by Kathy Cash   Kathy's profile on LinkedIn  

Well-Being: Fourth Pillar in the Edward Jones Associate Value Proposition

With over 40,000 associates and 14,000 branches in North America, Edward Jones Investments’ hugely successful financial services firm built its reputation on core values such as putting client interests first and respect for the individual. The firm also defines 4 pillars in their Investing in You associate value proposition: career, culture, financial security, and well-being. Collectively, these pillars describe everything employees can expect.

Kim Grbac (Principal of HR Benefits and Compensation) says the well-being component involves all benefit programs. “The firm makes a very substantial investment in these programs, including best-in-class vendor partners who help establish engaging and interesting resources. Our vision is to provide services and support that allow associates to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles and behaviors. We’ve seen good outcomes when it comes to engagement and an overall healthier population. This fits in with the firm’s culture and core values, which respect the individual and their contributions.”

The Well-Being Proposition

Edward Jones promotes healthy lifestyles at larger facilities through initiatives like these:

  • Keeping nutritious choices available in cafeterias
  • Creating a Founders’ Foot Path on the St. Louis headquarters campus
  • Making the campus tobacco free
  • Sponsoring a community fun run.

Kim points out that because 2/3 of their population is spread throughout the country, “When it comes to promoting activity and healthy choices, such things as fitness centers are not realistic. We’ve chosen team-based fitness challenges and a robust online presence to further support all associates — regardless of their location.”

She describes 2 such initiatives:

  • “This is a time of real change in the financial services industry. We realized many of our people cannot get out and exercise consistently. So what could we do to encourage them to not ignore their well-being? We developed a campaign called Fitting in Fitness. It involves sending an exercise band and laminated easy-to-follow guide to every associate. They can exercise in place without leaving their desk. We plan to refresh that package every few months so they don’t get bored.”
  • “We also just completed 2 highly successful walking challenges. They involved more than just tracking steps but also shared stories of our Edward Jones culture. The first, called Keeping Up With the Jones, allowed teams of 6. People connect with associates they might otherwise not deal with in their day-to-day work. Because of the many social media regulations in this industry, we worked closely with our legal department to allow participants to post comments, pictures, and encourage each other. An app tracks their progress; when they get to a certain number of points, it unlocks an Edward Jones story, maybe about people in one of our locations. We had over 10,000 participants and tons of comments in that social media space. We just completed our second installment of that competition called Meaning to Your Miles. We had almost 12,000 participants in this initiative.”

Kim was enthusiastic about the positive effect of these competitions. “People took time to meet and interact. They used the stairs to get in more steps. One young man was the first to admit not being physically active before the competition. But he was highly competitive. Accruing the points drove him at first, but now he’s hooked and is getting ready to run his first marathon! Other teams just wanted the bragging rights as to where they ranked compared to other teams. Another employee got her 80-year-old dad out to walk with her.”

When it comes to emotional well-being, as in most companies the Edward Jones EAP encourages associates not to wait until they’re in crisis to use services. Human Resources provides a help line, and a vendor partner offers extensive resources on their website. Kim is particularly proud of their support to associates and families during disasters such as hurricanes or floods. “We make calls to any of our people in the affected area to determine if they, their families, their homes, and the company facilities are OK. We go through this with every disaster. It’s a lot of work but a real reflection of our culture and respect for the individual.”

Kim notes a relatively new aspect of the well-being pillar are 5 business resource groups: LGBTA, Asian, Hispanic, Black, and young professionals. “I participate in the LGBTA group, which includes people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The A stands for people who want to be allies and support the group’s efforts. It is very inclusive and provides a good outlet for people to come together and address similar issues. We did not always have transgender benefits in our medical plan… we do today. In large part, that came from feedback related to diagnosis and treatment and what other organizations are doing. Each business resource group has an executive sponsor on the team. They work collaboratively and positively to address many social issues facing Edward Jones.”

The Edward Jones high-deductible medical plan offers premium discounts for completing screening and achieving biometric goals; 80% of associates participate in these programs.

The Culture Proposition

Kim describes the evolution of Edward Jones physical spaces. “Everybody, except the managing partner and a few other senior leaders, works in a cube. This creates an open environment that encourages collaboration and discussion. We do set aside spaces for associates when they need to concentrate… much like a quiet room in the library. We also provide spaces for small team collaboration. We are piloting 3 work spaces that take the cube environment a step farther, where the associate gets to decide what kind of space he or she needs on a day-to-day basis. This concept’s flexibility and choice speak to everyone’s well-being.”

Beyond work space initiatives, Edward Jones tries to provide case-by-case alternative work arrangements. Kim’s Benefit Analyst needed to relocate to Indianapolis because of his wife’s work. Rather than lose a valued employee, they allow him to continue working remotely and collaborate through web meetings and online chats.

Communication among so many branch offices can be a challenge. Keeping everyone in the loop is a top priority, with hundreds of dedicated people. On the firm’s electronic suggestion box, associates can write in and ask any questions, give feedback on issues, and offer ideas. All are reviewed. While the communication can remain anonymous, associates who include their name receive individual feedback by phone, email, or in person. Jim Weddle, Managing Partner, hosts weekly company video broadcasts where he answers the most popular items. Other broader issues are addressed through ongoing updates in internal online news sources and the company TV station.

Unlike many employers that reward only executives and leaders for organization success, every eligible associate can participate in the firm’s bonus program. Payouts are tied to company and individual performance plus how well the associate has met individual goals.

Kim also is proud of the emphasis on community outreach. “Each year we sponsor a charitable bike ride called Tour de Ted for Ted Jones, our Senior Executive Managing Partner who passed away from cancer. The tour starts in our home office and spans different regions across the country. All the money raised goes to cancer research. We are a huge United Way supporter as well; the company matches any individual contributions. We give thousands of service hours to United Way agencies each year including going to local food banks and boxing up meals. Each associate in the home office gets a day off with pay to do outreach work in some way.”

The Career Proposition

Kim declares, “Professional development is baked in to everything we do. Associates create their personal career development plans and work with their leaders to put strategies in place. Our inclusion mentoring program allows anyone from the home office to participate as a mentor or mentee… depending on where they are in their career. We maintain a development library with online resources to help develop any desired key competency. Associate performance plans are reviewed 3 times a year, with variable compensation tied to results.”

The Financial Security Proposition

While Edward Jones is a financial services leader, home office associates in supporting roles may possess little or no understanding of financial issues, so full-time financial advisers and branch support staff are available. These associates receive the same treatment as any Edward Jones client.

Kim’s Lessons Learned

When asked what advice Kim would give to others, she shared these thoughts:

  • “First, remember you are never going to make everybody happy. The reaction to our programs has been overwhelmingly positive, but there is always the occasional skeptic who doesn’t want to participate or hear about it. Maybe they are suspicious you’re collecting their data for some ulterior purpose. Think through how you are going to communicate with this group.”
  • “If you’re not a trained wellness professional, find a really good partner to help in this space. It took us a couple of tries to find the right fit, and we encountered some painful stumbling blocks along the way. Take the time to get it right. Vet them carefully. Find a partner who can support your culture and goals as well as understand the nuances of what makes your organization unique. Let them bring you their good ideas and be the expert, but they should also be flexible enough to support your situation. Don’t accept a cookie cutter program.”

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