Staples Canada Inc. was the recipient of the Communication Award for Benefits Canada’s 2011 Workplace Health & Benefits Awards.

Communications professionals often stress the need to relay a message seven times in seven different ways to get a point across. It’s a best practice that Kate Tilsley, director, compensation and HRIS with Staples Canada Inc., took to heart this year when teaming up with the company’s internal communications department to design a new communications plan for benefits plan members.

“Overall, our premium rate increases are below the market trend, but we are still feeling pressure from rising benefits premiums, especially short-term disability (STD) and longterm disability (LTD),” Tilsley explains. “So we set out to find opportunities to be proactive in managing costs and to talk to our employees about how to become smarter shoppers.”

The annual open-enrollment period, during which employees can review and make changes to their flexible benefits coverage, presented a perfect opportunity for Staples to educate the company’s 15,000 employees on changes to the disability plan, including reasons for higher premiums. Messaging could also include reminders about smart shopping: buying generics, getting preventative dental cleanings and considering mail order for maintenance drugs. At the same time, Staples wanted to improve employees’ understanding and the perceived value of the total rewards package.

But getting the message out wasn’t as simple as putting it up on the intranet site and saying, “There you go,” says Tilsley. “We are very cognitive of the diversity of our workforce and the challenge that poses for communication.” With employees located at more than 330 locations across Canada in corporate offices, retail stores, contact centres and warehouses, Staples needed a multi-faceted approach that tapped into every single communications channel available.

The “100% homegrown” communications plan used a range of tactics, including a managers’ benefits briefing to help them answer employees’ questions; a Coming Soon and It’s Here poster campaign; town hall meetings; a quarterly company newsletter; a printed open-enrollment package sent to homes; an online open-enrollment tool (available at work and securely at home); biweekly TV podcasts to raise awareness; Brainshark technology to verbally communicate key messages; and a dedicated employee email for personal questions and issues.

“It was a daunting endeavour,” says Tilsley. “But the plan was supported by a business case and received strong support from Staples’ executive team. And because it wasn’t the first time that we’d talked to employees about how to be a smart shopper, we didn’t get a lot of pushback from them. They already understand that they pay part of the premiums and why it is important to keep costs down.”

Calls to the benefits department were notably lower than in previous years, and the communications team received positive manager and employee feedback. Despite significant changes to the STD package, there was minimal disruption to business in executing the strategy.

Information provided to Staples employees over the years has made a difference in keeping benefits premiums for everything, except STD and LTD, below the market trend, adds Tilsley. “Although plan design has an impact, at the end of the day, communications can play a significant role, and we are confident that our messages will continue to have a positive impact on all of our benefits costs.”

Sonya Felix is a freelance writer based in St. Catharines, Ont. sfelix@cogeco.ca

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Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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Sharon Doucette:

Can you tell me how long does LTD go for ?

Sunday, August 20 at 9:56 am | Reply

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