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EP13 - Microsites for Open Enrollment

In This Episode

  • This is the first in a series all about open enrollment—and how to communicate effectively and create a better employee experience, in today’s work environment.
  • Define what a microsite is and how it works with your benefits administration and/or enrollment website.
  • The benefits of a microsite including accessibility, search function, ease of updating information, branding, and flexibility.
  • Microsites are the biggest ROI you can spend, as it’s the hub of your open enrollment campaign, providing a huge win for employees and your HR department.


(00:00): The other thing to really consider is a microsite is really one of the only ways that you can reach a hundred percent of your employee population, because you're not relying on any other type of thing. I'm Melissa Anzman, HR practitioner turned CEO of a thriving employee experience company, but it wasn't all that long ago that I worked as an HR business partner responsible for increasing employee engagement at companies nationwide. And I struggled to move the needle even after trying everything under the sun, fast forward, past many fail tactics and lessons learned. And you'll see how I've been able to crack the code and replicated at companies of all sizes for creating true engagement and doing HR work that matters work that changes the lives of leaders, HR professionals, and employees. By focusing on the employee experience, I created the rethink HR podcast to give you actionable step by step strategies to help you make an impact.

(01:04): If you're an HR leader or one on the rise, who's looking to stop spinning your wheels, doing the same tired activities that aren't driving results, or you want to have a career. You love your in the right place. Let's get started. Today's episode is going to be the first in a series of a topic in HR that is near and dear to my heart. In fact, it's probably one of my favorite big scale projects that HR does each year. Even if it can be a little painful and this series is all about open enrollment, or if you call it annual enrollment, same thing is that once a year time, that HR comes together and provides options for their employees to enroll in benefits. And I know what you're thinking. This is pretty early on in the year. If you're listening to this at the time of recording and about mid June, but this is when the planning starts, and this is when you can get ahead of all the planning so that it's not a disaster later on in the year, if you do a fall annual enrollment.

(02:15): So all that aside, I want you to understand that today in our current work environment, more than ever, we are, re-imagining the way that the workplace looks like now and how it's going to look going forward particularly this year and likely into years that follows. And this means that we need to create different ways of communication, of effectiveness, of reaching our employees and them hearing us and understanding is especially when we consider our bigger projects and campaigns like open enrollment. So instead of relying on those communication channels, we felt very comfortable with in the past, such as one-on-one communication in group settings, like town halls, benefit fairs in person benefit meetings and so on, we need to create and rely upon effective methods of communication and employee experience going forward. That match the digital world that we are in today for so long, we were able to kind of ignore it in HR and have a long list of excuses or things to hide behind maybe things like compliance or requirements that we had to do an in person meeting to make sure that people got it.

(03:39): Or we had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to print something out and mail it to people's homes to make sure that they got it, but we don't have to rely on only that anymore. And in fact, we can be more effective and stay within compliance. If we think about the employee experience first and understand the digital experience. So I am starting today, this series with micro-sites because it is the easiest solution for you to implement, and it gives you the biggest bang for your buck. So if you think about OEE as a bicycle wheel to create effective communications and experiences for your employees, microsites are at the hub of the wheel with everything else that goes into O E including your benefit options and all the things are the spokes around it. So you maybe be like, but what's a microsite. Well, I'm glad you asked because we're going to dive deep into that today.

(04:43): So microsites are a fancy name for a website, and they're called microsites because they are focused in nature to a very, very specific need. So in this instance, our microsites would be really focused on O E or total rewards. These websites are accessible via all devices, and they are accessible without needing to log into your systems. SSL, they're responsive, they're customized, they're updatable, and they're unique to your company's needs. Now why this is important is because a microsite is one of those things that is super agile, quick to stand up and create. And it's something that you can manage in an ongoing basis. It becomes a destination website for your employees, and you can even use it for your candidates. So I'm going to put a pin in that right now. We'll get back to that for sure. But I wanted you to know it is just a website that is focused in nature.

