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Annual Enrollment: Changing Your Strategy and Planning for Virtual Events


This year’s annual enrollment process presents new challenges for benefits professionals. Anticipating plan changes, navigating a stressful environment, and exploring virtual options are all top of mind. For many organizations, this year will require a big change in approach: In-person enrollment events of the past may have to move in part or entirely online.

In this webinar, Jennifer Benz, Senior Vice President and Communications Leader, and Megan Yost, Vice President Engagement Strategist, discuss strategies and tactics for how to successfully conduct annual enrollment during a pandemic. You’ll learn:

  • How to refine your strategy to accommodate changes in the physical workplace
  • How to conduct virtual benefits fairs, virtual benefits meetings, and online enrollment
  • How to alleviate employee anxiety and prevent misinformation from circulating
  • Pro tips for making sure your annual enrollment strategy is meeting your broader HR goals

This webinar was previously recorded. View the full transcript below.


Annual Enrollment: Changing Your Strategy and Planning for Virtual Events

Webinar Transcript:

Megan: Welcome everyone and thank you so much for joining us today for our webinar Annual Enrollment 2021: Changing Your Strategy and Planning For a Virtual World. We’re so excited to have you here with us today. My name is Megan Yost. I am an engagement strategist at Segal Benz and I’m joined today by our practice leader, Jennifer Benz.

Jen: Hi everyone. Happy to be here with you.

Megan: And we’re so delighted that all of you could take time to join us today. We’re excited for the content that we’ll share with you. We're going to cover the backdrop that we’re in now and the pandemic—how it’s changed our expectations and our participants lives and how that’s really impacted benefits and made them more important than ever. And then we’ll dive into annual enrollment strategy and planning and talk more specifically about in-person events and conversations and how to move those online.

Before we close, we’ll cover a few case studies and then we’ll have time for Q&A. So a little bit of background about us at Segal Benz. We are a communications agency, part of the Segal group. And we help great organizations inspire people to improve their health, their finances, and their future. And we’re so honored to do this work. It’s such important work and we know it makes such a difference to our clients and their people and all of the dependents that rely upon them. And we’re also proud of being part of the Segal group, which has a range of capabilities spanning from financial security and retirement consulting to health consulting, compliance, organizational effectiveness, and everything else in the health and retirement and HR space.

So, we have a wealth of great resources on our website, And specifically now on COVID-19, we have been publishing all kinds of thought leadership on a range of topics for a range of different client types that may apply to you and we highly encourage that you check it out.

So, without further background, we’ll kick it off with Jen and she’ll lead us through some context in terms of the pandemic and how it’s changed employees’ mindsets, their expectations, and what they might be expecting to hear from you.

Jen: Thanks, Megan. And thanks again everyone for joining. We will share all these slides at the end of the presentation today, so you’ll definitely get all these materials. And as Megan said, I’ll start us out. We’re talking a little bit about how the current environment has changed people’s expectations for communication and really what they’re expecting from all of you this year. So we know that right now it’s been a really, really challenging year. And disruption is the common theme. Industries are adapting to new ways of working, new demands from the marketplace. People expect more communication. There’s a new appreciation for being able to work remotely and collaborate remotely.

And for many of your organizations, you’re going to have a large portion of folks working remote for perhaps the first time during an annual enrollment season. And this is going to change a lot of the way that you engage with people as well as their expectations. There’s a big increase in the amount of hours people are working and what’s also interesting is early on in the pandemic, there was a huge increase in employee engagement and productivity. Kind of the shared experience that we were all going through. And now there’s a bit of concern about people getting burned out. The challenges of caregiving. How people are going to sustain this type of intensity through the fall. So it’s an environment that’s changing all of the time. And where really taking the needs of your population into account is a changing challenge.

What we do know, though, is throughout all of this, communication really drives perception. And there’s a big expectation for how much communication people want and how they want to receive that. And what we know from the first few months of the pandemic is whether or not people received information and the frequency of the information they received has a tremendous impact on the trust that they feel with their employer and the confidence there.

So, you can see on the left-hand side of the screen for folks that received information, 81% of them were confident that their employer could handle the outbreak and nearly 90% felt that their employer put safety above profits. For those organizations that have not sent out information, only about a third were confident that their employer can handle this situation. And less than half feel that their employer put safety above profits.

