Manitoba's Top Employers


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4 TOP EMPLOYERS REALLY LISTEN Whether it's through technology or one-on-one chats, Manitoba's Top Employers are getting to know just about everything about their employees. By Berton Woodward C all it a cliché or call it an essential organizational strategy, but listening is what Manitoba's Top Employers are all about these days. "It involves understanding everything about your employees — how they work, where they work, what's competing for their time," says Richard Yerema, managing editor at Mediacorp Canada Inc., which manages the Canada's Top 100 Employers project, including the Manitoba's Top Employers competition. The value of such information is inestimable to the organizations chosen as top employers. Backed by ever more sophisticated technology, companies are using surveys, social media, focus groups, interviews and other techniques to drill deep into the fabric of their employees' lives and find ways to help them be happier, more focused, more motivated people. "In our industry, we're mindful of the fact that our assets go up and down the elevators every day," says Rob Strickland, president of Fidelity Investments Canada ULC, the major component of Fidelity Canada. "So every year, we try to do a better job of listening." Many companies have programs to gather employees' ideas about better ways of doing things. Fidelity offers rewards for the best innovations. But even then, says Strickland, "it's more than just listening to ideas. Employees want to know that their contribution is visible and recognized and appreciated." The positive results go well beyond boosting efficiency and productivity. Listening has also contributed mightily to the changes top employers have made in recent years to their diversity and inclusion programs. With workplace diversity almost a given in today's Canada, many organizations now put greater emphasis on inclusion, because it covers such a broad range of situations for employees. The idea of "bring your whole self to work" started in support of members of the LGBTQ community. Now, that emotive idea of inclusion has expanded considerably. Through listening, employers are learning more about all their employees' whole selves. That can mean their need for time to take care of children, or elder care, or, increasingly, support for mental illnesses such as depression. Listening can even centre on more subtle areas — many employers are focusing on the differences between the generations, or even between introverts and extroverts. Technology has played a key role in the explosion of listening, and allowed companies of every size to compete in this crucial area. "The online capabilities have reached down to the smaller organizations as well," says Yerema. "It's almost like analytics in sports — there's an ability to measure everything. So there's really no excuse for organizations not to figure out ways in which to gauge what their employees are thinking." At Samsung Canada, they even have an app for it. It's an off-the-shelf online tool called Two-Minute Feedback that any manager, employee or sales person can send to any other employee or outside client. The recipient anonymously answers a few quick questions and, voila, instant feedback. "It really works well for team-based work and collaborations, as well as feedback for an individual on how they're performing," says Christine Greco, vice-president of human resources and corporate affairs at Samsung. But it's not only about tech. Employers like Samsung also carry out human listening across the enterprise. "We spend a lot of time getting feedback from our employees," says Greco. "Last year and early this year we conducted over 200 one-on-one interviews, each about 60 minutes long, trying to understand what engages our employees. You get a lot of feedback when you do that." Possibly the most ambitious listening exercise among Canada's Top 100 Employers in the past year occurred at banking giant RBC, with some 80,000 employees worldwide. It held a 55-hour global "Vision and Values Jam" online, in which 20,000 employees in 22 countries posted more than 17,000 threads, comments and replies. Set in motion by new president and CEO David McKay, who participated, the goal was to collectively articulate RBC's very reason for existing — its purpose — and refine its vision and values. "We had come to the conclusion that in the future, successful companies would be purpose-driven, principles-led and performance-focused," says Per Scott, RBC's vice-president of human resources. "That led to the work on what we call our Collective Ambition. And we said, we can't do this work without talking to the employees." When the non-stop, two-and-a-half-day discussion was all distilled down — aided by sophisticated text and data analytics methods — the result was a concise but powerful new statement of purpose for RBC and its employees: "Helping clients thrive and communities prosper." There were also tweaks to the company's five values — notably to the Diversity description. "What came through loud and clear from employees was that the idea of inclusion had to be reflected in this value, and that today, it wasn't simply about respecting differences, but it was also about advocating and speaking up for inclusion," says Scott. "So we changed the value to Diversity and Inclusion, and we added that language." Scott says the example of the global jam has led to dozens of "mini-jams" through RBC's internal social media. "It's a new era of what communications looks like," he says. "Really, it's not just about listening, but about listening and responding. Employees want transparency and they want a dialogue." ❚ There's an ability to measure everything. So there's really no excuse for organizations not to figure out ways in which to gauge what their employees are thinking. 02 Employees want to know that their contribution is visible and recognized and appreciated.

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