At a time when 11 million Canadians don’t have a workplace pension plan, it makes good sense for those who do to learn about their pension and how to make the most of it. The trouble is it’s pretty hard to get most people under the age of 50 to take an interest in their pension at all.

There are many reasons for this: busy lives, lack of interest, procrastination, poor financial planning and low levels of financial literacy. Given those hurdles, how can we get people to learn about their pensions? How do we engage them early and encourage them to pay attention throughout their working career so they can make the most of their pension benefits?

Alberta’s Local Authorities Pension Plan decided to tackle these hurdles head on for our members. We wanted to create a fun, innovative, user-friendly website that would take a complex and boring subject and make it easy to understand and navigate and enjoyable to visit. We also wanted a website that addressed members’ needs and interests instead of a stodgy, corporate site focused on the organization itself.

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At Alberta Local Authorities Pension Plan Corp., which sets the strategic direction for the plan, we know that planning for retirement is like a marathon rather than a sprint. With that in mind, we created an online mentor, Ben E. Fit, for our members. The idea was to create someone fun and fiscally fit who would run the marathon with them and help guide the way from the starting line to the finish line and then on to their victory lap.

Knowing what we needed to do was the first step. The next step was approaching the team of designers and web builders at Alberta Pensions Services Corp., which administers pensions for our organization and six smaller plans in Alberta.  After that, the rest was history. For several months, a team representing both organizations worked together to bring the vision to life.

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The information on the site is written for members and designed specifically with them in mind. Gone are the complex, jargon-laden PDFs full of pension information that members needed to know but would never bother to read. Instead, the site offers bite-sized pieces of information that’s simple to understand and organized in such a way that those who want more details can dig deeper and those who want to move on to another topic can do so.

The collaboration between our organization and Alberta Pensions Services during all aspects of the project was key. Creating an engaging, consistent voice throughout took a high level of attention to detail so more than one team member could create content at once. As with any newly launched website, we continue to respond to feedback and adapt.

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On the information technology side, the team used an agile methodology that focused on continual team feedback and short-term deliverables to keep the project on track. The technical experts built a new site from scratch, created a custom platform and provided the technical expertise necessary to devise more intuitive, user-friendly navigation throughout. They built new pension estimators and buyback calculators to make it easier for members to plan for their future needs.

Since the site just launched in January 2017, it’s still early days. We’ve already hosted focus-group testing and collected feedback from an online survey that suggests a 94 per cent approval rating. Nevertheless, it will always be a challenge to get the attention of our members, especially when they’re young. We plan to measure our success, improve on our numbers and do our best to make sure members are on track.

Sheri Wright is vice-president of stakeholder relations and communications at the Alberta Local Authorities Pension Plan Corp. Karen Adams is president and chief executive officer of the Alberta Pension Services Corp., which administers the Local Authorities Pension Plan.

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

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