HomeEquity Bank’s status as one of the Canadian mortgage industry’s finest workplaces was recently confirmed as it earned a place on Canadian Mortgage Professional’s prestigious 5-Star Mortgage Employers list.
We spoke with the company’s SVP and chief human resources officer Sherry Dondo to get an insight into some of the factors that have contributed to its strong workplace culture and professional environment.
Fergal: [00:00:13] Hello again. Thanks for joining us for the latest installment of CMP TV. I'm Fergal McAlinden, news editor of Canadian Mortgage Professional. And today we have a very special episode to coincide with CMP's recently released Five Star Mortgage Employers Report. One of the names on that prestigious list was lending giant HomeEquity Bank, cementing its reputation among the finest employers in Canada's mortgage space. And today, I'm very pleased to be joined by one of the company's top executives for her reaction to that news. Sherry Dondo is HomeEquity's senior vice president and chief human resources officer and is here to talk me through some of the main reasons the company is able to point to such a strong workplace culture and professional environment. Sherry, thanks for joining me today. And first of all, congratulations to HomeEquity for its place on the list.
Sherry: [00:00:59] Thank you, Fergal. It's great to be here.
Fergal: [00:01:02] I hope that we can start just by talking a little bit about what you believe. Some of the main reasons were that HomeEquity was named a five star mortgage employer.
Sherry: [00:01:11] Thank you. Yes. You know, when I get asked this question often by candidates coming in to the bank, I talk about our purpose and the passion that all of our employees have for the purpose of helping older Canadians age in the homes that they love. And regardless of who in the company you speak to, all employees really rally around that sense of purpose. So I think that combined with our strong culture of recognition, where we do a lot of peer and team recognition as well as leader led recognition and appreciation, those two things are really core to our culture and who we are. I think especially through the pandemic and prior to that, but really through the pandemic, our focus on on employee wellness has been paramount. And whether that be your financial health, your mental health or your physical health, there's been a strong focus in that regard. The last thing I'd really want to point to is the strong sense of belonging and community that we foster across the bank.
Fergal: [00:02:22] One thing that happened during the pandemic, Sherry, which was the same for all companies, was that staff were required to work from home and remote working rose in popularity. How did HomeEquity focus on bringing its staff closer together during the challenges of remote working over the past two years?
Sherry: [00:02:38] Great question. Obviously, we had to deploy the technology to facilitate working from home, which we did really in record speed without missing a beat from a business perspective. And our employees were able to quickly and quite easily transition to working from home. But through that, we've also put an emphasis on maintaining multiple touchpoints with our employees, whether that be through virtual coffee chats with our executive team or creating social events where we can do that as a as a company in a social way. Quarterly roundtables, monthly meetings. We've had a lot of virtual learning events, a lot of diversity and inclusion events that we've held virtually as well. We've also been giving leaders support, you know, how to create more resilience in our leadership team so they can be there and feel ready to support their teams through all of this. And and how to recognize signs of burnout and stress and and all of that. So it's it's been it's been an ongoing thing. We had a really nice event just in January. We had an all company virtual conference where this year the focus was really on employee connect, employee connection. We had an employee driven agenda where we had fun videos like Pandemic Survival Tips, as well as more serious topics such as what diversity and inclusion means to each of us individually, as well as celebrating our really fantastic year that we had in 2021. So there have been it's been a multipronged strategy for sure.
Fergal: [00:04:26] One thing that's always clear from our mortgage employers report is that employees really value being able to give their own input and the company operates. Is feedback from staff important in shaping HomeEquity approach to the workplace?
Sherry: [00:04:39] Absolutely. Yes. It's always important and it continues to be even more important how we listen to our employees and collect their feedback. And we do that through a survey campaign which we call staying connected, where we've we've multiple we regularly and on multiple occasions have reached out to our employees to find out how they're doing through the remote work. We we do employee engagement surveys and our employees and our leaders are regularly checking in through performance conversations and feedback sessions. We have a lot of facilitated group discussions and it's really an important way for how we think about the evolution of our culture and the future of work. And our employees have been really involved with us as we've been thinking about what that future work looks like for us at HomeEquity Bank.
Fergal: [00:05:31] And you mentioned this a little bit before, Sherry, but I wanted to return to the topic. How would you describe HomeEquity commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Sherry: [00:05:40] Yes, thank you. So that's a great question. And we strongly believe in having a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. And we introduced actually last year during the pandemic a Diversity Equity Inclusion Council, whereas before we've been more focused on the employment equity equation now where we have done a lot of work around expanding that to be a much more robust mandate to increase diverse representation across the bank, around creating an inclusive culture and enhancing our employee and our customer experience. We've been able to do a lot of company wide learning events which have been very powerful around things like Black History Month or International Women's Day or Pride Asian Heritage Month. We also did a fabulous celebration of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with one of our partners, our children's medicine, last year. So this topic of diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging is really important to how our employees feel and believe they contribute to to the to and feel like they belong at HomeEquity Bank.
Fergal: [00:06:54] Sherry, we're all kind of crossing our fingers now and hoping that after a couple of years of the pandemic, that we're slowly returning to some degree of normality and we see office towers are kind of slowly starting to fill back up and things like that. So hopefully we'll be out of the woods at some point this year. Is there anything in particular that HomeEquity is keeping top of mind about the workplace as we approach a hopeful return to some kind of normality?
Sherry: [00:07:18] Yes, I think it's a really gradual and evolutionary process. You know, our top priority is to ensure that it's a positive return to work for our folks. We want to make sure that we've created an adaptable and flexible culture. So we've also made the decision that we're not going back to full time office where we've embraced a hybrid model going forward, where we're really we talk about it being purpose driven work. We believe there's value in coming together for connection and collaboration and to enhance our our personal well-being. But we want that to be to feel purposeful and create a culture, an environment, a physical space where employees want to be there and show up. So we're definitely looking at our physical office needs as well and and thinking about what does that look like in the future. Worked in traditional office space is definitely going away and we're not going back to five days in in five day a week model. So that's going to really demand different things from us as a as an office, so to speak. So all of that is top of mind. We've been involving our employees very directly in that conversation, again, through our regular listening strategies, just asking them what they think, what their needs are, how they want to work, what how they want to show up for work and what's important to them. So we're trying to factor all of that in as we're thinking about back to work and the future of work.
Fergal: [00:08:47] Okay, fantastic. Well, there are obviously a lot of different components that go into building and maintaining a successful company. But how important do you think a positive and happy workplace is? Where would you rank that in terms of generating success?
Sherry: [00:09:02] It's essential. You know, our where we are a bank, but people are our business. We can't operate without our employees feeling like they want to show up every day and being able to bring their whole cells to work and being happy and satisfied and feeling engaged. So this is really critical. You know, recognition of our employees is is so important. And listening to them and making changes and doing what we hear them asking us to do to help them feel like they belong and feel like they are fully engaged. We know that happy, happy employees make happy customers. And so that's critical to our business mission for sure.
Fergal: [00:09:42] Well, we're going to leave it there for now. Sherry, I want to thank you again for coming on to the show today. And congratulations once again to HomeEquity. It's clear from our conversations as to just exactly why the company has earned its place on that list. So we really appreciate you coming on and congratulations again.
Sherry: [00:09:59] Thank you so much.
Fergal: [00:10:00] That's all we have time for on CMP TV today. I hope you've enjoyed today's episode. Our thanks to HomeEquity Bank for coming on. Stay tuned to more great content from the team, at Canadian mortgage professional, and we'll see you very soon.