses the survey to get right down to the level of any manager within the firm. It runs reports for those with 10 responses or more and at the senior executive team level, which then go to the president. If there are issues, the president will work directly with the senior team member to ensure she understands this is something that matters and she needs to improve and do things differently within her division to ensure engagement is where it needs to be. 

“Over the course of time, doing that has resulted in an improved level of engagement across the firm,” says Lupi.

The company also makes a point to listen to employees through forums, town halls and divisional meetings.

“There’s a lot of mythology out there and it enables us to not just listen to what they have to say but to clarify things, to say, ‘Actually, no, that’s not true...’ We just have some really positive conversations with people,” says Lupi.

And the telecommuting program has come a long way for the 125 people involved, says Diana Godfrey, vice-president of HR services at Fidelity Investments Canada in Toronto, “not only helping them with their own lives but feeling heard because it was a grassroots discussion, it was something that employees talked about over and over, and we finally got our act together and figured out a way to make it happen, which isn’t easy in our business.”

Another direct result of feedback from managers and employees is emotional intelligence training, as people were asking for support in understanding their own emotional triggers and how to respond in certain situations.

“The reaction from people initially was one of terror — they were very afraid to put themselves out there in terms of their emotional intelligence but the way the program was structured and facilitated, we just got some really positive feedback. And in terms of creating a culture that the people want to be in, it helps when people are showing respect to their colleagues, when they’re being curious and they’re listening to others,” says Lupi.

“And being emotionally intelligent, it really contributes to the overall environment in a way that a lot of firms don’t even think about.”

Also of note is an innovation committee whereby employees can submit ideas to senior management. All the suggestions are reviewed by an internal innovation advisory council — a cross-company team of leaders and subject matter experts — and if an idea is selected, the employee is rewarded with a monetary prize. At the end of the year, the best idea selected for implementation is awarded with a grand prize.

That program evolved after concerns were raised about whether managers were listening to employees, says Lupi.

“People would have ideas and often the response would be, ‘Yeah, we tried that, it didn’t work, go back to work.’ And so this was an effort to ensure that people felt listened to; and in the process, of course, we stumbled upon some wildly innovative ideas that both moved the business ahead but also saved us a lot of money.”

HR consultants are also important when it comes to engagement at Fidelity. Each employee has at least one bi-annual meeting with a consultant to discuss both career development and confidential feedback.

“That has contributed in part to the engagement but it also helps us as a management team to understand what we need to do differently or more of to help people. And through these meetings, you hear some really low-hanging fruit in terms of what we can do to help people. I always say to people ‘If we don’t know there’s an issue, we can’t fix it,’” says Lupi, adding the meetings are similar to stay interviews.

Certain eligible employees can also participate in a Phantom Share Program to receive awards based on their individual performance and contributions to the organization. It’s similar to a profit-sharing program, says Godfrey.

“We are actually distributing the profits of the firm because it’s a privately held organization — we have no way of providing stocks to the employees — so what we do is mirror the way a stock might work and have the employees who have continued to perform and who are high-potential, as an example, participate in the profits in some way. 

“The employees who are invited to participate are very excited because they feel that they have a direct impact to the organization and they benefit from their contributions.”

Other programs of note at Fidelity include:

• a peer networking group

• general management apprenticeships

• MentorMatch

• a job exchange

• several awards around recognition, service, sales, leadership, community and charity involvement

• groups around diversity and inclusion

• an RSP plan (Fidelity contributes between three per cent and 15 per cent of eligible earnings to an employee’s RSP)

• flexible work options, summer hours

• job sharing

• scholarships

• an EAP

• an employee referral program

• a summer BBQ, family day and holiday party

• a health and fitness reimbursement


Fidelity also “empowers” employees through “open, timely and relevant two-way communication channels.” These include: an Intranet called inSite updated on a daily basis; employee feedback after events; video broadcasts from senior leaders; wedding and birth announcements; lunch and learn sessions; social networking events; guest speakers; and employee profiles. There’s also an international blog for all employees to use.

And clearly employees are keen to stay — turnover has dropped from nine per cent to seven per cent since 2012.

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