Ep. 23: Virtual Benefit Fairs - bettHR

Welcome to episode 23 of the Rethink HR podcast, brought to you by bettHR.

In today’s episode, we share everything you need to know about creating a virtual benefits fair for open enrollment/annual enrollment – quickly and cost-effectively. Bonus: Your virtual benefits fair will likely have higher attendance and engagement, and will be seen as a huge upgrade.

The first important step, is to determine whether or not a virtual benefits fair is needed. In-person benefits fairs tend to be very localized and provide a unique opportunity to interact with local HR and benefit vendors. Bringing this experience online, you want to be sure you have a clear outcome and purpose for the fair. And the cool thing is: you have an even wider net you can cast when you bring the fair virtual.

Once you have decided on your goal and purpose, it’s time to explore how to take the fair virtual. In the episode, I share five different ways (maybe six!) in which you can create a virtual benefits fair for your employees – and I share the pros, cons, and the expenses for each. You can go with software that is focused on this solution… but you can even do it completely in-house with software your company uses daily – and everything in between.

Another upside for taking your fair virtual is the ability to reach more people using different types of content, interactive elements, and communication delivery channels. And with some of the solutions, you can create an ongoing resource for benefits information that lasts longer than just annual enrollment.

Listen in to learn more!

In This Episode

  • Define a clear purpose for needing a virtual benefits fair
  • Share exactly what they are (and what they can be) for a one-time solution, or your forever from here solution
  • Various solutions and ways to create your own virtual benefits fair quickly and at varying levels of investment.
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Resources

Considering a virtual benefits fair? Here's an insider look to get yours up and running quickly and efficiently (w/o wasting money) #HR #SHRM #benefits #openenrollment Click To Tweet

Melissa Anzman (00:00): And when you go virtual, you also have the option of having it be an ongoing home, an ongoing base and ongoing resource for not only just annual enrollment. 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 failed 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.

Melissa Anzman (00:59): 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. One of the hallmarks of annual enrollment or open enrollment season are benefit fairs. Now benefit fairs at a really high level are places where they're usually in person where your employees can come and meet the vendors for your healthcare and understand a little bit more about their options, the vendors, what they offer, speak one on one, maybe win a prize, get familiar with their providers. Now we can go into whether or not that's an effective approach to communicating your benefits, which you know, I'm going to get to in a minute. But that aside for a second benefit fairs, particularly right now are likely not an option for you.

Melissa Anzman (01:58): And I will say for a lot of local locations. So if you have manufacturing plants, or if you have multiple locations outside of headquarters, benefit fairs are also a way for you to bring benefit information local, which really helps your employees connect with them. But being that most of us can't gather in large places, at least right now, benefit fairs in person are off the table for everyone. And instead, a lot of people are trying to explore what takes its place. And we have been doing virtual benefit fairs for a long time over here at better. And I wanted to share a little bit more about what they are and see if they're right for you to implement for this year's annual enrollment. And I'm going to give you all the options. You know, how I roll. I'm going to give you the ones that cost you some money, which I usually don't recommend.

Melissa Anzman (02:55): And the ones that you can implement on your own. The cool thing is, is a virtual benefits. Fair. There's no rules. You can really create whatever it is that you want and need, which means that it's actually even better for most of us than an in person. Benefits fair. Now, yes, you don't have that person to person interaction live in person, but we can do so many things to replace that in a different way, whether there's zoom calls or what have you, which again, we'll get to in just a second. So in the, in the past, they would be very coordinated events where you would have giveaways and you'd had your vendors onsite and employees would go during their lunch break or what have you. And there are ways to recreate that same feel. But the first thing I want you to think about is if you actually even need a benefit fair virtual or otherwise, what are your goals for this activity?

Melissa Anzman (03:54): And what is the purpose? Be sure you clear, literally define that and success so that you're not just wasting money or your time. I really want to make sure that everything that you invest in, when you talk about communicating to your employees, particularly about benefits that you're thinking with the employee experience in mind, which means that everything you do has added value and positive experience going forward. And so once you have defined what the benefit fairs purpose is, and let's be clear friends, a good purpose is not because we've always done it in the past, but good purpose could be something like we want our employees to know our vendors. We want them to get familiar with the names of the companies that we do our work with. We want them to, to be able to ask those questions directly to our vendors, skipping the middle person, skipping the HR call center at your company or so on.

Melissa Anzman (04:54): And they can do that through a virtual benefit. Fair. So be sure your purpose is clear and understand what your outcome and success looks like. And if you're still saying, yep, this is a thing for me, dig in too. What a benefit virtual benefits fair is and how you can create them. Now, there are a few technology companies out there, a few HR tech companies that do this all the time and they run these virtual benefit fairs on their own platforms. And they're usually very, very, very expensive, but also have a cool look and feel. So one that comes to mind is on 24. Alex has a little bit of this Alex Shelly vision, but these are both ways that you can sort of experience a fair by like walking into a benefit situation. Now here's the thing first they're crazy expensive. Um, they are.

