Just before the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Canada, Scotiabank made a pretty significant change to how it communicated about its benefits plans and programs with employees.

With so much information available to employees, the bank realized it might not necessarily be easy to digest or understand, said Ayman Alvi, Scotiabank’s director of global benefits, during Benefits Canada’s 2021 Tech Insights: Spring Edition conference in late April.

“We have a lot of different programs, some of them are more complicated,” he said. “It’s not easy for someone who’s not an expert to understand, so we changed our approach [to communication] quite a bit.”

Read: Scotiabank awarded for adapting benefits in face of coronavirus

Where Scotiabank had previously favoured text-heavy and highly detailed communications, it instead implemented a much more simple and visual-forward approach to sharing information with its employees.

“A lot of what we were doing was very similar to what you would do when you had a paper-based approach, as opposed to using your internet and email, so that’s why we made that shift,” he noted.

The bank created a number of videos explaining key program details and added one-page synopses and at-a-glance documents, which Alvi said “allow[s] people to access information in a way that’s best suited for them.”

The response from employees has been overwhelmingly positive, he said. During Scotiabank’s enrolment period in early 2020, the number of clicks on relevant sites and documents increased 75-fold over the enrolment period in 2019. “We think it went well and we know we got a lot of positive feedback from our employees. We can see that in our surveys and just in the way employees are engaging with our plans.”

Read: A look at consumer-grade benefits plan technology, communications

As part of its work to simplify benefits information for employees, the bank also created a resource tool to help plan members locate the type of mental-health care they needed. While Alvi said he was proud of the wide array of mental-health resources employees have access to through the bank’s benefits plans — which is meant to address everyone’s differing needs in this space — he noted it could be difficult to navigate.

Rather than giving employees a list of all the services available to them, the tool presents them with a series of scenarios, such as “I’m not feeling good today” or “I’m having an issue at work; what do I do?” or “I’m a caregiver and I’m having issues with someone, what are the options?” Plan members can select the situation that most applies to them and from there the tool directs them to the most useful resources.

The bank also introduced telemedicine as an optional benefit in early 2020, but when the pandemic hit immediately pivoted to making it available to all employees. Alvi said the offering has been one of Scotiabank’s most effective uses of technology.

Read: Plan Sponsor Week: How Scotiabank is supporting staff during coronavirus

“During enrolment, we had a certain level of participation in people who opted in for that elective benefit, but then when we switched over to just providing it to the whole bank, we had huge take up — I want to say around 80 per cent of our employees are registered,” he said. “We consistently see thousands of consultations a week. It’s clear that it’s something that’s being used. . . . And post-pandemic, it’s going to be part of our core benefits plan, because I think all employees see what the value is and as an employer it’s benefitting our employees.”

Alvi recommended that plan sponsors considering a new vendor partnership or benefits technology understand first what they hope to achieve and have a clear picture of what that looks like by seeking employee feedback and any data they have access to in order to determine the gaps in their coverage or communications.

“Making sure that whatever solutions we’re seeking are hitting the mark for these different groups [is important],” he said, speaking specifically of the bank’s various employee groups. “It isn’t ever a uniform group and making sure that you’re addressing the issues that might come up in different places, trying to get ahead of that, that’s really important as well.”

Read more articles from the 2021 Tech Insights: Spring Edition conference.