Canadian Forest Products Ltd.’s ongoing support for employees’ savings and retirement goals resulted in a win in the Financial wellness category at Benefits Canada’s 2021 Workplace Benefits Awards on Oct. 14.

Launched in September 2020, Canfor’s three-year financial education program was initially offered to 1,100 salaried employees in Canfor’s defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans, helping these employees form a good financial base through topics such as taking control of money and debt, establishing good saving habits and saving for financial goals.

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“We didn’t just want to do a program to check a box and feel good about it,” says Frederic Bessette, director of total rewards at Canfor. “We wanted something that was good enough that it could be rolled for another three-year cycle and that’s why it was so important that we carefully considered everything for this project — not just the topics themselves, but the pace and the depth of the content.”

The program’s content is contained in a financial wellness hub and is delivered via articles, webinars and emails. Employees’ financial plans are also supported through a financial planning tool provided by Canfor’s consultant.

In addition, a series of personas based on sample employees — each at a different stage in their retirement journey with unique savings goals and priorities — help engage users and streamline communications. Lisa Weber, benefits and pension advisor at Canfor, says this aspect adds some “extra polish” to the program’s resources. “It can be difficult to get employees engaged [in pensions and retirement savings], but this program has been a great way to generate some interest and discussion.”

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Since the program’s launch, participation in Canfor’s voluntary registered retirement savings plan is up 18 per cent, despite employee uncertainty amid the pandemic.

In its entry, the company also noted roughly 12 per cent of employees participate in each of the program’s webinars, while 100 per cent of employees open emails pertaining to the program and 50 per cent use the financial planning tool. And following this initial success, the company plans to extend the program to an additional 3,100 workers in its hourly employee group.

“Sometimes we hear the word ‘retirement’ and we think ‘pension’ or vice versa,” says Bessette. “But retirement isn’t just your pension plan and that’s really the main point of this program.”

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