Sun Peaks transforms their virtual communication
Sun Peaks prides itself on providing the finest mountain experience for every guest, lifelong employee, and seasonal staff member. With over 600 new staff arriving each winter season, Sun Peaks’ HR & employee engagement department understands the importance of making their staff feel a part of their community. That’s why they partnered with IC Thrive to transform their virtual communication.
Sun Peaks Resort LLP is a four-season paradise for skiers, snowboarders, golfers, mountain bikers, and hikers alike. Adventure seekers are drawn from all over the world to enjoy a vacation or work at the resort for a season.
Over the 2019/20 season, the HR department at Sun Peaks started looking for ways to enhance employee experience by focusing on their virtual communications. After evaluating their options, they chose to partner with IC Thrive to engage a mobile workforce, keep everyone informed during a crisis, and onboard hundreds of staff digitally.
Since Sun Peaks was already using IC Thrive’s Source intranet platform, they also signed on to be a pilot customer for their newest virtual communications tool, Reach. At the time, no one could foresee how crucial Reach would become to manage their crisis communications when operations came to an abrupt stop on March 18th, 2020, due to COVID-19.
Partnering with IC Thrive
Sun Peaks joined IC Thrive in 2017 when they purchased Source intranet software (named Alpine Connect) to host their company news, documents, forms, and policies. They have successfully integrated Source (Alpine Connect) in their onboarding, enabling managers to self-serve, so they do not have to call HR for processes or how to get a job posted.
In 2019, Sun Peaks entered a partnership with IC Thrive to be part of the Reach pilot program. Reach is a virtual communications platform that supports the operational tasks of sending and managing messages. The partnership with IC Thrive served to align internal communication with organizational objectives by providing tailored advice, best practices, tools, and templates.
Engaging a famously inaccessible workforce
There are 13 major ski resorts in British Columbia alone, which means that competing for staff is a costly endeavor. The cost of acquisition to fill 600+ jobs per season is second only to insurance prices. Promoting staff referrals and keeping mid-season attrition to a minimum is essential to Sun Peaks’ success.
Staff accommodations, events, wellness benefits, and “peak performer” employee recognition initiatives are but a few of the projects the Sun Peaks HR department run to keep their staff happy.
However, their most significant pain point was information access, and how to keep their desk-less workforce informed about what’s going on at the resort.
That’s where Reach stepped in with the solution.
“Seasonal employees work all over the mountain and are most difficult to reach, but they are the ones who want to be kept most informed. Reach fixes that problem and connects us with our most inaccessible staff.”
– Helen Davies, Director of Employee Experience and HR, Sun Peaks Resort
In previous years, it took the Sun Peaks team hours to design and send each newsletter. With a sizeable seasonal staff coming and going, they had to download the most up-to-date staff email list for each newsletter to ensure they were sent to the current team. Adding to the job, their email system maxed out at 499 users, meaning the list had to be split and emailed in two batches.
With Reach, administrators can automatically sync their audience lists with their Source intranet platform or Microsoft 365. Alternatively, they can build custom audiences in the Reach audience manager.
Sun Peaks knows from employee satisfaction surveys that keeping employees informed lowers peak season attrition by enriching their personal experience. It increases staff’s participation and creates a sense of community. Additionally, informed staff graduate to resort ambassadors and add value to the guests’ experience.
“Receiving communications through Reach has been a lot more effective since we receive messages through our [mobile devices]. We’re more up to date about things happening outside of our world because we don’t have to take an extra step to find information, it’s all available in our phone. It’s quick and easy.”
– Sam Vycow, Lift Operations Shift Coordinator, Sun Peaks Resort
Crisis communications & COVID-19
As COVID-19 spread across the world, countries, economies, and businesses were forced to shut down. With employees from all over the world living in close quarters in staff accommodation, Sun Peaks had to work quickly to shut down their operations and lay off 180 staff members in one week.
Reach quickly pivoted from an employee engagement tool into a crisis communication resource. Helen Davies, Director of Employee Engagement at Sun Peaks, was glad that communicating news effectively to staff was the only detail she didn’t have to worry about anymore.
“Our staff have come to expect daily updates on what is happening in response to COVID-19. I can’t imagine what people would have thought if we just started sending email after email with no branding, no imagery, nothing that invites you to read.”
– Helen Davies, Director of Employee Experience and HR, Sun Peaks Resort
Reach provided an engaging way to keep all staff informed about the situation, what the organization was doing about it, and the next steps to take. The communications also resonated with the staff on a personal level, continuing to build on employee engagement.
All in all, Reach enabled Sun Peaks to keep staff informed and calm. Support was available and information was at everyone’s fingertips—no one was left out of the loop.
Returning to work: virtual onboarding
Staff orientation at Sun Peaks Resort typically consists of dozens of seasonal staff meeting in a crowded room bustling with the excitement of their upcoming adventures. They bring in their documents and take their staff photos. All this is very up close and personal and was now completely against social distancing regulations. Onboarding had to be rethought to work in a virtual environment.
The combination of Reach and Source software took the burden off what to do for Sun Peaks. As soon as job offers are signed, staff were added to Alpine Connect (Sun Peak’s intranet software), and users are automatically synced from the intranet to Reach.
Now, armed with Reach and Source, the full onboarding process can be completed virtually. It limits the manual emails that otherwise would have had to be sent out and ensures everything is tracked and documented.
- 600+ seasonal staff kept informed
- 23 newsletters
- 12 COVID-19 updates
- 60+ hours of admin work saved over first 6 months
"It’s been great working with the team and it is easy to use. Both the user experience and look and feel are fantastic."
Founded in 1980, Smythe LLP is a mid-size Chartered Professional Accounting (CPA) firm located in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with three offices across the province: Vancouver, Langley, and Nanaimo.
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