Before its benefits redesign, WSP Canada Inc. had a simple but effective idea: when you hear a good idea, write it down.

“On an ongoing basis, we have an enhancement wish list that we maintain,” said Chantelle Tadman, benefits and wellness lead at the professional services firm, during a session at Benefits Canada‘s 2020 Plan Sponsor Week earlier this month.

“It sounds so silly, but it actually was useful when we did a major benefits redesign last year. We’ve been collecting suggestions from employees over three or four years, so something new and interesting, something that wasn’t covered in our plan, we’d write it down. We’d see some articles . . . about what other employers were doing and say, ‘Hey that’s a great idea’ and we’d add it to our enhancement wish list.”

While not every item on the list made it into the redesign, plenty did, she said. “We went through the wish list and said, ‘Yeah, we want that, we want that, we want that.’ And we would see if this would be extremely costly or not.”

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WSP Canada also benchmarked its changes against industry peers. “Through our benefits consultants, we look at what other plan sponsors are doing and we try to see where our plan is positioned compared to other plans.”

When it came to communicating the plan changes, the wish list turned into a to-do list of new benefits that employees needed to understand, added Tadman. The company changed from a more rigid three-tiered medical and dental benefits plan to a core and flexible dollars arrangement. With their flex dollars, employees could buy a more generous medical option, add dental coverage, allocate to a health-care spending account, contribute to personal or employer-related savings accounts and buy extra vacation time.

In addition, WSP Canada launched a wellness platform, virtual-care options and allowed employees the option of selling vacation time back to the company to add to their flex dollars.

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“Another change that we made was significantly increasing our mental-health coverage from the standard about $1,000 a year per plan member to $10,000 a year per plan member and family member — each plan member has their own limit,” she said. “We felt this was really important, because obviously mental health is not something that can be healed in just three or four sessions and they’re pretty expensive, so we wanted to ensure that employees had access to the care they needed without any fear they’d have to stop going to treatment because they couldn’t afford to continue.”

Such a bevy of changes meant the company had to be careful not to overload employees with more information than they could handle, she added. The human resources team collaborated with the company’s internal marketing and communications team to ensure new benefits information wouldn’t get tangled up with other initiatives. “We don’t want to communicate at the same time as a major business update and the message ends up being lost.”

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At the outset of the changes, the head of HR made an initial announcement, touching on certain upcoming changes and telling workers to expect more updates down the line,” said Tadman. “Then we did some communications through our president who did quarterly updates. At the time, we were also doing a live broadcast panel discussion with our president and a few other people in the company, so we took that opportunity to include a short blurb about benefits redesign because it was a national event that our employees attended virtually. That was a great way to have some top-down attention to it.”

Alongside intranet articles and direct emails, WSP Canada also sent out a teaser video to prepare employees for enrolment, followed by live webinars explaining the changes directly, which were attended by about 3,500 employees.

“Then our enrolment period happened . . . it was so fast. It’s like a blur now, I don’t know how we pulled this off in seven, eight months. It was intense but it was great. And our enrolment ended up with 93 per cent participation.”

Indeed, the redesign and its communication resulted in WSP Canada’s win in the benefits communication category at Benefits Canada‘s 2019 Workplace Benefits Awards.

All of the 2020 Plan Sponsor Week sessions are available on-demand at

Read: Innovative benefits communication nets award for WSP Canada