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

Focusing on finding the right harmony in communicating a new benefits plan was key in Samuel, Son & Co.’s win for best benefits plan communications at Benefits Canada’s 2018 Workplace Benefits Awards in Toronto on Oct. 11.

The steel company admitted it can’t afford to offer above average benefits due to the cyclical nature of its business. However, it felt an average program could still be enhanced through communication and education as it harmonized a multitude of benefits and pension plans.

Traditionally, Samuel, Son & Co. only communicated its plan to its Canadian employees through rudimentary paper printouts during onboarding and through a third-party administrator thereafter. This led to 66 per cent of its Canadian employees forming a negative view of the plan.

Read: Tips for engaging employees in plan design changes

To reach its employee base, the company combined direct mailing to workers’ homes, a website, drop-in webinars, human resources support and a call centre — and results have been promising.

“It went against the grain,” says Scott Busch, vice-president of total rewards for Samuel, Son & Co. “We didn’t go technology-centric, we went paper-centric because we understand our population and understand how we were going to get out of that. The other interesting part is our workforce is 85 per cent male. And when we look at the primary consumer of health-care benefits, it’s typically the spouse and the children, so we had to find some way to move this decision out of the workforce and into the house. That was critical to engaging them.”

Employees enrolled in the benefits plan on a website, through a third-party administrator, including requests to review and update their benefits data and information if necessary. This led to 44 per cent of eligible members updating their beneficiary data; 15 per cent adjusting optional life, accidental death and dismemberment or spousal life plans; and 10 per cent updating dependant data. Overall, 83 per cent of eligible employees enrolled, including 96 per cent of its salaried staff.

“It was really making that direct connection with the buyer of health care in their home,” says Busch.

Read: Using benefits design to drive employee engagement

The company is using the success of this communication strategy in other areas, such as the launch of its enterprise computing platform. It has also found that communicating directly with employees as a subgroup or one-on-one has cut down on redundant or mistaken messaging.

The boost in Samuel, Son & Co.’s benefits plan and communication has also enhanced its employee attraction and retention levels, according to the award entry.

Read the full list of 2018 Workplace Benefits Awards winners here. And stay tuned in the coming days to learn more about each of the winners.