Melissa Anzman (05:52): So if you go with on 24, so I'm just going to talk about that one on 24 customizable and they can have your information and all that stuff, which is why it's so darn expensive, but the downside is, is it, it recreates sort of a virtual reality, which is cool on your desktop, not so cool or accessible on your mobile. And also from a user interface, it's uncomfortable because a lot of us don't spend our time online in the VR virtual reality world. And so it looks a little cartoony at times. It feels a little awkward at times, you have to sort of make a lot of really weird decisions. Like, do I go to that booth first or that booth, which way forward, which door do I open? All the things. Now there's definitely some upsides to that software. So I'm not knocking it, but it's not my favorite approach because the expense the time and the sort of user interface isn't necessarily ideal, but that is an option.

Melissa Anzman (06:55): You can hire that off the shelf technology and implement your own stuff and have it done for you. So that's one option. Another option is that you can create an information hub and this would be a website. We do these all the time, a virtual benefits fair, which isn't like a website, but you have all the information and activities there, but it's not in a VR world. It's a website that works just like any website that we go to, where you can go to the different booths and sites and visits. You can even have like open conversations there if you want, but it's more information push. Like you can definitely ask questions through a forum or through chat or what have you, but it's more about providing information. So if your benefits fairs are all about information pushing, like as far as getting employees info on your vendors, the info hub is a lot less expensive, looks super good and easy to use mobile friendly and accessible, and also does the job with a lot less investment.

Melissa Anzman (07:58): Another thing you can do is create an entire interactive experience. Now there are several ways that you can do this. And of course, cost is going to vary depending on which approach you have. One is a very interactive, um, custom website where it isn't quite the VR experience, but you are opening doors, so to speak, but it's a website. And so you have the opportunity to schedule time and talk to somebody or hop on H hat right there. It's a little bit more interactive, but if you're really going for a lot of two ways, so ongoing conversations, creating more of an event out of it where this person's there to answer your questions at this time, or, Hey, you have a question about this medical plan, click here, type of thing. There are different apps that you can use that you can experience both on your phone and on your desktop site.

Melissa Anzman (08:50): That can have a really great experience. And this looks and feels a little bit more like a virtual conference in that you have scheduled times, you can do live streams, you can do chats right in there. You can have people pop on alive, so you can be doing chats face to face and so on. Um, and then you can also set up that private question and answer time to through the, the app. So the app is so super interactive and really a good option. If you're looking to build something that drives those two way conversations and taking out your HR call center out of the middle, there are very few companies that are going to need that extensive of a solution for a virtual benefits fair, but it is super slick. And so I didn't want to leave it out. Another thing is, is that can make all of these very localized.

Melissa Anzman (09:44): And so here's a few ways that you can do that because usually an in person benefits fair is all about the localization, about getting to know your HR people, getting to know the companies that are there, the programs and so on. And so what I would recommend for that is more of a microsite offshoot. So again, this is website. This is very look and feel and very specific to, to how people visit websites and use websites right now. But you can create localized sites. You can even go that micro. So a big microsite would be your company has one virtual benefits fair for their microsite, and it is interactive. And you have the information and you have everything there, et cetera, but you can take it a step further and create local landing pages for each local headquarters or items like you, wherever you're working, locally locations, local locations, my friends, you can take a page and create a local location page that has that area specific information.

Melissa Anzman (10:47): So you're not having to have people self qualify. Well, if you live in this area, this is your thing. And then this, this, and this and this, Nope, you just have it very micro to that location. And they go in there and they can talk to their vendors. They can get the information, they can ask their questions there. So those are I think, four or five ways that you can create a virtual benefits fair. And let me go super low tech here for you. Friends, you can have each vendor create a video, have the person who he, they used to go to the in persons, have them create a two minute video and you can create a landing page. You can even do it on your intranet site, where you have all of those info sessions there with a click here to email them and set up time, click here to ask your questions and do a live chat, or do it yam jam.

Melissa Anzman (11:35): What have you. So you can even go that low tech and let me take it one lower tech step further. You can do a zoom webinar. So you have a lot of options here, but remember you want to make sure that you create something that is really clear with your purpose drive added value for not only annual enrollment, but also for your employees when they show up. So what I'd like you to consider as you create the right virtual benefits, fair option for you is the information that is needed there. So what really is value added and look back? What kind of questions do you get year over year? Whether in person benefits, fairs through your HR box or your call centers, like what information is there? What is the need? Like who are we actually serving and what has to be there? Not just, what's nice to have, but like what are critical impact moments?

