Better listening equals greater engagement at Fidelity (National HR Awards)

Winner, Employee Engagement Award

By Melissa Campeau

There’s a virtuous cycle at work at Fidelity Investments Canada when it comes to engagement, according to Nancy Lupi, senior vice-president of human resources.

“At Fidelity, corporate success positively impacts employee engagement, which leads to greater corporate success and employee engagement.”
This cycle is exactly why listening is a key element of its culture, she says. 

“Whether we collect employee feedback through surveys or word-of-mouth, we appreciate every opportunity to give employees reasons to stay.” 

What the 876-employee organization then does with that information is equally important to the cycle — and one of the reasons it received the Employee Engagement Award.

“When we convert their feedback into positive change, employees feel empowered and encouraged to continue sending us ideas,” says Lupi.

At Fidelity, listening to employees happens on many fronts. An annual engagement survey, for example, helps the company to understand where it stands amongst its peers, along with establishing benchmarks and seeing where there’s room for improvement. 

“The survey enables employee feedback, which we act on,” says Lupi. “It also helps us understand what needs to be better communicated.” 

The 2015 survey found the organization had engagement scores of 98 per cent (among the highest in the industry) and scored particularly well in the following areas: 
•Employees recommend Fidelity as a great place to work.
•Employees proudly tell people they work at Fidelity.
•Employees are confident about Fidelity’s future success.

“The more our employees participate in our culture and give us feedback, the more we stand out as a competitor and employer,” she says. 

Listening up
Beyond the engagement surveys, the company promotes several initiatives aimed at ensuring every employee has a voice. There’s a listening program, for example, designed to help employees develop better listening skills, to build trust and amplify success. 

“There’s a focus on teamwork and collaboration, and on contributing to the sense of ‘being heard,’” says Lupi. “Since the program was so effective and well-received, it was incorporated into our companywide communications and new-hire orientations last year.” 

There’s also a campaign called “I’m All Ears” that reminds employees to empathize, stay open to a speaker’s point of view, ask questions, pay attention to non-verbal cues and give a speaker undivided attention. 

To encourage innovation, Fidelity runs a “Voice of the Employee” program, encouraging employees to submit their ideas to senior management. 

“We take great pride in this program,” says Lupi. “It’s a hub for the best and brightest employee ideas.”

Employees are encouraged to submit ideas that might benefit the company, and those ideas are reviewed across a team of leaders and subject matter experts. If an idea is selected for implementation, the employee is awarded a $300 prize and becomes eligible for a $2,000 grand prize. 

“Since 2007, we’ve had 255 prize winners and 32 grand prize winners,” says Lupi. 

Jeffrey Payer, a previous winner, had this to say about the initiative: 

“(It) allows employees to impact the company in a meaningful and tangible way. This is great because employees who work in the front lines have unique insights that can benefit internal and external partners. As a past winner of the program, I had the pleasure of seeing my idea brought to life, which made me feel that Fidelity Canada values my ideas and opinions. I feel grateful to work here because I know many companies aren’t willing to give employees the same opportunities.”

To encourage candid and genuine conversations when it comes to issues about teamwork, managers and other potentially sensitive subjects, the company launched an

HR Solutions program that includes an employee relationship call centre: Employees can dial in to openly and confidentially discuss challenges and seek guidance. 

There’s also at least one annual meeting for each employee with an HR consultant, to give confidential feedback.

Once a challenge is identified or a great idea is proposed, says Lupi, the organization takes action. 

“We not only listen to what employees want, we make it happen,” she says. “We try to find ways to make things work. Whether we take action or are unable to, we are transparent about why.” 

Personal and professional development
Often, employees will suggest ways they’d like the organization to support their professional growth.

“We have a long list of initiatives and programs that have been implemented over the years as a direct result of employee feedback,” says Lupi. “These include our MentorMatch program, a values program, a job exchange program, a manager and leadership development program, and a knowledge transfer program.”

Other opportunities include career coaching, business etiquette training, emotional intelligence training, flex hours, job sharing and telecommuting.

“Every employee, no matter what area they are in, has an opportunity to learn, develop and advance,” she says.

Rewards and recognition
In addition to competitive compensation, Fidelity takes measures to ensure employees and teams who excel are singled out. National and regional sales teams win trips for outstanding results, for example. 

There’s an award program called iCare that recognizes employees in client services and information systems who go above and beyond. And an on-the-spot reward program “contributes to an engaged workforce because it provides spontaneous recognition where it’s due,” says Lupi. “It’s designed to say thank you in a timely manner.”

For employees who truly stand out, there are the 212 Degrees awards. (Water is hot at 211 degrees Fahrenheit but boils at 212 degrees, making the extra degree critically important.) 

Recognition often comes from the top, as well. Fidelity president Rob Strickland participates in every celebration, often hand-delivering employee giveaways in many cases. 

Employees can also take advantage of a employee discounts and deals, make the most of the resources in the employee assistance program and wellness programs, and take part in charitable events to benefit their communities. 

“Our programs drive business results and personal growth alike,” says Lupi, whether employees are taking part in a mentoring program, running with a team in a charity event, or proposing a new workplace innovation. “Our high level of employee engagement, as well as our unique culture, motivates our employees to do their best and strive for excellence.”

Melissa Campeau is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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