2011 Best Companies: Financial Services

Relaxing on small details pays dividends ?for B.C.'s best financial services employers.

Office lounge | BCBusiness
Having a staff lounge where employees can relax and unwind may sound like a small point, but its rewards are large.

Relaxing on small details pays dividends 
for B.C.’s best financial services employers.

inding good people isn’t a challenge for financial services companies among this year’s Best Companies to Work For in B.C. “I don’t have to put ads in the paper very often,” says Herlinda Mills, manager of HR and marketing for Summerland Credit Union, of her recruiting efforts. Jeremy Green, regional vice-president of Optimum West Insurance Co., also waves off the matter: “Our turnover at Optimum West is quite low,” he notes.

High retention rates haven’t come without effort. For Green, it has been a three-year project. “We started to look at this from the staff’s point of view. What do they want out of the business? And a lot of them wanted a fun work environment that they felt they had some control over. Out of that came a few initiatives. One was to create a staff lounge, a place where staff can relax and unwind, be themselves, play a game if they want, and the other was Internet access. It sounds silly but it was a major point of contention with the staff that they wanted to be able to update their Facebook pages, check their emails, or do some personal banking on their own devices, as time permitted.”

Financial Services

1. Summerland 
& District 
Credit Union

2. Schill Insurance 
Brokers Ltd.

3. Davidson & Co. 

4. Optimum West 
Insurance Co.

5. First Group 
of Companies 
Holdings Ltd.

Whether it is thanks to the Wi-Fi access or the staff lounge, Green has seen a measurable increase in staff engagement since putting these perks in place. 

However, there is a downside: happy employees staying put results in few advancement opportunities, so particularly in flat economic times, developing careers requires some creativity. Summerland Credit Union uses simple initiatives such as job diversification, job shadowing and access to an education fund. “We cross-train like crazy,” Mills explains. “If somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want to learn this,’ we say, ‘You bet!’ We let people take courses, just to keep them interested.” 

Keeping them interested and growing at work is only part of the equation. For Summerland Credit Union, it’s also being flexible and empathetic to personal situations. “We know that there is more to life than work. You hear people talk a lot about work/life balance, but I think we really live that here,” says Mills. “Family is more important than work.” If employees need to attend a children’s Christmas concert or check in on an elderly parent who is not answering her phone, Mills encourages them to “just go.” 

Fun and flexibility breed corporate loyalty. In addition, companies in the financial services industry are very cognizant of providing fair compensation, and the need to offer extremely accessible leadership who engage in regular communication to ensure the staff feel connected to the organization. Green notes that in addition to an open-door policy and holding monthly status meetings, he makes a point of speaking with each employee personally. At Summerland Credit Union, “Our staff is happy, and enjoys what they do,” says Mills, “and that conveys to our members as well.”
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