Canadian HR Reporter
Monday, June 20, 2005
TD gives employees tool to chart career paths
  Career Advisor > Canadian HR Reporter

While the mantra these days is that employees should manage their own careers, TD realized most of the $50 million to $60 million it spends on training was to enhance organizational performance. The bank decided to add something just for staff

Author: David Brown

In the past 18 months employee career assistance has become a "huge priority" at TD Bank, says Jane Hutcheson, vice-president of learning and development.

It had to because the bank wants to be an employer of choice, she says. And being a top employer tomorrow requires preparation today.

"If you look at the percentage of the workforce that will retire in the next five to 10 years, the fact that more organizations aren’t freaked out about this surprises me. Because you can’t wake up at the 11th hour of 2009 and say you want to be an employer of choice. It takes time."

And what TD has realized is that part of becoming an employer of choice is striking a balance between organizational development — providing training that benefits the bank first and foremost — and personal development — offering training and development that benefits the employee.

The need for better career management assistance started to emerge about two years ago. Senior executives were receiving more and more anecdotal feedback that seemed to suggest employees wanted better career development opportunities and support. That suspicion was later backed up with some comprehensive research of employees’ wants and needs.

"We have this guy in the HR group — who is a PhD actually, and is excellent — he did some rigorous analysis and research but could talk about it in a way that us plebes understand," Hutcheson jokes.

"What we were trying to find out is what is important to our employees. The overwhelming, number one factor that came out from our employees around what engagement meant or why they love working at TD and what would keep them here and willing to give their discretionary effort, was skill development and career development," she says.

"We spend between $50 million and $60 million a year on training, but when we stepped back and looked at it, we said a lot of that has been on enhancing organizational performance," she says. "That is not a bad thing, but not enough attention was on what are we doing for you, our employee."

The leadership group and HR team decided to put more time and money into employee career management. But they also recognized they could not stick their noses too far into employees’ career development aspirations and concerns.

The mantra these days is that everyone has to be responsible for their own careers, and that is very true, she says. So the challenge was to find a way to help employees feel better about their career paths but without being overly intrusive.

In other words, TD wanted to give employees more career management self-service, and what better way to do that than through the Internet. TD partnered with BBM Human Resource Consultants Inc. and its head, Barbara Moses, to create a website that helps employees with all aspects of career management.

"We wanted to create a site that would respond to every issue a working person might have," says Moses, who has been one of the country’s leading career management experts and authors since she published her Career Planning Workbook in the early ’80s.

Working closely with Zhenia Potatchenskaia from Hutcheson’s staff, the two spent a lot of time making sure the site didn’t look or read like most e-learning sites — the workplace self-service tools employees are most familiar with.

It was also very important that the site not look like it was associated with the bank at all. There wasn’t going to be any TD green, says Moses. Employees were going on to share personal thoughts and feelings about their work. "So it was important that it not be seen as a back-door performance appraisal."

Through a combination of interactive diagnostic instruments, personal reports, advice, tools and action planning exercises, the Career Advisor site is a comprehensive career management tool that enables employees to figure out how best to develop themselves, overcome career challenges and diagnose the root causes of burnout and work-life imbalances. (See sidebar on page 13.)

There are also modules for managers looking to improve their coaching skills. Employees can also produce reports on such things as work styles or preferred work environments to give to managers. (Though the site was designed first for TD, it is now available for other organizations for between $150 and $250 a head.)

Employees should be able to figure out their motivations, work styles and preferences, says Hutcheson. The site helps them understand whether they work best in a fast-paced, multi-tasking environment or if they will thrive in a setting where they have time to do one thing at a time. In some cases, employees will be able to make changes in their current jobs and in others they may in fact decide the job they are in isn’t the right one for them.

Some people may realize they don’t like it at TD and leave, but so be it, says Hutcheson. If people are unhappy or not fully engaged they won’t perform effectively anyway. "So if you help people to make good decisions and periodically they end up saying, ‘This isn’t right for me and I am going to quit,’ you are still better off."

Was there any concern about a deluge of job change requests? No, she says.

There could be requests arising directly from employees using the site, but it is likely their requests will be more intelligent and well-thought-out. In fact, so far, only about five per cent of people have said they want to change jobs. That could go up, admits Hutcheson. But once people sit down and go through some of the exercises and think about what kind of work they are good at and where they fit into the organization, they may lose some of the grass-is-always-greener envy and feel better about where they are.

"In fact, by far the most common result is that people realize it is not an accident that they are doing what they are doing."

The system has only been in place since March, but early analysis shows more than 5,000 of the bank’s 35,000 Canadian employees have tried it. And about 125 new users sign up every week. Based on how the site is being used and the information is accessed, about 81 per cent of them are there because they want to develop themselves. Sixty-five per cent said they are there looking for tips and strategies to manage their careers. Wanting to move ahead was cited by 52 per cent and about half said they have some confusion about where they want to go or are thinking about changing direction. Thirty-six per cent said they are in the midst of a career malady or burnout.

"I actually am shocked at the usage, at the number or users we continue to get and the consistency of it. And it was a fairly low-key implementation. Nothing huge and flashy, just an internal e-mail memo."

Managers love it because they are having completely different conversations with employees who are better able to articulate what they want and where they need to go to be happy and productive. "Employees have to give it some real thought. They can’t just come in like an empty vessel. But they have to think about what they do, so they can say, ‘Here is what I am good at. Here is the environment I am good in.’ As opposed to just saying, ‘I really want a promotion,’" says Hutcheson.

"They understand themselves better and what satisfies them in their job."

The Career Advisor

The Career Advisor site helps TD employees in the following areas:

  • Know yourself: Diagnostic instruments and personal reports in nine areas including core competencies, job essentials, work style and preferences, strengths and areas for development, motivational type, values and reality-testing.
  • Choose your path: Diagnostic instruments, personal reports, quizzes, and information on role and organizational-sector fit, matched with options such as self-development, job enrichment, part-time work, telecommuting, career shift and moving up.
  • Overcome career distress: Advice, quizzes and interactive assessments on dealing with such challenges as burnout, boredom, a lack of fulfillment, a career crisis and failure.
  • Solve career-stage dilemmas: Advice, tips, and strategies for older, younger and those in between on common challenges such as 20-something career uncertainty, whether to do an MBA, overcoming age bias, tensions between older staff and young bosses.
  • Restore balance: Interactive assessment on time/energy satisfaction, advice and strategies for designing a life that meets personal needs.
  • Use career strategies: Personal reports and advice on what you need to do to be successful today including how to network, find a mentor, decide whether to specialize or upgrade education, and keep on learning.