(05:49): And usually it's a smaller website, unlike your corporate website, that probably has a gazillion of pages and you don't Oh, no. I'm and it's hard to update and there's a process and all those things, this is very focused. These are a few number of pages that match exactly what your company needs. Very updatable, very responsive and most importantly, accessible on everything. So I created our first microsite about eight years ago, when a client that I had was struggling with transitioning from a all male, um, mailings home O E into things that were more digital. So they're pushed for that first year was listen, we're spending 50,000 plus dollars printing and mailing these AA guides with packets and information home. And we don't really know that it's working because we still have to send a lot of follow ups to get enrollment. And the expense just doesn't seem justifiable right now in a tight market.

(06:51): So what they wanted to do was they wanted to decrease their mailings home. And so they didn't end up deciding to mail the guides. They ended up doing a reminder postcard or two that first year that annual enrollment was coming and referred them to the microsite to check for information when that was available. And while we were doing that, I want to be clear. They had a benefits administrator, which was separate and an enrollment website, which was separate. And they even had as part of their benefits administration contract, a group that was responsible for their own communications, but what they were putting out was not enough. And so we thought of let's create this microsite, let's create a website that helps their employees understand all of the benefit, information, options, critical dates, all the things, let them access it at home with their partner, so that they can have all of the decision makers in the room and then drive them to the enrollment site when they were ready to take action.

(08:03): And this also helps create a entry point. Funnel of everybody goes here to start and an action funnel. Everybody goes here to enroll. So it was very clear how the employee was moving along the journey from information to action versus having everything in one place that was hard to find. Now, just think back eight years ago, the technology, both for a website and more importantly, the benefits administration site. Wasn't great. And we're still struggling right now with benefit administration websites, not necessarily doing all the things we need them to do, and that's not their fault. They're they are administration sites. You're there to enroll. And it's very hard to then create more information, search functions outside of an SSO, all the things that drive us crazy about them. It's hard to create that in a product that's not meant for that. And so, while it seems like we're adding another tool in this example, we're really not because it's delivering excessive value for the company to have all the information, all of the considerations, all of the ideas, all of the things that you could want to know or share before you enroll in one place online that looks and feels like your company brand has searched function and can be updated in a moment's notice.

(09:33): Those are the benefits of a microsite. Now, the other thing I want you to think about for, um, in this example and all the mini ones that we've done since micro sites are very different for each company, your company's microsite is going to need to serve a different purpose than another company's micro-site. And you actually may already have all of these information, all the information about your own EA, about your benefits about your total rewards in a place or in five places right now. But it's probably not working in less. You have a microsite. So what I mean by that is maybe you created a SharePoint site and put all the information there. Well, your employees still need to have access to a computer. They still need to have access to the SharePoint site, which means they have to log into an SSO. Some companies, you can do that on your phone, others, you can't, some people need an employee email address, not all employees have them, so it could exist, but it may not be as effective as it can be.

(10:34): The other thing about a microsite is that it has to be updatable. It has to show relevant current information with the applicable call to actions, right? When it needs to happen. Now, your benefits enrollment site does this for that specific person who is signed in, which is amazing. You can get the notification if you have signed up or not, what your daily action is, et cetera. However, most people don't log into their benefits administration site except to enroll. So you're losing all of that high level information in one place. So a microsite is that home that holds everything. Anybody would like to know about your benefits program, about your total rewards, about open enrollment in one spot, eliminating calls to your call center, eliminating emails to HR, and those questions that come up time and time again, because this is where you would not only place your annual enrollment guide, whether you decide to do a shortened guide or a fully detailed guide or whatever your choice is on that.