Melissa Anzman (12:34): Accessibility is huge. You heard me mention this a little bit with the software before, but having your virtual benefits fair, accessible through someone's mobile device, particularly right now, for all your employees outside of a dang firewall, my friends is critically important because we want to make it as easy as possible for our employees to get the information they are desperately seeking about benefits. We want this to be a good experience. In fact, we want it to be even a better experience in the in person benefits fair, and we can do that, but we have to make sure it's accessible. So not only is it does it need to be mobile responsive, but you need to have different ways of communicating the same information so that people can learn in the way that best fits them. And that really means, and the next opportunity you have, which is an expanded opportunity of the different types of co like different types of information and Mo like modes and channels that you can share.

Melissa Anzman (13:37): So an in person event is great, but it's face to face one on one conversation, super high tach, great. For a lot of people, maybe not so great for others, and yes, you can walk away with brochures, but those are kind of the only interactions we have. Of course, they may have a video running in the background, or you can sign up to learn more through an audio, or what have you, but it's all additional actions. Whereas in a virtual benefits fair, you can create an, all the options I shared with you. You can create so many different types of content so that your employees are learning quicker and better because they're able to learn in ways that work for them. So you can create videos. You can have people speaking videos. So having the people who represent each company, each vendor do a video, but you can also do videos, explaining the benefit or explaining about the company and how to use it and where to go for help.

Melissa Anzman (14:30): You can do audios of the videos. You just simply strip out the audios and you create that as another option. And you can even create your own playlist or your internal podcast for your virtual benefits. Fair. You can do PDFs like you've had in the past. You can do infographics. So adding information with visuals to help people get through the virtual benefits, fair, you can create games through it like a virtual benefits. Fair bingo. I'm thinking more conference, right where you go to see each vendor and then you can win something. You can do the same type of thing for your virtual benefits. Fair. Um, and the thing is, is you can also do one-on-one connections. You can have questions through a chat, which is like getting my question answered right away. You can have, you can schedule times with an expert to get face to face.

Melissa Anzman (15:20): I'm thinking sort of like the telehealth path of being able to schedule a time with your doctor and then hopping on with video chat. You can do the same type of opportunity. You can offer it through your virtual benefits. Fair. The other cool thing that you can do in addition to these different types of communication and channels, you can also connect more with your overall annual enrollment plan friends. You already have an annual enrollment communications plan. If you don't hit me up, I'll help you get one real quick, but you already know what you need to talk about how you're going to talk about it. What is changing? What's new? What needs to happen? Is it an active or passive enrollment? All the things you've been working on for so long. And now you can use your virtual benefits fair to reinforce the same annual enrollment branding, communications messages and so on.

Melissa Anzman (16:14): And you can even connect them straight from the virtual benefits, fair to things like your enrollment site or a decision tool. You have a one stop shop that an in person event doesn't have. And in this way, it's even more valuable for your employees. Then going down to the cafeteria and walking around and possibly meeting some vendors and winning some cool stuff or getting some pens. So a virtual benefits fair can add a ton of value. If your employees need an additional touch, if your employees want to get to know their vendors. And more importantly, if you want to try and sidestep and get out of being the middle person for all of that and have your employees ask direct questions, those hard questions of, Hey, does this play on cover this? Tell me more about how to use it, those questions that we have to send them to the vendor directly.

Melissa Anzman (17:12): Anyway, your virtual benefits fair can do that. And when you go virtual, you also have the option of having it be an ongoing home and ongoing base and ongoing resource for not only just annual enrollment, but you can use it, repurpose it, have it up there year round for candidates for new hires throughout the year for other benefit communication information. So virtual benefits fairs are totally the way to go. If you need some more information about your benefits inside of your employee's hands, or if you're trying to be more localized, or if you're trying to replace those in-person benefit, fair events, they are not hard to set up. I gave you a lot of different options and they are very quick to implement. And so if you aren't sure where to start, or if you want to learn more, please email us at hello@bettHR.com. And we will absolutely help you get started or point you in the right direction or share with you some additional best practices so that you're able to choose the best path forward for your own virtual benefits.

Melissa Anzman (18:24): Fair. This podcast is brought to you by better microsites with your HR budgets being cut and you being on the hunt for ways to do more with less. Why not consider a total rewards or benefits microsite to not only increase your employee experience, but also deliver increased value at half the cost. We all know that your off the shelf benefit administration website is extremely user unfriendly, lacking customization, easy to find information, a crazy firewall, and a missing search function. All at an extremely high cost better microsites are a hundred percent designed based on what your employees need to know your branding and your information, improving the speed in which your employees can find that critical benefit information while seeing mostly connecting with your enrollment vendor. And it's ready quick. We need just about six weeks to get you up and rolling just in time for annual enrollment, learn more about better microsites at better.com/microsites. That's bettHR.com/microsites. Thank you so much for tuning in for this episode of the Rethink HR podcast. For more information, including show notes and resources, please go to RethinkHRPodcast.com/23.