Sun Peaks Transforms Their Virtual Communication

By engaging a famously inaccessible workforce

By IC Thrive - Case Studies

460+ seasonal staff kept informed

10 Newsletters

12 COVID-19 updates

60+ hours saved admin work

Sun Peaks prides itself on providing the finest mountain experience for every guest, lifelong employee, and seasonal staff member. With over 460 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 2019/20, the HR department at Sun Peaks looked at ways to enhance employee experience by focusing on their virtual communications. IC Thrive partnered with Sun Peaks to engage a mobile workforce, keep everyone informed during a crisis, and onboard hundreds of staff digitally.

Already being a Source intranet software client, the team signed on to be the pilot customer for our 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 460+ 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 – how to keep this deskless 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 are the ones who want to be kept informed the most. Reach fixes that problem and connects with the most inaccessible staff.”

– Helen Davies, director of employee experience and HR at 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.

Switching to Reach means administrators can automatically sync with their Source intranet, Microsoft 365, or build custom audiences in 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 their participation and creates a sense of community. Additionally, informed staff graduate to resort ambassadors and add value to the guest's experience.

“Receiving communications through Reach has been a lot more effective through our [mobile], 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 at Sun Peaks Resort.

Crisis comms and COVID-19

As COVID-19 spread across the world, countries, economies, and businesses were forced to shut down. With staff from all over the world living in close quarters of staff accommodation, Sun Peaks had to work quickly to shut down their operations and lay off 180 staff 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.

Reach provided an engaging way to keep all staff informed about the situation, what they know about it, what they are doing about it and the next steps. The communications also resonated with the staff on a personal level, continuing to build on employee engagement.

“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, HR

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

Orientation typically consists of dozens of seasonal staff meeting in a crowded room bustling with the excitement of the upcoming adventures. They bring in their documents and take their staff photos. All this is very up close and personal and completely against social distancing regulations. Onboarding had to be rethought to work in a virtual environment.

The combination of Reach + Source takes the burden off what to do. As soon as job offers are signed, staff are 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.

“It’s so new to us because we’re a people industry”

– Jen Dekkers, HR manager

Reach your employees wherever they are

Sun Peaks’ updated virtual onboarding process:

Beyond the bottom line

The operational overhead of running a ski hill is astronomical. The cost of attracting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, training, engaging, keeping them safe, and offboarding staff takes recruitment costs, human capital, advertising budgets, events, and more.

Sun Peaks’ internal communication operates in the execution phase, where it’s about considering audience needs, delivering relevant content over the right channel at the right time. IC Thrive continues to support Sun Peaks to help make their operations as efficient as possible.

We identified two strategic and three operational solutions for their industry-specific needs, and work with them to implement solutions grounded in best practices that can help them on their most pressing needs:

Partnering with IC Thrive

Through in-depth research and consultations with seasoned internal communications professionals, we have built a framework of the seven principles, each supported by several best practices for effective internal communication. We are passionate about sharing this knowledge and know-how and developing these pillars continuously within our dedicated communications team. These principles govern every aspect of the workflow within IC Thrive – when we are developing a product and advise clients to get the most out of their software.

We would love to partner with you on your internal communications and grow with you through our solution-driven software. Is it time to improve your internal communications? Or even if you would simply like to know more, please complete this form, and we’ll be in touch to set up a call.

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