(11:41): We'll talk about that later. I'm sure, but you're going to have your guide there, but you'll also have all of the detailed information that you need to share and want to share with your employees, for those who like to know all the facts and that's how it keeps you in compliance as well. The cool thing about a microsite is not only do you have all the information there in text, if you choose to do that, but you can also use a lot of different communication methods and channels on your microsite. So I tend to use a lot of interactive elements of self-select this, and then you get the response for maybe like a decision tool or a scenario based situation of here's where I am. What makes the most sense? You can also use a lot of videos and I would always recommend here if you use videos, make them short and sweet.

(12:36): There is a different time and place for an extensive video, which I'll talk about in a later part of this series, when we're talking about replacing your in person meetings. But when you're thinking about educating employees on benefit options, videos are a great thing. You can also do audios on your microsite and have it, have it be a audio only explanation sharing podcasts. Should you want to do that about your benefit options or enrollment options? The other thing you can do is something like a forum, and you can do this internally as well. But if you do a forum, you can have a anonymous forum. You can have a must sign in or create a name and password forum that's moderated. So employees can go here and ask their questions about annual enrollment and have it in a place that is tied into the rest of the process.

(13:31): And this again, eliminates a lot of those internal programs and structures back and forth that you may feel like you're posting everywhere. You can also do PDFs and checklists and guides, all the things that you need in order to help your employee understand what their benefit options are and help them make the best decision for them. Now, I want to stress this because I get this sometimes, and I want to be super clear. A microsite does not replace a benefits admin administration site. That's what your benefit administrator, the person who signs up your benefits for your employees, that company is always going to be separate and needed. This works with it. This is the hand in glove with that site. This is all of the upfront information that is easy to find that as searchable that is accessible anywhere, that then helps people say, yeah, you know what?

(14:30): I feel like I'm ready. So now it's time to enroll. And then they're sent to the benefits administration site, where they have to sign into their SSO or sign in with your username and password to actually enroll in their benefits. So it works hand in glove. It doesn't replace it. It also doesn't replace something like a decision support tool. Now, um, there's a lot of them out there. So if you have one through your administrator, if you have one separate, um, like through IBM Watson, those are going to be separate. Now again, it can be embedded. Should you want to do that into your microsite? But it's, it's definitely different. So how that works. It's a, another tool that work in partnership. Now what a microsite may replace, however, though, are the overviews that are high level and not specific to that individual employee that help define what options are available to them.

(15:32): So this could be something like, um, Alex w by Jellyvision, it's different in a way, because Alex is definitely more interactive and gamified a little bit, but the information that Alex walks through is available on the microsite. You just sort of find it a little differently. Now, there are some companies who have both and they can work together very well because the way the information is presented is different, but they are providing the same level of information. So just want to be clear about like what it can replace and what it can't replace. This is a another tool this will be realized by your employees as a benefit addition. So let's talk about that really clearly. Now a benefit addition is a big win for everyone in HR and everyone in the benefits department. It is going to take a little work for you to feel that though, because when you're creating a microsite, you do have to know all the information.

(16:33): You have to gather it. You have to understand it, which I know you all do, but you have to sort of have it in one place and think through the different types of delivery, images, text videos, audio, et cetera, that you want to include in the microsite. So it may feel like a lot of work upfront. You already have it. It's just the compiling of it, but to your employees, it is a huge win. It is a huge add on because now what they have instead of the pain of trying to flip through a guide or wait for a mailing or ask their HR professional, or attend benefits in person meeting or go to the benefits administration site and not have luck finding that one specific form they need in order to do whatever they have an experience in the Palm of their hands or at their desktop, that they can access at any time with any question, use a search function, get the information they need and have one home to go to over and over again, it is a huge win for your company.

(17:39): It's also a really big way to attract candidates because part of what makes your company a good place to work for external candidates is, are your total rewards options. If you're able to present that information in one place and have it be slick and have it be interesting and have all the information included there, that is a big leg up for the candidate. They're not going to have questions. They're not going to say, well, what about this? Do you offer commuter benefits or do you offer a 401k match? Because all that information is going to be on your microsite. Now, again, how you design it, what is included in that is so specific to each company. So should you not want to choose that level of detail? Totally cool, but it still gives the candidate and your employees a very consistent experience as to what to find where to go, how to look for it and different ways to experience all of the benefit offerings that you have and know what to do when they're ready to take action.

