Designing for Safer
and Fairer Workplaces

Service Design • Public Sector


Government of Alberta, Ministry of Labour

My Involvement

Project Analyst: research, analysis, content development (personas moments that matter, engagement tactics, implementation plans), web tool design, strategy

Our Team

Shawn Kanungo (Project Manager)
Sasha Tregebov (Behavioural Science SME)
Ershad Chagani (Project Consultant)


July - October 2016 (4 months)

Problem Space

The Alberta Ministry of Labour was looking to reimagine how it delivered information and services to citizens to increase employer and worker compliance with Employment Standards (ES) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations. Their previous approach was based primarily on assumptions and feedback from a limited number of stakeholders on the information citizens required and the best way to disseminate it. This may have had the unintended consequence of developing resources that were not being broadly utilized because they did not meet the spectrum of information needs or delivery preferences of the target audiences. 

The audiences that Ministry sought to engage included employers and workers across all industries, age ranges, and demographics. It was critical to understand their unique needs with respect to the:

  1. baseline level of knowledge, 

  2. information gap, and 

  3. ways to engage with each audience segment.

01. Discovery

To better understand the stakeholder segments, we conducted interviews and surveyed approximately 2000 employers and workers across Alberta.


Survey Design

We opted for a survey to have a broader reach across stakeholder groups, industries and geographies. The survey included questions to understand employer and worker awareness of ES and OHS regulations, how they engaged with existing resources, their current level of compliance, and their channel preferences.

Working with our behavioural science Subject Matter Expert, we crafted questions regarding day-to-day behaviours and extrapolated the responses to understand how they may respond in ES and OHS related situations. For example:

We asked…
“Before you purchase a big ticket item, how likely are you to: comparison shop / do online research / rely on the sales person's recommendation / rely on a single, authoritative source for a recommendation?”

…to understand
What sources of information is the respondent likely to turn to - an established authority (e.g., the Ministry) or the advice of others (e.g., a colleague)?

We asked…
“How likely are you to check your phone while you are driving?”

…to understand
What is the respondent’s risk tolerance like?

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Qualitative Research

In addition to the survey, we also wanted to hear some personal anecdotes so that we could understand not just the “what”, but also the “why”. So, we sat down with some workers and asked them about their day-to-day experiences in the workplace and encounters with ES and OHS. Here’s what we heard:

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02. Analysis


I analyzed the survey data and identified employer and worker segments based on a combination of their demographic and psychographic characteristics to create 12 detailed personas:

Behaviour based

  • Silent Sufferers

  • Independent Compliers

  • Reliant Rovers

  • Chancy and Curious

  • Detached Cynics

Worker type based

  • Young Worker

  • Mature Worker

  • Marginalized Worker

  • Indigenous Worker

Industry/role based

  • New Manager

  • Small Business Owner

  • Retail Worker

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Moments that Matter

For each persona, I identified the relevant "moments that matter" to them, as well as the ES and OHS implications during those moments, such as:

Starting a job - Research showed that before considering working for a new employer, a significant portion of workers do not take measures to fully ensure that a potential employer is compliant, and that complacency is a key barrier to this. At the start of a new/change in career, workers may be more receptive to learning about ES and OHS rules and regulations, have more questions, and have not yet become complacent.

Near misses - An event in which an actual incident, injury, illness, or damage did not take place but had the potential to do so. Many OHS engagement activities are reactive, not proactive. Experiencing a “near miss” brings OHS to the forefront and can snap employers and workers out of complacency, triggering both parties to alter behaviour to reduce chances of future incidents.


03. Ideation

Engagement Tactics

We facilitated co-creative ideation sessions with the Ministry during which we explored various trends and technologies such as the social media ads and platforms, the sharing economy, artificial intelligence, and self-service tools. We generated over 20 “engagement tactics” with a goal of increasing employer and worker awareness and/or motivation to comply with ES and OHS.

I developed a high level implementation plan for each of the prioritized tactics assessed them based on ease of implementation and level of impact. I also developed a performance measurement system for the Ministry to track the impact of the tactics across each segment.

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Example: Online Self Assessment Tool

The user would initially be asked to enter baseline characteristics to determine relevant questions. The online tool would then route users to sections covering pertinent ES and OHS topics.Based upon the user’s responses, the tool would generate a preliminary summary identifying where the user is compliant, where the user is non-compliant, and where additional information is required. It would then provide the user with self-service tools to help improve their organization’s identified areas of deficiency.


Messaging Styles

Government has traditionally focused on factual, often legalistic language. This language can create barriers to understanding and de-motivate people from adopting desired behaviours.

I worked closely with a Subject Matter Expert from our Behavioural Insights team to identify different messaging styles that may resonate and effectively spur action among various segments. These messaging styles can inform the design of a wide range of communications and engagement tactics.

Examples of Messaging Styles:

Salience Messaging

Salience messaging addresses 1) salience bias, in which the more easily we can call an idea to mind, the more important we think that idea is (even if it is not), and 2) availability bias, in which we de-prioritize information that does not come easily to mind.

It seeks to “shock” a person, thereby keeping ES and especially OHS, risks top of mind. This can be achieved by starkly describing the consequences of non-compliant behaviours. It is particularly effective for recipients who are complacent and have minimized consideration for the risks of non-compliance.

Pro-social Messaging

Pro-social messaging emphasizes the benefits of compliant behaviour to others. This type of messaging focuses on the risks or benefits to someone close to the recipient of the message, such as a co-worker, friend or family member. It can work well with those who may be more focused on the welfare of others than their own, as it plays into our hard-wired emotional desire to protect and invokes a sense of responsibility within one to help others.

Messaging can focus on the personal gratification achieved through helping others, such as emotional satisfaction attained through others’ gratitude and being able to act as a leader/role model by promoting compliant behaviour.

04. Strategy

Interactive Web Tool

The final output was an interactive web tool that contained three components: personas, moments that matter, and ways to engage (which included messaging styles and engagement tactics).

Each persona was linked to its relevant moments that matter and ways to engage, providing an interactive way for the Ministry to understand employers and workers.

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Citizen Engagement Strategy

I developed a one-pager strategy that includes a vision, design principles, outcomes, and key performance indicators, as well as related personas and engagement tactics. This strategy will guide the Ministry’s future information and service delivery.

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Ongoing Engagement Strategy

I also helped develop a framework for the Ministry to prioritize engagement tactics for each persona and identified key performance indicators as well as feedback mechanisms.

Impact & Reflections



By adopting a human-centred approach, we were able to help the Ministry of Labour better understand worker and employer segments across the province.

The outputs and recommendations of engagement are currently being applied to ES and OHS program development, information design, education services, and delivery activities. This will enable the Ministry to increase the accessibility, usability, applicability and uptake of information and services, as well as stimulate positive behaviour related to ES and OHS legislation. Ultimately, this will help reduce ES and OHS violations and in turn bring down workplace incidents.


This engagement was one of my first forays into human-centred design. Looking back, here are a few things I would have approached differently:

Keep personas concise. Research revealed extremely valuable insights which we tried to capture in our personas. However, the information could have been distilled further to make it easier for the Ministry to understand at a glance: what are the key behaviour and needs I should know about this segment?

Create service blueprints. This would have been helpful in identifying key interaction points between the Ministry and employers/ workers and opportunities for optimization from both a frontstage and backstage perspective.

Develop an “MVP” performance measurement plan. It would be challenging to collect data for the identified KPIs as some data sources involved partnerships and machine learning capabilities. Identifying the “MVP” KPIs to gather data for would have been beneficial to the Ministry, and would help them prioritize where to invest resources in for feedback mechanisms.


Analytics and Service Quality