So, communication really is the driving force here. Another thing that’s really important to keep in mind right now is that the actions of organizations of public sector entities, of large employers, of large higher-ed institutions, all of these actions are in the spotlight right now. And there’s a big expectation from consumers and from the public that organizations are going to put their people over profit in this environment and even websites that have popped up that are analyzing everyone's moves this year. And how they’re responding to the pandemic and what they’re doing for their people and their community and the environment and so forth. So there’s going to be a big focus on what you do during this time period and you may have more external scrutiny than you have in past years.

And we’ve seen more and more of our clients needing to think about a PR strategy along with their benefit strategy because of this very thing. So that’s the big picture context and that’s really putting a light on benefits. And we feel that they’re really shining in this moment. I’m going to pass it back to Megan to talk about why benefits are so important right now and how that's going to impact your strategy.

Megan: Yeah. So one thing that Jen mentioned is the stress that people are feeling right now. The level of burnout. And to that point, the value of benefits has never been more visceral. And that will especially be noticed, I think, during this annual enrollment because as you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here, and the foundation to a fulfilled life, is having your basics covered, whether that’s your physiological needs or your safety needs like personal security, employment, resources, health, health insurance and so forth. And many of those may be under more stress than usual. So for example, a lot of people have lost their jobs during this period or have a spouse or partner who have lost a job.

Health insurance is incredibly valuable right now especially during a health crisis. So the attention to benefits has really never been higher than it is right now. And so you really want to consider that environment and how that will influence people especially if you have to communicate plan design changes or if you're reducing voluntary benefits. If you’re making changes to the retirement match for example, you want to carefully consider how to communicate those challenges or those changes to your people and think about their state of mind and how they may receive the information. And on that note, if you do have to communicate bad news, there are three things you need to keep in mind. You need to explain why, what the rationale of the change is, and be clear and get right to the point.

So be direct in your messaging and avoid mixed messaging. You don’t want to say one thing and then go into another direction and then cause a lot of anxiety and concern and see negative feedback about your organization. So these are three things you can keep as guide posts as you think through potential messaging that you may have to convey. On the other hand, enrollment is an opportune time to promote all of the wonderful resources and benefits that you offer as well as any new benefits that are available. And so on that note, considering the financial stress, the emotional stress, and all of the health consequences that people are experiencing, you may want to think about what else you can help people get access to during this period. So have you made any changes to your benefits as a result of COVID-19? Are you including any treatment benefits? Do you have any mental health or substance abuse benefits? Financial counseling? What other wellness resources can you make available or bring employees and participants attention to during this period?

So given the psychological state and the emotional state of employees, you really want to take that into consideration as you start thinking about your annual enrollment strategy and planning. And so to help you think about how you're going to kickstart that, Jen is going to walk us through some key elements to consider when working through strategy.

Jen: Thanks, Megan. So the first thing is to really start with a strategic framework for what you want to accomplish this year. And we can have the tendency to want to shortcut the strategy and planning process in a year that is this crazy and this stressful and certainly all of those stressors that Megan just talked about that are impacting your people are also impacting you and your benefits team and your vendors and kind of the whole ecosystem of people that support you during annual enrollment. So it’s tempting to kind of shortcut the strategy and planning process and just start to get stuff done.

But a little bit of time to really think things through is going to save you so much time in the end. So start with your strategy. What do you really want to accomplish? And what is driving your benefits strategy this year? Are there specific and measurable behaviors that you need to see this year? And then what are the goals for communication and engagement? And if you need help getting grounded in that, we have an open enrollment communication campaign debrief worksheet that can be a good guide to help you and your team think through what you did last year, what was successful, what maybe could have worked better, and kind of refresh your memory. Because if you’re like me, you can't remember what happened a month ago and you're definitely going to have a hard time remembering exactly what happened last year during enrollment.

So take a little bit of time with your team. Go through that debrief worksheet and refresh yourselves on what works best and what didn't work as well last year. Then you can think through really what is your strategy overall. And we think of strategy as a cyclical process but especially when it comes to a big campaign like annual enrollment, it’s so important to define goals and then define the audiences before you get into the messaging and the channel. Then you can get to the creative process and the theme of the campaign. So be sure you know what you want to accomplish and then what those different audiences need from you. And then you can start to map out the rest of the campaign. It’s always important and really helpful to pull in key stakeholders early.

