Training APEX Awards Best Practice: Edward Jones’ JonesSpark

This crowdsourcing tool allows financial services firm Edward Jones to engage a large number of associates firmwide to rapidly generate ideas and prioritize solutions to complex challenges.

APEX Awards

JonesSpark is a crowdsourcing tool that allows financial services firm Edward Jones to engage a large number of associates firmwide to rapidly generate ideas and prioritize solutions to complex challenges.

Program Details

JonesSpark begins with a sponsor issuing a challenge to hundreds, or even thousands, of field or home-office associates. The challenge must have a clear business outcome with a line to firm strategy—and the sponsor must have the authority and commitment to act on the ideas that advance.

Participants submit their ideas directly to the JonesSpark platform. Transparency allows other participants to see what’s been submitted, and the “crowd” comments on and rates ideas.

JonesSpark provides a process to prioritize, select, and advance those ideas, culminating in head-to-head voting using Pairwise, which supports voting for ideas in pairs (one idea vs. another).

The result is a prioritized list of top ideas delivered to the challenge sponsor. JonesSpark is in such high demand that the JonesSpark team leads bi-weekly overview sessions that share the what and why of crowdsourcing, and what makes a good JonesSpark challenge and sponsor. Edward Jones also trained 2.5 full-time equivalent associates as administrators to design, build, launch, and support challenges—and identified two additional administrators to support the long-term JonesSpark enablement and scaling strategy.

JonesSpark crowdsourcing:

  • Increases diversity of thought to provide an array of solutions to sponsor challenges.
  • Provides a forum and transparent review process to increase trust and confidence firmwide.
  • Allows large groups of associates to contribute, rate, and choose ideas they deem most valuable.
  • Advances innovative solutions generated and prioritized by those closest to the work.

Results

Since January 2021, JonesSpark has produced the following results:

  • More than 4,000 visitors to the JonesSpark platform.
  • 50 percent active users (defined as users who contribute to at least one challenge area: idea submission, star rating, comment, or vote), which exceeds the 40 percent industry benchmark.
  • 15 challenges produced 545 ideas; 710 comments; and 33,000 Pairwise votes.
  • 12 ideas advanced, either on track to be implemented or influencing work related to the challenge. The winning idea of the first JonesSpark challenge, “Improving Your Daily Workflow,” which was issued to 500 financial advisors and branch office administrators in January 2021, is advancing through product implementation in the asset movement area.
  • Two ideas generated from product management team challenges are now in live production, 4 to 6 months post-challenge. This is much faster than Edward Jones’ traditional idea-to-implementation pipeline in which ideas originating from the home office could take months, or even years, to advance to production—without the transparency embedded in the crowdsourcing tool.

One particular example of the success Edward Jones has had using JonesSpark was in making improvements to its Investment Advisory program. This challenge posed this question to 300 financial advisors: “What ideas do you have to improve the client and branch experience around understanding and communicating Advisory Solutions model performance?”

The challenge produced three ideas (out of 34 submitted) to implement and measure against existing benchmarks provided by Branch Insights research. Working with the Branch Insights team, the Design-Thinking group issued subsequent monthly challenges to allow financial advisors to quickly weigh in on incremental innovations to Investment Advisory. By continually tapping into feedback from those closest to the work, the process creates buy-in for any changes to the Investment Advisory program—and informs the Investment Advisory roadmap to focus on attributes most important to users.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.