How Edward Jones oversees a remote workforce of 49,000 employees

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Organizations that rely on face to face interactions between employees and clients have had to rethink how they do business during coronavirus, considering safety without compromising on service or employee relations. One such organization is Edward Jones, the largest private brokerage firm in the industry.

When the pandemic first emerged, Edward Jones took early precautions like remote work and closing branch locations to the public, while also ensuring the company’s continued ability to deliver essential client services. Now, the firm is adapting their strategies for the long term.

“Our mindset in the beginning was one of a temporary event that we needed to plan for and ensure that we had the support available, and that we would return to some normal state,” says Kristin Johnson, the chief human resources officer at Edward Jones. “Now the mindset has shifted in terms of how we need to be able to lead and support a virtual workforce.”

In a one-on-one interview, Johson shared some of Edward Jones’ strategies for handling the pandemic from an employer-service provider perspective.

What steps did Edward Jones take to boost resources when the coronavirus first appeared in the U.S.?
What we started to move forward with, on a temporary basis, was figuring out how we could continue to work, but work differently. How do we leverage technology and the personal relationships that we rebuild and maintain with our clients?

When it comes to the workforce, three years ago we had really started to expand on our wellness programs and our wellness partners and that's really been beneficial for us, especially in the areas of cognitive and behavioral health. We want to ensure that we have resources available to protect the well being of our associates. We've also expanded those resources to our clients. On our client website we've been doing more education and providing resources, not just on their financial health, but those other areas of emotional and physical health.

Edward Jones has not provided [COVID-19] testing. But Anthem is our medical plan benefits provider and they have a resource that they've provided to those who participate in the plan. Anthem can identify where there is testing available, which is covered through the plan provider. All of our professionals have access to our medical plan, and the benefits that come with that. We have employee assistance programs and we've also further developed our telemedicine capabilities.

How have employees been working through this pandemic?
The good news for Edward Jones when we went into COVID-19 is that we were able to continue having everyone work. We care for $1.3 trillion of client assets and have 49,000 associates. We did close public access to our branch locations but our branch teams have still been going in. With only two people in the office, it allowed them to practice social distancing guidelines and so they've been able to work and serve and support clients as they need to. We moved very quickly to allow about 99.9% of our associates to be able to work from home and that quickly lowered employee anxiety.

Now we're looking at the next chapter, and what that reintegration plan looks like in terms of opening up public access and returning to the physical environment. It will be more gradual — we don't feel a real sense of urgency because we are able to work as we normally do and serve our clients each and every day. We don't have any gaps there that we have to close quickly.

What are Edward Jones’ clients most concerned about as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis?
The market volatility and the impact on the economy creates questions from clients when the assets and their savings go into that volatile territory. The good news is our financial advisers build really strong relationships with clients, so they're doing a really nice job of reaching out proactively to our clients to review their relationships, talk about the goals that clients have and reassure them that there's still a good plan in place.

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