And this may be a small group of folks within your organization. It may be a very, very large group of internal or even external stakeholders. Pull them in early to make sure that you have their thoughts. Oftentimes these stakeholder groups can be closer to the average employee or the average participant and can help give you more insight into what's going on and what some of those concerns are. This is also a great time to recruit leadership to help deliver some of the messaging and folks are really expecting to hear a lot from your senior leaders right now. And if your CEO has not communicated much about benefits in the past, this might be the year that they start. Or that the senior leadership team gets involved in starting to talk about benefits messages.

And then also this is a good time to think about the managers or any sort of leadership groups that you’re going to need to develop messaging for so that they can also be a messenger for you. As part of that, thinking about the leadership audiences, the managers, and HR, think through all of those different audiences. And I’m sure you have heard the kind of typical communication planning idea of what we want people to think, feel, and do. We want to do a little bit of a different spin on this and start with what do you want people to do. And then what are their needs at this moment and then what’s the best way to reach them. How are you actually going to get the message to them? And really focusing your annual enrollment planning on what you want people to do can really help hone in on prioritizing the messages.

What we often find is organizations use annual enrollment as the opportunity to communicate everything about all of the benefits and programs. And that can be really overwhelming for folks in a typical year. In a year like right now, it’s going to be even more overwhelming. So we want to really hone in on what are the actions that we want people to take. And some of those actions may not even be related to the health and insurance benefits that need to be considered during annual enrollment. You might want them to take advantage of your mental health benefits or sign up for a financial well-being program as well.

So really hone in on what you want folks to do. And then you can use your data to really show you the opportunities to do that and to target messages in a way that's going to help people take action.

Megan: So there’s so much data that you could have at your fingertips now. You could look at the enrollment or the participation in various programs. You can look at feedback that you might have through surveys or other internal surveys or online questionnaires that you’ve given to people in the past. You can look at activity in terms of open rates and e-mails or traffic to websites. You can ask your vendors for how their communications are resonating and what kind of activity they're seeing with their specific campaigns. All of that information is so important to consider when you’re doing your strategy because it can help you figure out how to target messaging, where you need to make things more relevant or more focused. Where you may need to target specific audiences.

And it can also give you insight into which channels could be most appropriate, especially right now when you need to reevaluate your channel mix. And it can help you really think about how you can boost things to the next level. So speaking of channels, this is a great time to inventory the things, the different views, the multimedia you’ve relied upon in the past and think about what can you still use or what do you need to adapt, and then what do you need to tweak in today's environment. So how have you previously created awareness or captured info and what will you need to change? You also want to think about other initiatives that may be going on in your organizations. Are you launching any new HRIS platforms, for example? Or any other systems that you could take advantage of or cross-promote annual enrollment through those channels.

So you want to think about all of the ways you may be able to access employees and your participants and get their attention. So these are three different areas that we think about when we think about ways that we can reach people. There’s the traditional media. There's online and interactive media. And then there’s the unexpected, which can be all kinds of various things you can do to get people’s attention and to capture diverse audiences. The attention of diverse audiences. So here, we kind of scratched out things that are not available or may not be a channel for you to reach people but you want to think about what are all of the different ways that you could reach people or that you've reached them before.

Maybe also consider things that you haven’t tried that you may want to experiment with this fall and make sure you’re trying to cover all your bases so that you can reach people with multiple formats and multiple channels to catch all of their attention.

And then finally, print has a special role. So don’t discount print pieces in the effort to move things digital and be more digitally focused. Don’t discount print. It’s a great way to reach households and primary decision makers especially if that person may not be your employee. It’s also a nice alternative to e-mail and overwhelming people with the amount of e-mails that we receive as many of us have talked about, we’re getting e-mails from everyone we’ve ever done business with. And so that can be very overwhelming on top of all of our work e-mail. And so print can cut through that clutter. And it can also be a great way to include personalized materials such as total reward statements for enrollment statements. That can make the decision making that much more personalized for individuals and their families.

And then here’s an example of another way to use print for one of our employers that had a provider change last year. And so this showcases how they were using print among many other channels in their multimedia campaign to bring employees attention to this change specifically. And as a result of this, they were able to achieve a 98% action rate which is really incredibly especially given all the other things that people are distracted by. So print plays an important role and definitely should be considered strongly.

So when you think about your communications and the messaging, as you shift from the strategy into execution, you want to first and foremost highlight the benefits of your offerings. So what can they do? How can they help people live better lives? Not just the nuts and bolts of how they work, but what can they do to help people? What are the purpose of benefits that they offer? You want to have a clear call to action. Jen mentioned this earlier. So what do you want people to do and make that very, very clear in all your communications. Make it relevant to people at their various life stages, ages, and so forth. And also if you’re asking people to make decisions involving finances, you want to do the math for them.

