Providing a better brand experience for prospective and new employees through clearer communications.

Manitoba Hydro

How to reduce turnover and provide a better onboarding experience at Manitoba’s only mega-project.

Clear expectations and credible communication attracts the right people for the job and prepares them for success at Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask hydro-electric project site.

Brand has to be seen through the eyes of the audience. And when it comes to recruitment, leading with your brand is critical. It sets the tone for people coming into the organization – and if their experience in the first few days doesn’t match what you told them to expect, you’ve introduced a sliver of mistrust.

The first video of a onboarding series created to help applicants navigate through the various steps necessary to prepare for life at Keeyask.


Keeyask is a 695-megawatt electricity generating station and one of the largest construction projects ever in Manitoba. Keeyask is a live-in work camp and work site with about 2,400 people in the middle of Northern Manitoba, in the Split Lake Resource Management Area, and within the ancestral homeland of four partner First Nations.

Keeyask is a remote, temporary camp and worksite that is bigger than most communities in the area and is ‘home’ to people from all over the world. Most shifts are 21 straight days of 12 hour shifts, then 7 days off, which include travel time. As mega-project sites go, Keeyask is one of the best, with amenities like a full-sized gym, theatres, games rooms, a lounge and more. But the shifts are long, the rules are strict, the use of drugs is strictly prohibited and alcohol use is limited and controlled.

Some recruits were arriving unaware and unprepared for life at the camp, so money and time was being lost recruiting people, getting them to the site and training them, only to have them leave or be suspended after one or two rotations.


In order to reach each person the most effective way possible, we created a web portal, videos, downloadable information, printed guides and collateral to ensure they could receive the information they need in their own way, on their own time.


  • Recruitment at Keeyask has historically been strong, but retention has been a challenge.
  • Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership (KHLP) has a mandate to hire, train and provide opportunities to residents of the partner communities, but every person who returns to their community unsuccessfully perpetuates the challenge.
  • There was inconsistency in the information shared with new recruits and the way it was shared.
  • Cultural sensitivities left some people uncomfortable with having open dialogue about work, camp life and safety expectations.

So on a Tuesday evening in February, we stared out the windows of a bus rolling quietly along a narrow highway in Northern Manitoba, looking for the first signs of light from the camp through the blustering snow.

Our first-hand experience along with other new recruits, feeling the uncertainty and excitement, the culture shock of security and the regiment of the systems, was instrumental in understanding the challenges at hand.

Our challenges, however, were different.


The project had no predefined brand.

The culture of Keeyask is an unusual interweaving of at least three distinct corporate cultures, plus the ever-present security and safety considerations, overlaid on a distinctly Northern Manitoba feel, with the practices of the wisdom traditions tied in.

Within this, people from all over the world, with all kinds of skill sets and attitudes are living and working together, in shared isolation. Keeyask is literally a world of its own. Arriving there for the first time could not feel familiar to anyone.

Meeting with employers and Employee Retention Services staff allowed us to unpack some of the many reasons that people go home early.

It became clear that ‘selling’ people on a career at Keeyask wasn’t going to help. People needed real information gleaned from experience in order to make an informed decision about whether working at Keeyask was right for them.



The selected creative approach was the ‘survival guide,’ which would allow for clear, direct language and the opportunity to inject some personality and humour.

With no brand to speak of, we built out a colour palette from those included on the Keeyask.com website, to ensure these materials were distinct, yet visually aligned.

The development of the print materials began to set the tone, but the character development and scripting of the videos is where the personality of the project really came to life.

The Keeyask Success Guide was launched as an addition to the Keeyask.com website. It houses seven segments, taking the potential recruit from deciding if Keeyask is right for them, through preparing themselves and their family, packing, making the trip, camp life and safety. The website launched with all the information on-line and available as downloadable PDFs and with videos 1 and 2 in place. As the weeks went on, new videos were added.

E-newsletters went out to staff and supervisors introducing the assets, and a powerpoint was provided for those who wanted to use the resources as part of their recruitment and onboarding processes.

5 x 7″ printed versions of the survival guide handbooks were printed and distributed and posters and tent cards promoted the materials on-site.



Working at Keeyask for 21 days straight is hard. The honest and direct conversations with employers and employees, who each faced their own challenges at Keeyask, made it very clear that this was not about selling an ideal. It was about real situations people face there, like managing family responsibilties, making choices about drug and alcohol use, leaving the familiar for the unknown possibly for the first time, and taking on a challenge for deeply personal reasons.


It was imperative that the language and the tone of voice be clear, conversational, credible and absolutely non-judgemental. It had to have room for straight talk, for empathy and a bit of humour. It had to pass the sniff test of young people who have become very selective about what they buy into. 

The end product had to be something front line recruiters and supervisors wanted to use. So it needed to be practical, no-nonsense and absolutely non-bureaucratic.


Because language and literacy are highly variable in the audience, it was important to meet the needs of most learning types. The first step was breaking all the information into manageable segments, introducing each segment and its goals clearly, and mapping next steps. The content was delivered incorporating story-telling, imagery, video, music and print, recognizing that some like to absorb print information at their own pace, while others prefer learning through video, with the occasional print supports.


It is always important to get feedback from audience and user groups, but it was also important that the recruiters, employee support people and supervisors know about these tools, have ready access to them in different formats and can speak to them clearly and consistently. One of the objectives of the project was to provide managers and supervisors with examples of language and tone that can be adapted to support their ongoing conversations.

A tangible success

Creating a system of information that allowed each individual to digest the information the way they preferred was key in increasing employee retention at Keeyask.

Providing multiple touch points for the same information allowed people who learned more visually or aurally to educate themselves through video; while those who preferred reading used the on boarding manual on their own time, at their own pace.



Within 5 months of launching, the metrics surpassed expectations, considering the audience size (2,400 employees) and the niche.


Unique Visitors

+ 2,659



Page Views

+ 15%

Sessions between 10 and 68 minutes.

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