Innovative benefits communication nets award for WSP Canada

WSP Canada Inc.’s innovative communications plan to increase employees’ awareness of its benefits plan enhancements netted it the benefits plan communications award at Benefits Canada‘s 2019 Workplace Benefits Awards in Toronto on Oct. 17.

In addition to standard email and intranet articles, the professional services firm’s communications plan included using its chief executive officer’s weekly email missives to employees to make them aware of the upcoming changes. Its director of total rewards also participated in “TeamTalks,” an interview series with the CEO and four to five guests, to remind employees of the importance of enrolling in the benefits platform.

In addition, WSP made novel use of its employees’ computer lock screens. This first-time initiative took place for two weeks in April to let employees know enrolment was coming soon and then continued for two weeks during the enrolment period. Chantelle Tadman, senior benefits analyst at WSP, noted this was a particularly effective medium as employees see their lock screen multiple times a day, such as when they return from lunch or a meeting.

Read: Samuel, Son & Co. rides benefits communication harmony to award win

“You lock your screen all the time and you’re going to see it all the time, it’s right there in your face. We needed to make sure all the lock screens were bilingual . . . so trying to find the right amount of information without any hyperlinks, that was a challenge,” she says. “We [used] the branding from our new benefits program and just very simply [included] what you need to get done: you need to go to the website, you need to learn about it and you need to do your enrolment. And this is the deadline in which you need to get it done. And this is where you find more information.”

The total rewards team has already used lock screens a second time for its wellness program, to encourage employees to complete a health risk assessment, says Tadman. Within three weeks, participation increased from under 10 per cent to 28 per cent.

In December 2018, WSP announced it would be making changes to its benefits plan in an email from its chief human resources and safety officer. The plan changes included an increase, from three to four per cent, of the match on the registered retirement savings plan; an increase, from six to eight weeks to 16 weeks, in the maternity supplemental unemployment benefits; a new wellness program and platform; virtual health care, higher coverage maximums for mental-health providers; and more flexibility in the group insurance plan.

The changes were slated to take effect on July 1, 2019.

Read: Who are the winners of the 2019 Workplace Benefits Awards?

In previous years, notes Tadman, between 16 and 19 per cent of employees participated in the benefits plan enrolment, as there were few changes and the vast majority of employees were content with their coverage. Due to the scope of changes in 2019, WSP Canada wanted to make sure its employees reviewed their coverage to make sure it suited them, and undertook a comprehensive communications plan. Benefits plan enrolment reached 93 per cent, far surpassing the organization’s 80 per cent goal.

“We were all completely blown away. . . . I think we were able to drive the message home that you need to make sure you have the right benefits to meet your and your family’s needs,” says Tadman.

The total rewards team worked with the HR shared services team, enlisted people managers to help with change management and used enrolment reports to specifically target people who hadn’t completed the process.

Read: Employees don’t know enough about accessing benefits programs: survey

Any emails sent about the benefits plan changes were reposted as intranet articles within a couple of days. The company’s total rewards team grouped all benefits plan emails in a separate intranet page for employees’ ease of access. And it also used its weekly review emails, which highlight any intranet articles from the past week, to play up news about the plan changes.

WSP also made all its benefits program information available on a new microsite, which included videos, narrated presentations, written information and an interactive summary. Since the total rewards team wanted it to be accessible outside of work to allow employees to peruse it at home, it chose to make the site external rather than accessible through the intranet. “You can’t find it on Google but if you have the address you’ll get there externally,” says Tadman.

Employees could navigate the site through a traditional menu with information divided into insurance, lifestyle and savings categories, a needs menu with options such as “taking care of others” and “simplifying your day-to-day life” and an action menu. The thinking behind multiple menus was making sure employees had multiple entry points to find what they were looking for, says Tadman.

Read: Tips for engaging employees in plan design changes

“If you’re looking for things that will support your mental health, you can go in and search for ‘taking care of myself’ [in the needs menu] and then you can focus on mental health, and the website will list all kinds of things in our benefits, our savings, our lifestyle plan, our virtual health care, [employee assistance program], all that kind of stuff that will support mental health,” she says. “You’ll still get the information, it’s just a different entry point. I think that’s what’s important, getting people the information they need when they need it.”

Tadman wants to continue the success of the communications program next year. “We can definitely build on that,” she says. “Those successes, where we can get them, let’s do it again and now we know it works.”