So show them what it might look like paycheck to paycheck so they have a real, tangible understanding of how something may impact them. It’s also really helpful to use behavioral science and good information design. And that includes using checklists, shortlist. Making information bite sized and digestible. And then if you can offer something like a decision support tool to help people think through the decision in a more personalized manner that can be really beneficial to helping them, especially if you're trying to migrate them into a new plan. A new medical plan. It’s a great tool and it can be fairly lightweight. It doesn't have to be super robust, but it can give people a lot of insight into that personal impact that I was talking about earlier.

With HSAs in particular, a lot of times they are promoted during annual enrollment and they’re often misunderstood or confusing for employees that may not have a lot of understanding about how best to use them. And so this is a way to show or to use an infographic to show the benefits. As I mentioned earlier, you want to highlight what something can do for an employee or a participant. So this showcases all of those benefits here in a really simple manner and it's not buried in an annual enrollment guide. It’s very clear and so the messaging there, therefore, really stands out to employees.

And additionally, as part of that same campaign, this client of ours had used another behavioral science, another tactic from behavioral science, called implementation intention. As you can see in the bottom right corner of the brochure it says, "Commit to action. I will visit the website on this date to make sure that I will review all the information." And so that just takes the notion of understanding something and seeing something and putting it into writing so that you’re, therefore, willing to follow through and take that next step in getting someone to do something. So it’s one tactic you can use to translate thought into action.

Jen: Yeah. And Megan, we just had a really good question come in right along these lines, which is, in a changing landscape, how can employers ensure that communications are reaching dependents as well as the primary participant or the employee? And these campaigns that we just saw, all of them went home with print materials to make sure that we were reaching dependents. And had an accompanying websites that are outside of the firewall so that the family members have access to them. Megan, anything else you would say on that point?

Megan: Yeah. I think you may have to get creative depending on the access you have to your people. So if you don't have e-mail and so forth, you may have to get creative and offer conference calls. And other means to getting information to replace in-person events that used to exist or have existed in the past. And as Jen mentioned, print is a great way to do that. It doesn't have to be a really hefty thick brochure. It could be something as simple as a postcard or a couple of postcards that has high level information and is driving people to the website for that additional information so you’re getting the message through to the decision maker at home that the dates of annual enrollment are these dates. Key things to look out for or key changes are. Those are things that you want to make clear in your communications especially that are going to the households.

So a couple other things to keep in mind. Legal requirements and accessibility. Of course you want to stay in compliance with regulatory guidance and distribute annual notices and take advantage of this period to do those things. You also want to make sure that your websites are ADA accessible and that you’re reaching multiple languages or non-English speaking participants. So if you have a version in another language, that’s an important consideration when you’re thinking about all of your different segments and messaging at the beginning of your strategy.

And then finally also working hand-in-hand with your compliance advisors in planning your enrollment to make sure that if you have to make any adjustments to the window or moving enrollment online or different actions you may have to take that have been different in the past, reviewing your contracts and agreements to make all of that happen and to impact or to account for the flexibility you may need in modifying your annual enrollment this year.

So let’s dive in now to talking about in-person events and conversations and how best to move those online because we know that this is an area of high interest right now and where a lot of people are changing up what they typically do to account for this unusual world that we now find ourselves in. So Jen, do you want to take us through this in a little bit more detail?

Jen: Yeah. Absolutely. As Megan said, it really is a time that we need to reevaluate the in-person touchpoints. And we want to really make sure that you’re thinking about all of the in-person touchpoints. Not just a big benefit fair or big workshops or meetings that you may have hosted in the past. But you may have office hours where folks have been able to just stop by and ask questions. Or perhaps you’ve orchestrated one-on-one meetings where people could sign up for a time slot with your team. Or small lunch and learns or other small in-person sessions.

So really think about all of those in-person touchpoints that you need to evaluate for enrollment this fall and how can you create a virtual version of them? Or do you need to create a virtual version of them? We’re really excited about the opportunity to take a lot of these in-person interactions and move them online and into more accessible settings. One thing is that you can do this in a way where you’re creating more value for you and for your audiences. So the great thing about doing things online is of course that everybody has access. You can create greater consistency for everyone to experience content in the same way. You can reach all of your audiences and put more information online, whether it’s through small webinars or online fairs and so forth.

