By presenting pension information in simpler, bite-sized chunks and introducing a colourful character, the Alberta Local Authorities Pension Plan undertook a digital revamp that earned it the pension communications award at Benefits Canada’s 2017 Workplace Benefits Awards last week.

Facing the challenge of engaging members on the difficult topic of pensions, the organization took on the task of breaking down complicated information to make it more palatable to members. “That’s part of the challenge that we face. [Pensions are] complicated and boring,” said Sheri Wright, vice-president of stakeholder relations and communications for the plan, following the awards ceremony at the Arcadian Court in Toronto on Oct. 12.

Read: Sounding Board: Tips for overcoming the hurdle of pension plan disengagement

While the plan’s previous website was full of long-form documents crammed with crucial information, surveys conducted with plan members showed they found it boring and confusing and felt pension education was something they could put off until later in life. Further research indicated members didn’t understand the planning advantages provided by a defined benefit plan.

In addition, the plan’s membership includes 418 different employers and almost 50 unions. “We looked at all demographics to make it very user-friendly, approachable and very original,” says Cara Alexander-Brown, manager of digital media for strategic stakeholder relations at the Alberta Pensions Services Corp. All of the elements of the new site were created in-house, including building the platform and the content management system.

Colourful vector graphics, aimed at appealing to younger employees, help to enhance the messaging on the new site, launched in January 2017, says Wright. The plan’s mascot, Ben E. Fit, is a vibrant character who encourages members to get a jump on planning for retirement.

Read: Tips for boosting employee acceptance of benefits changes

Presenting information in bite-size chunks, as well as replacing pension jargon with simple, everyday language employees will easily understand, were integral to the site’s redesign, she adds. “We felt it’s important to get past worries in liabilities and get to the simple language,” said Wright, during a roundtable held before the awards ceremony last week. Given the diversity of employees the plan represents, the strategy also had to take many levels of reading comprehension into account, she added.

The website runs in conjunction with a password-protected website that members can use as a secure way of submitting documentation over email. The site also features a pension estimator and buy-back calculator so members can gather that information from any computer.

The website also acts as a launch pad for a broader multi-media strategy, which will involve reminders and updates sent through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Wright stresses that the progress made with the website so far is just the beginning. “We’re going to develop employee tool kits for our employers and we’re developing videos and webinars for the website.”

Read: A look at how KPMG educates employees on pensions, investments

Surveys conducted following the website’s introduction indicated that the vast majority (97.4 per cent) of plan members found it easy to read, liked the way it looked (95 per cent) and were able to find the information they needed (89 per cent).

As well, from looking at the site, 88 per cent of those surveyed said they understood the value of their plan. And the increase in traffic to the website exceeded the Local Authorities Pension Plan’s expectations of a 20 per cent rise in three months. In fact, it increased by 20 per cent in just six weeks.

A full list of the 2017 Workplace Benefits Awards’ winners is available here. More winners will be featured in throughout the week.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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