We have one of the most innovative talent professionals I know with us today, FactSet’s Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources Dan Viens. Dan is an old friend whom I caught up with recently to discuss his strategic contribution to the Norwalk-based company, which was recently recognized for the eighth time on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For® list.
Victoria: Hi Dan, how are you? Wow, eight years on the best companies to work for list. That’s quite an accomplishment! I bet your HR colleagues are envious, eh? You probably get ambushed at SHRM meetings! How do you respond to questions they may have about helping their organization to achieve this same distinction?
Dan: Hi Victoria. Thanks so much. You know, a lot of HR colleagues view the Best Companies To Work For® award as a nice marketing- and reputation-building tool. But it’s really not about us. There’s no set of Pulitzer Prize-winning responses that we can provide as talent professionals. I mean, sure, Fortune asks us to provide simple explanations of what we do for our employees and how we show we care. But inclusion on the list is based on the Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For® survey to employees. Fortune controls that completely and decides who gets surveyed and how. It’s nothing we do—it’s our employees who confer this distinction on us. We should be thanking them.
You can’t make this honor happen. You get on the list because you’re good and because being good is already part of your corporate DNA.
Victoria: I know FactSet provides financial research and analytical data to global investment professionals. Sounds kind of financ-ey and technical (investors love you) but maybe it’s not as cool as working at a tech start-up, or some other business millennials might be drawn to for their career. Yet FactSet has been called a Millennial Magnet by the media and employees love working there. How are you so effective at keeping your workforce engaged and excited about showing up for work each day?
Dan: Hundreds of people are added to our staff each year, mostly from our massive campus recruitment efforts. But while most companies may onboard two candidates on Tuesday and perhaps two more on Wednesday, etc., we invite our new hire campus selects to attend either a five-week training program for client solutions or a four-week training program for engineering composed of anywhere from 50-to-90 entry-level consultants (client solutions) or software and systems engineers in each class. Depending on the position, our recruits have exceptional business, technology and finance skills, but we look for good independent problem-solving and collaboration skills as well. They’re fully immersed in our corporate culture during training, where they learn everything about what we do as well as the services and products we offer to our clients. From that point—after training them effectively—they are immediately placed into key projects. They may work in a project team to engineer our next industry-leading product. Or they may work with one of our consultants, answering calls or working directly with clients who represent millions of dollars of revenue to our firm. We trust them with responsibility; that’s the key. We provide skill requirements training, we entrust them with real-world responsibilities, and we hold them accountable for their performance. We empower them to start making a difference right away— they have real responsibility from day one and can see the difference they’re making.
As far as millennials are concerned, yes, the subject comes up a lot. But they’re not much different than other generations. They want the same things. They’re just bold enough to speak up and ask for it. So I think everybody benefits from their approach.
Victoria: I get it. Great points. What about non-millennials? What do you do for them?
Dan: We’re looking to continuously improve in this area. Right now we recruit non-millennials in the traditional way, using the standard approach. We provide new hires the opportunity to join a five-week training course to acquire more detailed exposure, if needed. But they don’t usually require the same level of intensity, since they have previous industry experience. We also try to deliver on the point where they can feel like they’re making a difference—where they feel like what they do is important and they’re connected to something larger than themselves.
Victoria: Ok, that sounds great. Is there anything else about your corporate culture we should know? What’s the secret sauce? C’mon, Dan, dish!
Dan: Ha, the secret sauce, right, Victoria. I don’t know, our culture is kind of hard to define. There’s a certain indefinable something. A lot of people give lip service to an open-door policy, but I believe our people really care about each other. There’s a small-company feel here at FactSet. There’s a prevailing attitude of “I’ll get ahead as we all get ahead” rather than always trying to get ahead at someone else’s expense.
The best way I can illustrate what I mean is with a story or two. A new employee in his first week tragically learned of a death in his immediate family. After taking some time to be with his family, the employee contacted us and said he could not concentrate and did not want to let his friends and classmates down so he was tendering his resignation. However, we did not accept his resignation. Instead, we told him that we would hold a spot for him in a new class whenever he was ready. He did not need to add additional concerns regarding his career to his plate and if we could help remove that stress, we were very happy to do so. And when he was ready, we were here for him. Actions like that speak volumes and employees, all employees, appreciate kind and caring actions that treat them as real people and not just as someone who fills a job.
What’s more, our executives are very hands-on and approachable. It’s not uncommon for an executive to pick up a sandwich in the cafeteria and sit down with a group of people he or she doesn’t know and have lunch. One employee I encountered said he ran into our CEO in the kitchen and had a half-hour coffee with him. He said he had never met the CEO at his previous company despite having worked there for 10 years.
Finally, one story is legendary and illustrates my point. An engineer discovered that our CEO had recently purchased a luxury sports car. “How cool is it to drive a car like that?” he asked, making conversation. At that point, our CEO reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the car keys: “You tell me,” he said. “Here’s the key. Why don’t you go out and take it for a spin.” And that’s exactly what he did.
Victoria: Ok, great insights, Dan. Sounds like a great place to work: Sign me up!
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