In this story:
- PERA Board meeting in September to hear updates on strategic plan, investments, member service
- PERA staff continue efforts to fulfill Board’s vision of innovation in service delivery
- Member Education’s transition to remote webinars just one example of this work
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States in early 2020, PERA joined offices around the country in transitioning to remote work. While disruptive, the pandemic also provided opportunities to speed up work that was already underway to improve the ways PERA provides service to members and retirees.
Fulfilling PERA’s mission and vision
PERA’s stated vision is “to innovate and build on a tradition of service by being a trusted partner in order to meet the changing needs of our diverse membership.” At its annual planning session — taking place Sept. 15 to 17 — the Board of Trustees will hear updates on how various departments within PERA have been working to fulfill that vision.
A big part of that effort is taking advantage of technology to meet people where they are. In the past year and a half, PERA has made moves to increase transparency and accessibility by live streaming Board meetings on YouTube and providing additional ways to connect to PERA’s annual town hall meetings.
In addition, efforts have been underway to reduce the amount of mail PERA sends to members and retirees and increase the use of digital communication channels like email, social media and video conferencing.
Improving efficiency, accessibility of member education
PERA’s Field Education team — now called Member Education — was already working to adapt some of its educational offerings into an online format when the pandemic began. With the sudden shift to remote work, the team was well-positioned to kick that process into high gear and reach more PERA members than ever before.
“We’ve been able to have higher attendance at fewer meetings,” said Carissa Cummins, a Member Education Representative. “You can join from your couch; you can join anywhere. We are offering webinars at all sorts of times of the day.”
Member Education hosts free Zoom webinars every weekday on a variety of topics, from benefit basics for new members to purchasing service credit and preparing for retirement. With the added flexibility of conducting meetings remotely, the team has been able to develop four new webinars in the past year.
Member Education continues to find and develop new ways to connect with PERA members, including utilizing live streaming on PERA’s Facebook page. They’ll be using that platform and Zoom webinars to help retirees navigate PERACare open enrollment in October.
“I’m really excited for the next Facebook Live,” Cummins said. “We do work really hard to engage the audience…we really try to get them involved in the process and the experience.”
Feedback from webinar attendees
As the Member Education team gathers feedback from webinar participants, many of them appreciate having the ability to attend virtually rather than in person.
“It allows people an opportunity to attend a session that they would never be able to schedule and attend in person,” one attendee said.
For others, the format of the meeting isn’t as important as what they gained: “I have a better understanding of what it takes to retire, even if it is further down the road. Now I know how to prepare for the future,” another attendee said.
To view PERA’s webinar offerings and sign up for a session, click here.