SSENSE’s eye-catching and inclusive communications of its redesigned benefits plan launch was recognized at Benefits Canada’s 2021 Workplace Benefits Awards on Oct. 14.

The Montreal-based fashion retailer won in the Benefits plan communications category for its comprehensive communications that spoke directly to its young and diverse employees.

With a workforce that encompasses more than 35 nationalities and an average age of 33, the company focused on communications that connected with that audience. “We wanted to make sure that each employee was able to see themselves within our benefits programs — when they were viewing our resources, while they were making their benefits selection and more,” says Matthew Corcoran, SSENSE’s director of global compensation and human resource business partners.

Read: Who are the winners of the 2021 Workplace Benefits Awards?

“The use of inclusive imagery and text has been interwoven across our entire communication strategy — from gender neutral employee personas to images that reflect and embody the diverse culture at SSENSE. Although difficult to measure the impact of such an initiative, I feel that employees were able to associate/recognize themselves personally within the program.”

The path to launching the communications plan for its redesigned benefits plan was long and winding, with one big unforeseen obstacle along the way. Corcoran and his team started planning the communications strategy in late 2019, then the onset of a global pandemic in early 2020 threw the best-laid plans into the air.

“This forced us to think critically about how to communicate a completely new program, with many different and new elements, to our employees across different working populations — we had a subset of employees working remotely and working onsite across multiple locations,” he says.

Read: Expert panel: Use words, imagery for inclusive employee communications

SSENSE took a multi-pronged approach to communicating early and often with employees during a tumultuous time. It began communicating upcoming changes as early as six months in advance and provided regular updates via email and at company-wide meetings. To build buzz for the redesigned benefits plan, the retailer produced teaser videos, as well as information sessions, summary documents and digital signage at its onsite locations.

In addition, company leaders spent time speaking directly with employees via departmental meetings, group sessions and one-on-ones to answer any lingering questions from employees. “At a time where the whole world had gone virtual, we found these moments of connectivity and interaction with our people afforded us the opportunity to support them with digesting the new information and making selections to best match their needs,” says Corcoran.

The comprehensive communications strategy paid off with more than 90 per cent of employees opting in to the new benefits plan and making selections during the enrolment process. Looking forward, as SSENSE continues to grow its workforce, it’s aiming to continue “to evolve our well-being programs to respond to the needs and diversity of our workforce.”

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