How the Canadian Red Cross Delivers Tech and Personnel Support to 17,000 Users

The CRC helps thousands of families and distributes tens of millions of dollars in aid every year, but every broken laptop, vacation request and address change had to be handled one email at a time — until the CRC found Refined.

Since a 1906 Act of Parliament chartered the Canadian Red Cross (CRC), the organization has been working to help people and communities in need across Canada and around the world.

In 2021 alone, the CRC responded to more than 100 large-scale emergencies and supported more than 13,000 families. They distributed more than $64 million to programs nationwide. They do all of this thanks to more than 2,000 employees, and more than 15,000 volunteers. 

From a logistical standpoint, that’s a lot of personnel to track and support. The IT and People Services teams had their hands full keeping up with such a large staff. Consider that every time a volunteer moved and needed to update their address, or every time an employee’s computer froze, they’d have to email the respective department, which then had to read every request, input into the correct system, triage, and address.

“Emails get lost or marked as read, and then we didn’t go back to them,” says Renato Garcia, systems and data analyst. Some 30 admins oversaw an average of more than 400 requests per month from the People systems alone. 

The helpers needed some help.

The English version of Canadian Red Cross's People Services support site.
The English version of Canadian Red Cross's People Services support site.

Better tracking, but not always better UX

In the spring of 2022, the CRC’s IT department made a switch to Jira Service Management, to better track support requests. Department directors wanted more oversight, including a better analytical understanding of process efficiency and usage—how many tickets came in, how were they handled, how long did it take. All the information they needed to ensure the departments operated efficiently and had the right resources. 

The People Services team, which administers the HR systems that manage CRC’s volunteers and employees, soon followed suit. They saw the benefits almost immediately.

“Our work became more effective. And we know what each other are working on, so we’re not responding to the same email, for example,” Renato says.

But that didn’t solve all the challenges. Volunteers and employees have different needs, and different system access, yet were triaged similarly. The CRC also operates in two languages, English and French, and the team needed to manage requests in both.

Refining the process

The People Services team launched their first site, pssystems.redcross.ca, in June of 2022. It’s designed for HR employees seeking help with the various HR systems they use day to day. A second site, crcsharedservices.refined.site, launched in September of 2022 to facilitate HR requests from employees and volunteers.

Key benefits include:

Separate sites to cater to separate audiences with different needs

People Services was drawn to Refined, first and foremost, to be able to tailor the way it provides support to user groups with fundamentally different needs. “We have lots of separate teams under the CRC People Services and we want them to have a separate portal,” explains Garcia. “So that’s why we went with Refined, to separate everything. We have a lot of volunteers as well that don’t have access to some of the things that [employees] deal with.”

Straightforward user interfaces for easy access to help.

CRC’s sites generally contain a small number of request types linked directly on the homepage, making it easy for users to find the type of support they need. A custom domain helps them provide a common-sense pathway to the site that users can easily remember and navigate to.

Servicing multiple languages

Since the CRC’s Canadian user base encompasses French- and English-speaking populations, sites accommodate both languages by way of a simple button on the home page that toggles back and forth between English and French. 

Scaling with sites

Today the People Services team operates one site (soon to be two), but that promises to grow as the team finds ways to tailor support to different user groups. Garcia expects at least two more to launch in the near future.

“The idea of using Refined was that we have lots of separate teams under the CRC People Services, and we want them to have a separate portal, because we have a lot of volunteers as well that don’t have access to some of the things that employees do,” Renato says. “Refined allows us to separate everything, exactly as we need.”

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