by Kathy Cash   Kathy's profile on LinkedIn  

Employee Engagement at the Heart of State Street’s Success

With over 32,000 employees serving institutional investors in 30 countries, State Street recognizes the importance of cultivating employees’ full potential and supporting the communities where they live and work. Robin Benoit (Managing Director, Global Benefits and Wellness) affirms senior leaders knew promoting employee well-being made sound business sense, beyond being the right thing to do. “Studies show the higher the employee engagement, the better profitability for the company and the more likely we can recruit and retain the best talent in the industry.”

Community Outreach and Service

Because this corporate commitment to well-being extends to the communities they serve, State Street set a corporate goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water use 20%/person by 2020. At the end of 2015, they’d already achieved a 17% reduction in both categories and drastically reduced waste sent to landfills; 56% of global State Street offices are certified according to international standards for environmental management. In fact, a wind power project near the Gdansk, Poland office helped offset 26,000 metric tons of carbon impact… an amount equivalent to the company’s entire 2014 business travel emissions.

Other examples of community support:

  • State Street gave $22.7 million to nonprofits around the world in 2015, including matching employee contributions of $4.15 million to 2222 charitable organizations
  • Approximately 7200 employees participated in company-sponsored volunteer activities during the same year, devoting a record 116,000 hours of their time to charities
  • State Street’s Workforce Investment Network is a 4-year program to boost education and job readiness for urban youth in Boston; State Street Foundation pledged $20 million to 5 nonprofits over this period to advance education and job readiness, then the company committed to hire 1000 of these youth.
BeWell’s Comprehensive Approach

Where possible, Robin ties activities and campaigns sponsored by State Street’s wellness program, BeWell, to corporate community outreach. “Charitable walks and fun runs are popular. In the UK there was recently a 40-60 mile bike ride to raise money honoring an employee who passed away last year while cycling.” Employees also receive 2 paid days off/year for volunteering.

BeWell was established stateside in 2014 and launched last year overseas. Recognizing that with such a large and diverse workforce BeWell could not be a one-size-fits-all program, Robin worked with consultants knowledgeable in the local culture to lead focus groups. Employee feedback helped guide implementation of the program at each location. “Not only did these groups help design the program, but it was an opportunity to share information throughout the organization. We also learned how they wanted to receive our messages. As a result we do everything from printed communications to emails to postings on our company website based on their unique needs. All employees speak English, but it’s not necessarily their native language, so we made sure to use local language in the focus groups to get the most honest feedback.”

As with many companies, managing healthcare costs was also a driver in implementing the wellness program, especially in the US. State Street is self-insured and has shifted to a consumer-driven model over the past 5 years. While healthcare systems in other countries vary widely, employee health, absenteeism, and disability rates are still a concern.

BeWell’s goals emphasize the whole person — addressing the physical, emotional, and financial aspects of employees’ lives.

  • Physical: State Street has 2 professionally staffed onsite fitness centers in the US; other sites offer exercise classes and boot camps. Types of classes are determined with the help of local wellness champions and through assessed needs at each location. BeWell also encourages employee resource groups that cater to special interests ranging from running to yoga. The company’s first global walking challenge ended in June 2016. Nearly 6000 participated and could interact through the web portal. Seminars and tips on getting better sleep are also popular, including how nutrition affects quality sleep. Other topics have covered healthy eating while traveling and packing healthy snacks for children. Robin notes team-based challenges have been incredibly positive. “Some teams have even begun walking together during their monthly staff meetings.”
  • Emotional: In addition to EAP and portal resources in this wellness area, links to vendor seminars are offered. Robin describes a challenge she encountered: Some feel admitting to stress is a stigma. “This is a stressful time for many. We try to offer tools they can access and use on their own. We do conduct periodic meditation classes onsite, which is generally perceived as a more neutral topic than stress management specifically. From my perspective, it is extremely positive for emotional balance.”
  • Financial: As much as possible Robin tries to leverage existing vendors and programs. “For example, retirement plan vendors counsel employees on a wide variety of financial topics and offer seminars. In general, we have a pretty young workforce… a lot of millennials. We recently launched a popular student loan program in the US; employees are able to get lower interest rates and consolidate their loans into 1 payment, which has generated significant savings for many. On the other end of the spectrum, we provide more targeted retirement planning education for our older employees. It’s important to think broadly with a multi-generational workforce.”
Work/Life Balance

Robin says a strong corporate respect for work/life balance is the thread tying these areas together. “One of the most highly valued principles is flexibility. It really helps everyone address time constraints. Many employees can work from home and some work compressed schedules. Even in our health plan we have time constraint features like telemedicine which employees can access at any time.”

She also tries to develop strategies that get employees to take small steps toward improving health. “Our 1-Week Healthy Habits Challenge at various times throughout the year asks employees to commit to 1 activity each day, for 5 days, from a list of 4 or 5. It may be to simply get up from their desk and interact with others, take a short walk, or cross something off their to-do list.”

State Street’s Alumni Network continues relationships with retirees and includes these benefits:

  • Make or renew connections with former colleagues and other retirees
  • Participate in State Street Alumni events as well as volunteering and charitable initiatives
  • Take advantage of exclusive discounts and perks
  • Learn about career opportunities at State Street
  • Receive ongoing news about the company and research.
Incentive Program

State Street often connects corporate responsibility to the wellness program. For example, top 10 teams participating in the recent walking challenge saw prize money donated to their chosen charities. US employees receive incentives for some standard wellness activities like completing an HRA, biometric screening, and participating in 1 wellness activity to earn an additional paid vacation day for the year. “We chose this approach to encourage people to take time off, refresh, and do something healthy for themselves. It aligns well with our goals and objectives.”

Robin doesn’t find the same incentives to be necessary outside the US: “Culturally, things are different. People are happy to participate in something they haven’t had access to in the past, while in the US, incentives have become an expectation.”

In the US, employees must show proof of attendance at a fitness center for a certain number of visits throughout the year — not just proof of payment. This program has expanded to reimburse race fees and weight management programs, knowing that not all healthy activities involve joining a gym.”

Lessons Learned

With State Street recognized by the Boston Business Journal as a Healthy Workplace, Robin is rightfully proud of what’s been accomplished in such a short time. “It really reflects the corporate value State Street places on meeting employees’ needs. The BeWell name and logo are well known throughout the organization. We also quickly learned to not make assumptions and avoid preconceived ideas so we could adapt to what employees want. Just because something worked at one location doesn’t mean it will work at another. Don’t be afraid to change. Sometimes things will work and sometimes they won’t. Don’t view setbacks as a failure. Learn and adapt.”

“In hindsight, one of the things I would have done differently would be to involve local managers in the development process earlier. I think they would have had a better understanding of the program when it came time to launch.”

“For now, our main goal is engagement. We want to reach at least half of our workforce, whether through webinars or communication. I think we are making excellent progress in that area.”

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