Holistic development programming pushes Fidelity Investments forward (National HR Awards)

Winner: Queen’s University IRC Professional Development Award
By Marcel Vander Wier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/13/2017
Fidelity Investment Canada's training programs are wide-ranging, including mentorship, career planning, online and in-house educational courses, alongside tuition and professional association subsidies. Courtesy: Fidelity Investments Canada

Fidelity Investments Canada goes to great lengths to prepare its employees for success — teaching them how to handle everything from a celebratory toast to a business golf game.

Taking a holistic view of professional development programming is what sets the money management company apart, says Diana Godfrey, vice-president of HR in Toronto.

“We don’t just do etiquette for our salespeople,” she says. “We do it for every single person in the company, because every single person in the company is an ambassador.”

“We never want our employees to be in a position where they have to apologize or be embarrassed, so we do it for everybody.”

Fidelity is a mutual fund management company with more than 1,000 employees. The company’s training programs are wide-ranging, including mentorship, career planning, online and in-house educational courses, alongside tuition and professional association subsidies.

Training begins as soon as an employee joins the company as an intern, and continues as she moves through different sales roles. Such a philosophy is meant to both support and retain workers, says Godfrey.

“We subscribe to the philosophy of continuous learning,” she says. “If you think about an organization that way, your training program should, of course, never stagnate.”

“We work really hard to make sure that the underpinnings of many of the things that we do here perpetuate the idea of continuous learning, and that our employees walk away feeling like they have the opportunity to do something different every day… When we develop our programs, we think about all of those things.”

Simple beginnings

Fidelity’s training program was originally established to ensure employees were performing at their best for organizational benefit.

Over time, the company realized salespeople found the most success when they were hired, built and trained internally, says Godfrey.

Salespeople take part in a seven-phase program — each phase lasting a week — with learning coming in a variety of forms, including just-in-time training, in-class sessions, pre- and post-learning activities, one-on-one coaching and simulated environments where new skills can be practised.

Once formal training is complete, employees are assigned small territories where they can practise what they have learned in real-world work environments, she says.

After each week of training, employees receive a record of results providing test scores and feedback on performance — documents that are shared with management to highlight areas in which individual workers may require continued support or coaching.

“If we bring them in junior and train them up to their role, they’re far more successful, happier because they’ve developed and moved ahead. And we’re happier,” says Godfrey. “They understand the underpinnings of the business in a different way and they can communicate to our clients in a better, more informed way.”

Not only does Fidelity strive to attract and develop top talent, the company also wants to retain trained workers and ensure its leadership pipeline is well-stocked if vacancies do occur, she says.

“We start early,” says Godfrey. “We look at people as students and we want to engage them in this business very early. We want them to feel compelled to come back to the organization. So if you nurture the talent when they’re young and recognize the contributions and work really hard with them, it’s really easy to see people grow and to help them grow in the organization.”

“We realize that it’s really important to train them, not only for the job that they’re doing, but for the next role,” she says.

Innovative efforts

Training can happen in both traditional and innovative ways, according to Godfrey.

One of Fidelity’s focuses includes putting recruits on projects they wouldn’t traditionally work on in an effort to garner fresh perspectives. Interns are placed within focus groups to spur innovation, and are also encouraged to speak up and ask questions at town hall meetings in which the company president or other senior executives are presenting. Younger employees are also levied in reverse mentorship roles where more senior employees learn from them.

Allowing new recruits to see different aspects of the organization helps build empathy for different roles in the company, while also creating stronger relationships, says Godfrey.

Training for new employees begins immediately at Fidelity through a “First Day Package” that includes branded products and information highlighting corporate culture values.

From there, employees are introduced to manager-peer network groups, individual coaching, mentoring programs, emotional intelligence training, “Yes, And” workshops (meant to acknowledge and build on ideas), and business etiquette training, among other options.

“It’s really different,” says Godfrey of the training program that also includes teaching employees how to do proper handshakes and appropriate small talk.

Salespeople need to not only understand their company’s products, but also how to speak to clients “in an industry where relationships are very important and where you’re working with very smart people,” she says.

“As you become more senior, you spend more time on it… By the time you’re up to sales or the vice-president in this organization, you’ve invested two full days in etiquette training, right down to what knife and fork do you use, and how does your serviette get folded, to how do you exchange business cards, (and) which lapel does your badge belong on.”

Often, the training budget is the first to go in cost-cutting measures, but for Fidelity, it has become a driver of success, says Godfrey.

A centralized training budget ensures managers use all available funds to help employees grow their careers. The company wants to ensure workers have ample opportunities to grow.

“If you want to be innovative, you need to have new ideas,” she says.

“And if people come in and stay in the same job and don’t have the opportunity to learn, you don’t get new ideas and you also can’t attract new people. People want to learn... This is one of the reasons it’s permeated our culture.”

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