NAV Canada wins member communication award

NAV Canada has had a pension plan communications strategy in place since 2000. But a growing realization from the pension team that members were not as engaged in the plan as they could be was the catalyst for recent enhancements.

“The pension benefits at NAV Canada are complex and were not well understood by employees. Members, therefore, didn’t have a good appreciation for the value of their pension benefits as an element of their total rewards package,” says Raymond Bohn, assistant vice-president, revenue and pension administration, with NAV Canada in Ottawa.

One of the key pieces of the organization’s pension communications is its annual Total Compensation Statement, which Bohn says was originally little more than a document that complied with regulations from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada. Recently, the statement was updated to include plain-language explanations of the pension plan, a detailed summary of employee total compensation benefits and pension projections for ages 50 through 65.

NAV Canada also provides an annual daylong seminar focused on retirement planning to employees and their spouses. Offered for several years, the sessions were redesigned in 2009 based on employee feedback. One change was updating how session material was delivered. “We intentionally connected financial concepts to well-known pop-culture references that could position the main themes, while injecting a bit of humour as well,” says Jason Holmes, manager, pension policy.

Seminar eligibility was also extended to all employees; prior to 2009, only those age 45 and older could attend. “A common comment from plan members is, ‘I wish I had the opportunity to attend this seminar years ago—I would have had a better understanding of the pension plan and perhaps be better prepared financially for retirement,’” says Bohn. “This decision [to extend seminar eligibility] increased cost of delivery, but we believe the benefit to employees far outweighs cost.”

The pension team also recognized the role union bargaining agents could play in educating plan members. In May and July 2010, representatives of NAV Canada’s eight unions attended a two-day seminar focused on engaging union members about the pension plan. Bohn says the company will continue to expand this outreach.

In designing its plan communications strategy, the pension team addressed the unique circumstances faced by employees. Statements are delivered in paper form, since many members do not have easy access to computers. And since employees are spread out across the country and face varying scheduling demands, seminars were brought to them. In the last quarter of 2010, there were 26 sessions in different locations.

Bohn says response to the communications effort has been positive. He estimates that 5% of plan members attend financial seminars annually—or one in five members over a four-year span. And surveys indicate that 94% of plan members are satisfied, very satisfied or extremely satisfied with the Total Compensation Statement, while 95% registered levels of satisfaction with the financial planning seminars.

Bohn says recognitions such as this award show the impact the communications strategy is having. “NAV Canada has a strong tradition of pride in its work and its people. We are delighted that employees within NAV Canada’s pension plan management are being recognized for their efforts in supporting our dedicated employees.”

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