Lessons from Bell: Building a “People-First” Workplace

Bell is Canada’s largest communications company, providing advanced broadband communications services to consumers and business customers across the country. The company has earned a reputation for providing an excellent experience for consumers, and the Bell workplace is one of the Canada’s most highly rated, especially when it comes to work-life balance, salary and benefits, and culture.

We sat down with Nancy Tichbon, Vice President of Bell and Virgin Mobile Corporate Stores, to get a better sense of all the aspects that make Bell a great place to work. From its groundbreaking Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative, to the company’s world-class training programs, there are a lot of lessons employers can learn from Bell.

Finding the right people is the key to success

Nancy started out as a figure skater in Britain, with dreams of competing in the Olympics. After an injury at the age of 17, she could no longer compete and, needing to find a plan B, landed a job at a call centre. Fast forward to 2000, Nancy was asked to help launch Virgin Mobile in Australia and set up the customer service division. In 2004, she came to Canada to start her role as VP of customer experience. Then three years ago, she was selected to run the retail sales channel in Canada.

 

Photo: Nancy Tichbon, Vice President of Bell and Virgin Mobile Corporate Stores

Given her own personal and professional experience, Nancy knows that a positive attitude goes a long way, which is why this has become one of the key attributes she looks for when recruiting new employees.

Nancy notes that one of the main things she is always chasing is better solutions to finding the right people, and focuses specifically on the strategies and tactics that are going to attract and retain top talent.

“It’s common sense, really. With the right training, we can teach people the skills of the job. We’re laser focused on hiring people with a positive attitude, who are likable, driven, compelling, resilient and adaptable. If we get that right, everything else falls into place.”

Once Bell finds the right people, the company invests in them. “We put a lot of time and investment into training and developing our employees. It starts on day one at Bell, and continues throughout an employee’s career.”

Building an exceptional employer brand

What makes Bell and Virgin Mobile stores great places to work? To put it simply, the company offers what job seekers are looking for. When gauging an employer’s reputation, typically five factors are taken into consideration: salary and benefits, culture, work-life balance, management, and job security and advancement.

Bell offers competitive salaries, great benefits, and discounts galore for team members, and places a large emphasis on employee recognition programs. People who excel in their performance here are rewarded with items such as phones, tablets, laptops, sporting events tickets and much more.

“When people work hard, you need to reward them,” says Nancy. “If the employees are happy, they’ll do good work which pleases our customers. And if the customers are having a good experience, our shareholders will be rewarded too.”

The company’s “people first” focus helps foster a workplace where people can thrive, which is also exemplified by its successful mental health initiative, Bell Let’s Talk.

Prioritizing mental health

Bell is making great strides with its Bell Let’s Talk initiative – the largest of its kind – which is built on four pillars: anti-stigma, care and access, research and workplace health.

Bell is committed to leading by example and promoting best practices to provide access to mental health resources in all workplaces. Prioritizing mental health helps to ensure the success of employees, as well as the organization. Bell helped fund the development of the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace – a worldwide first – and continues to support and promote its adoption across corporate Canada.

“Bell Let’s Talk is one of the things I’m most proud of,” says Nancy. “I love being a part of something where we’re changing the lives of people all across Canada. And, of course, we lead by example and promote mental health best practices across all workplaces.”

Bell has developed and implemented mental health training programs to create awareness and better equip both leaders and employees. Strategies for coping and improving mental health, building resilience and bolstering self-awareness are just a few items on the curriculum. To date, more than 10,000 team members have completed voluntary mental health training.

Leaders, on the other hand, must take mandatory mental health training. Bell developed the world’s first university certified workplace mental health program for leaders in partnership with Queen’s University and Morneau Shepell.

Educating employees from the ground up is key to reducing the stigma around mental illness. “The goal is for more organizations to adopt the National Standard of Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. We’ve shared best practices with hundreds of organizations, so that others can implement a healthier framework in their own workplaces.”

Bell exemplifies the impact a company can have when you prioritize putting people first. The company’s efforts to find the right people, invest in its talent through training, education and development, and cultivate an environment where all people can thrive, have allowed Bell to be regarded as a best-in-class employer.