Questrade Financial Group Inc. provides securities and foreign currency investment, professionally managed investment portfolios, mortgages, insurance, real estate services, and more through its companies — Questrade, Inc., Questrade Wealth Management Inc., Community Trust Company, ThinkInsure, and Zolo. Questrade cares deeply about helping Canadians become much more financially successful and secure.
To achieve their goals and serve their vast customer base, Questrade boasts over 2,000 employees, necessitating a thoughtful, dedicated people operations strategy. Valerie Trifler, Director of Organization Development, oversees leadership development, culture and engagement, performance management, talent and succession, and well-being programming.
In 2019, they partnered with Culture Amp to conduct an annual employment engagement survey, onboarding surveys, pulse surveys, and exit interviews. In 2021, they increased their use of the platform through their adoption of Skills Coach for leadership development. It was piloted with new customer service leaders in charge of rapidly expanding teams.
Challenge: Building and supporting new leaders during high-growth periods
Prior to their Culture Amp partnership, Valerie used a free survey and form tool to gather employee feedback.
“We certainly didn't have People Scientists to help review the questions or compare the data to larger organizations. It took so much time to go through the data. By the time we actually shared feedback with leaders, it was months later,” explained Valerie.
With Culture Amp, Questrade has the tools they need to review, analyze, and act on the feedback, and they can easily deliver leadership reports for the annual engagement surveys in a timely manner.
“I really like the commitment questions, which help us predict turnover. The Focus Agent is super helpful. We appreciate the algorithm’s recommendations, and we notice whatever we select as a focus area is directly impacted in the following year’s survey,” said Valerie.
Having established a strong foundation with Culture Amp’s engagement tools, Valerie knew their team could leverage the partnership to tackle leadership challenges and build a new program under Questrade’s Leadership Academy.
Lack of platform flexibility
Questrade has always invested heavily in learning and development. The company wants to empower employees to design, shape, grow, and build the future of financial services.
They initially designed a custom-built, internal program to facilitate their advanced, multi-module leadership programs: Lead & Inspire and Senior Leadership.
Both Lead & Inspire and Senior Leadership are very structured. They start with personal assessments and include executive sponsorships. Each program takes a total of two years to complete.
The problem is, the internal program was designed to take on new participants only once a year, so new managers or recently promoted employees can’t be enrolled on a rolling basis. They must wait until the next available entry date.
Gaps in leadership development training
Questrade’s leadership development requirement intensified early in 2021 due to external factors. In response, Questrade hired 100 new customer service agents, and promoted some existing staff into leadership roles, in three months to help their clients feel secure and provide more personal touchpoints. These new managers required additional people management skills, but couldn’t be added to the current leadership program because of its inflexibility. So, Questrade needed a fast solution.
Questrade didn’t want to replace the Leadership Academy. Rather, they wanted a complementary tool to augment the Lead & Inspire and Senior Leadership programs. The company needed employees to access just-in-time learning and development, and practice skills that would help them become more impactful leaders.
Culture Amp suggested Questrade deploy Skills Coach as a supportive resource for new leaders. Skills Coach is a learning tool for managers that delivers engaging two-minute, daily micro-content to teach them key leadership skills.
Based on the course flexibility and ease of use, Questrade decided to create a Skills Coach pilot and roll it out to the 10 new customer service leads.
Increasing peer accountability
When Culture Amp introduced Skills Coach to Questrade, Valerie thought the content was high quality, written in simplified language, and very easy to understand. She also noticed an opportunity to make it even more impactful for their company.
“It's two minutes a day of bite-sized learning based on science. Spaced repetition is important for knowledge retention. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Who can't commit to two minutes a day to focus on their growth and development?” explained Valerie.
Questrade also wanted to encourage accountability for self-directed learning and generate opportunities for more discussion and knowledge sharing at the same time. So, Valerie decided to incorporate peer accountability into each Skills Coach topic. New topics were covered on a monthly basis, and each topic had a senior leadership sponsor who shared personal experiences.
“We held a separate kickoff meeting to launch the program, then launched a new Skills Coach module each month. Once the self-directed learning was complete, the HR Business Partners would host a debrief on that topic. We talked about what we learned, how they applied it, and what challenges they were facing. It was a valuable conversation. As the program continued, we noticed their discussions became more elevated,” said Valerie.
Creating a consistent flow of feedback
Questrade also conducts evaluations after each debrief to create more opportunities for feedback.
“We got lots of positive feedback about the Skills Coach modules. Leaders liked the overall course design. For example, in the Feedback Module, participants really liked the Behavior, Impact, and Question (BIQ) method, it is simple to implement,” explained Valerie.
Questrade continued to use Skills Coach with the customer service leads. Eventually, the initial pilot grew into an official leadership development program. Questrade named it Learn to Lead, and it was added to the Leadership Academy.
Results: Exceeding external benchmarks and company-wide use of Skills Coach
Since implementing Skills Coach, Questrade has watched their new leaders grow while management scores continually exceeded external benchmarks.
By the end of 2022, when Questrade had been using Skills Coach for almost two years, the company’s overall management scores were at 85%—2% higher than external benchmarks. Meanwhile, overall learning and development scores were at 80%—8% higher than external benchmarks.
Since 2021, Learn to Lead, Questrade’s Skills Coach-enabled program, has been rolled out to 60 leaders on the technology team, 40 leaders on the operations team, 40 leaders in marketing and sales, and 20 emerging leaders on the mortgage team, with plans to continue across more departments.
It’s been so successful that an additional 77 employees opted to use the courses independent of the Leadership Academy.
Smooth handoffs and easy course customization
While the content within the modules has been carefully designed by Culture Amp People Scientists and intentionally isn’t customizable, Questrade can customize which modules are included based on individual group needs.
Leaders are still enrolled in Lead & Inspire and Senior Leadership as they become available, and Learn to Lead provides accessible, ongoing, complementary support with the help of Skills Coach as part of Questrade’s Leadership Academy ecosystem.
Continued enhancements with the help of People Scientists
Throughout Questrade’s work with Skills Coach, they have continued to utilize Culture Amp’s employee engagement tools. In 2022, the company completed their fourth annual employee engagement survey with Culture Amp, and Valerie appreciates the support of the People Scientists to refine survey questions and help interpret results.
“We wanted to add three new questions about decision making to our engagement survey. The People Scientists gave us really good, action-oriented feedback and recommended questions to help us benchmark data,” said Valerie.
Questrade also consults with the People Scientists to better understand the data and how it can be interpreted.
“They encouraged us to take a balanced look at the data and recognize high-level areas of strengths and opportunities. They also walked me through a deep dive of what’s driving our opportunities, and what levers we need to pull to increase engagement over time,” she explained.
Maintaining focus on employee value proposition
As Questrade continues to expand into new financial service areas, they will maintain their focus on the growth and development of their people.
The company saw strong improvements in the following areas between 2021 and 2022:
- Trust in fair performance evaluation increased by 3%
- Satisfaction with access to learning and development tools increased by 3%
- Confidence in wellness prioritization increased by 3%
- Belief in the organization’s commitment to social responsibility increased by 4%
- Enjoyment of physical workspace increased by 6%
Employees also reported feeling less stressed by their workloads, and 89% believed their managers were genuinely invested in their well-being. Questrade believes Skills Coach played a key role in contributing to these positive results.
“Everyone at Culture Amp is amazing. Our business is growing and as we grow, there are more complexities. Culture Amp provides the tools and resources our leaders need to support employee engagement and develop their leadership capabilities, which, in turn, helps us achieve our business objectives,” said Valerie.
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