Departments - March/April 2009

Case in Point

Banking on Global Motivation
How Scotiabank Drives Employee Engagement Around the World

By Catherine Eberlein Pfister


nsight comes to us in many different forms.

In Richard White's case, it came in the shape of an analogy—made with tennis balls.

White, the vice president of Brand and Marketing Management at Canada's Scotiabank, candidly recalls the day in 1999 when a senior sales executive offered his perspective of the bank's existing—and deeply fragmented—reward and recognition practices.

"He said, 'Rick, this is what it's like being on the sales side.' He then opened a big bag and started taking out tennis balls and flinging them at me," White said. "At that point we decided to take a year hiatus and stop all of the different programs. It was the impetus for us to figure out a much better program."

And White had capable experience in doing just that. Prior to joining Scotiabank, he had been Mary Kay Cosmetics' head of marketing for several years. Knowing that the company could do better "came out of my experience with Mary Kay, being aware of an organization that is based on a strong, strong foundation of recognition. I thought that's what Scotiabank needed," White explained.

Among the things that needed to be changed was the bank's culture. "We certainly had very dedicated and committed people at the company," White said, "but we did not have a strong recognition program. I think that probably the 'stick' was stronger than the 'carrot.'"

White also knew that brand and marketing management would drive the change. "When we went into this, we knew that our brand was very tied into the customer experience and that our customer experience was very tied into how our employees felt. They go hand in hand," he explained.

Still, White noted that there were many disparities in current programs that needed evaluation before moving ahead. There was inequitable program design, decentralized program management and product-focused staff objectives. He also found that of the almost $6 million spent annually in sales-force contests and incentives, each was owned and driven by seven to eight different business lines. Within each line were two to three different kinds of employee reward programs going on for various things.

"Our field sales management staff that oversees our branches had no control over all of these separate programs," explained White. "Also, it became apparent to me that sometimes the winners didn't even know why they had won."

To fix these problems, Scotiabank spent about six months meeting and brainstorming various ways that programs could work. Carlson Marketing Canada was also brought into this process.

"The bank recognized, as many companies do, that they had too many programs operating within their organization and these programs weren't aligned," explained Martha Barss, senior vice president, Client Services at Carlson Marketing Canada. "In that situation there are obviously a lot of opportunities to take out costs, to create consistent messages, objectives and strategies."

Together the two companies went through a multi-step discovery and design process that included key stakeholder interviews and reviews of available documentation, such as previous employee surveys. "That discovery process led to developing an understanding of what kind of program Scotiabank would truly want in order to change the behavior they wanted to change," Barss explained.