(18:48): So the win for you as a, you know, an ROI investing in a microsite is going to be 10 to 20 fold because microsites, if you do them with better are not that expensive. And they're very quick to stand up. Now, sometimes they can take longer of course, and sometimes depending on size of company and all of that, there are cost things to consider, but this is a very inexpensive option in order to have such a huge win employees, love having one gateway to go. And right now you're probably sending them to a few gateways. You're sending them to, you know, check your email where I said this, or go to the HR intranet where you can get the calendar or go to the benefits enrollment site to get the guide and then enroll. But in this case, we're really leading them to go to the microsite.

(19:39): And from there, they're going to be navigated off to all the different spokes that they need in order to complete an effective enrollment. The other thing to really consider is a microsite is really one of the only ways that you can reach a hundred percent of your employee population, because you're not relying on any other type of thing. So what I mean by that is you don't have to rely on an SSL. You don't have to rely on your company's firewall or that every employee has an email address or that they can access a kiosk to log in and view those options, or that maybe they only have access to a cell phone. And can't sort of see the benefits administration site on their cell phone. All these things are real and true pain points for a lot of employees, particularly if you have a manufacturing arm or if you have shift workers, or if you have a lot of part time employees having a place that have to go to whether it's physical or online to get information or make decisions with that information is always going to be a barrier to entry.

(20:57): And that's also why we've had to over the years, include a lot more handholding, a lot more high touch of how to understand your benefits first, because it's really important and it's a difficult and complex topic. Totally get it. But second, because a lot of our employees can't reliably access all of the ways that we explain this information for various reasons, especially now when we may not be having onsite workers, or we may not be coming back to onsite for a long time or zoom doesn't always work, or what have you, a microsite can really replace a lot of the high touch opportunities and create more high touch opportunities through the platform itself. So a microsite, I'm sure you can tell. I love them. I think they're very effective. Um, we have done, um, about 13 or so over the last two to three years, and every time we've done it, we've had nothing, but employees say, this is the greatest thing.

(22:08): Thank you so much, HR. This was so helpful. And the cool thing about a microsite is it's editable. So a lot of you have experience with your benefits and Mary administration websites, which are not very editable and that's okay. They're not made to be, um, they're very specific in what they do. And we want like the real information there, and we don't want that kind of information to change. However, what we can do in a microsite is phase things in facings out, make updates, do new contact sheets. Um, if it's pre enrollment, we can have one look and feel once it hits enrollment, we can have a second look and feel with the information highlighted appropriately, and then change back. If you have edits on an a page it's very easy to edit, it's something even you can take in house and do yourself. So a microsite really is a benefit add to your total rewards program.

(23:04): And more importantly, your employees will love it. So we're starting with annual enrollment or open enrollment, whichever one you choose to call it. And we're also starting with micro-sites because this is the heartbeat. This is the core, this is the hub. This is that one thing. If you are going to invest in anything in your total rewards that I would say start here, it's, you know, a low investment, a low time investment as well, six weeks. If you do it with us to get it up and running. So just about, um, and it also provides your employees with a knowledge center and that also then takes away time for us in HR and particularly in benefits and our call centers and our help desks with all the questions that come in, because we can do chatbots. We can have FAQ, we can have forums. We can really take away a lot of the pre enrollment questions and concerns just by having a really well functioning microsite. Now, if you want to learn more about microsites, you can go to better.com/microsites that's B E T T hr.com/microsites, or head up the blog where we talk about this quite a lot over there. Thank you so much for tuning in for this episode of the rethink HR podcast. For more information, including the show notes and resources, please go to rethink HR podcast.com/thirteen.

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