Forest City Fire Protection & Security was the recipient of the Communications Award (<1,000 employees) for Benefits Canada’s 2011 Pension & Investment Awards.

As a small, privately owned company operating in a construction industry dominated by large multinational organizations, Forest City Fire Protection & Security is always on the hunt for solutions to give it a competitive edge. So when its benefits provider, The Steele Group, approached the team in early 2010 with a demo of an online HR tool, Forest City saw an opportunity.

That tool, called FinancialiQ, was initially focused on offering group savings-based online learning to employees. But according to John Allen, chief financial officer with London, Ont.-based Forest City, the management team realized this technology could become an all-purpose education and information hub for the company. “The potential it had way surpassed what they were explaining. So I brought it to our management team, and we endorsed it and proceeded with it.”

Over the next several months, Mike Caskanette, manager of communications and development with Forest City, worked closely with The Steele Group to customize the program so that it met as many of Forest City’s needs as possible. As a fire sprinkler design, installation and service firm with 200 employees located in four Ontario cities—approximately 60% of whom are based in the field with limited access to computers on a regular basis—the program needed to be accessible from anywhere. And it needed to include in-depth information on all of Forest City’s HR initiatives.

Eventually, FinancialiQ became GatewayiQ. The program, launched in early 2011, includes more than 100 videos and 100 pages of information organized into learning modules to help employees understand benefits such as the retirement savings opportunities offered through the company’s group RRSP and deferred profit sharing program.

“The cost of trying to get everyone together for educational purposes—either in their own office locations or as a team—was very expensive. Being able to do things electronically will significantly decrease our costs and will actually increase the amount of education and training [we can offer],” says Allen, who notes that the cost of delivering the learning programs through GatewayiQ is equivalent to less than 0.2% of Forest City’s wages annually.

In addition to the training modules, GatewayiQ gives employees easy access to statements that show how much they are saving for retirement and information on how to develop a financial plan. Employees also have the opportunity to meet with a financial planner every five years to work through their savings goals.

The system tracks which employees use GatewayiQ—and how, when and where—and can present that data broken down by employee division and other demographics. While 75% of employees used GatewayiQ in the first three months following its launch, Allen classifies the uptake so far as “slow.” However, in a few months, the company plans to introduce an incentive program that will give employees points for completing modules, which they can then exchange for rewards such as Tim Hortons gift cards—a strategy they are confident will raise awareness of and interest in the system.

Allen says Forest City management recognizes the role that good communication and learning opportunities play in attracting and retaining key talent, especially for a small organization. “It’s extremely important for us to be different. Our greatest strength is our people, and we need to continually let our staff know this.”

Neil Faba is associate editor of Benefits Canada. neil.faba@rci.rogers.com

Get a PDF of this article and other coverage from the awards gala.

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

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