You can also reach that spouse or family member kind of decision maker audience that may be at home rather than your actual employee or planned participant. And extend some information and resources to them that may not have had access to in the past if you were doing everything on-site during working hours. We’re really encouraging our clients to think about making things an evergreen resource. So instead of hosting an annual enrollment meeting one time in one day, that is only available for those folks, make that content available and turn it into an ongoing resource that can be used by other groups. Maybe for new hire orientation and so forth. And you can do that by doing live and recorded sessions. Just how we’re doing this webinar. For folks who can’t join live, they can listen in after the event.

And then there’s a real opportunity to reimagine any sort of benefit fairs or bigger events that you’ve been hosting. Try new approaches. See what’s going to resonate. And we can experiment with this and see what people are going to be interested in and how to get them more value. So some of the questions to ask for really understanding what’s going to be best for your organization: are there any ways that you've measured success from events in the past? And we've talked to a lot of organizations that have put a ton of time and money into on-site events in the past and never really had any sort of success measures. So what made those events feel that they were worth the energy in the past?

What is the outcome of those? Were you trying to get people to understand information? Were you trying to help them get exposure to the breadth of vendors that you offer? Were you maybe trying to get them exposure to local resources? We’ve had some of our clients that were really trying to highlight local businesses and local providers at some of their fairs. So really think about what were those outcomes that you were trying to achieve. What do you want people to know and do when it relates to enrollment and those benefit events? And then how are you going to measure success this year? Is it going to be about getting people to show up for an online event? Is it going to be about helping drive the actions that are part of your overall strategy? Or maybe it’s highlighting some of the vendors and benefits that are often missed and getting people to really take advantage of everything that's there.

So one thing to keep in mind particularly when it comes to moving events online is to make sure that technology follows your strategy. There are a ton of technology solutions out there including very elaborate virtual conference spaces. And some things that have all these really cool bells and whistles and that you can really get excited about the potential to use the technology. But make sure that your strategy is driving what you need from technology and that you’re defining your needs really well before you're choosing a technology solution.

If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want the technology to do, you run the risk of buying something that is going to be way more expensive and way more complex than what you actually need. So be sure that you define those needs first. And there are a lot of these virtual conference spaces that is often what people think about when they move virtual events online. We actually think those are too much for most organizations that need something for their virtual benefit fairs or virtual enrollment meetings. You can go with some simpler approaches that are going to get you more value and get more engagement from your folks.

So we see three main approaches that organizations are following. The simplest one is to do a series of webinars paired with a website. So this could be a series of educational webinars and/or office hours where people can either meet your team or do Q&A sessions with your vendors. You can do this with your preferred webinar provider. Whoever your organization is using all of the time. And then you can, of course, record those webinars and publish them on-demand on your benefits website or on a custom microsite or a custom landing page. You just want to make sure that those recordings are available for everybody. So let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this one.

Megan: Yeah. So the pros of taking this approach are that it can leverage existing channels. So if you already have a website all you have to do is promote these webinars on the website. Make them available to your participants and their dependents. And it can be less expensive if you have that infrastructure in place. I would also add ... it’s not listed here, but again, it’s a great way to reach your decision makers at home and also to kind of harmonize the experience between offices. So it’s not emphasizing a home office and making satellite offices feel like they're getting a lesser than version. It’s a consistent experience for the employees and the spouses and partners in all of the communities that you serve.

The cons of this approach is that it may be less of a wow factor. It’s not as flashy as a more robust provider. And content can be buried if it’s not organized in a way that makes it clear and easy to find when you go to the benefits website. So let's look at the next approach here in the online platforms. Jenn, do you want to walk through this?

Jen: Yeah. So the next approach is to choose an online platform that’s really built for hosting virtual events or creating a virtual vendor fair. And this can replicate some of the aspect of in-person events by offering points when you go visit different vendors or you interact with a vendor. Maybe if you answer some questions. You can allow people to engage with your HR team or vendors or ask for follow-up information and you can track progress. Add custom video content and images and PDFs and just different ways for folks to gather information. And there are many of these out there. One that we particularly like is from Airbow and here’s a screenshot of it on screen.

And it has a lot of gamification built into it and ways to show off the breadth of vendors. And we have several clients where there might be 30 or 35 or 40 or even more vendors that make up the whole benefits ecosystem. So this is a way to elevate all of those different providers and what they offer. And can be a nice way to show off the breadth of what’s out there.

Megan, you want to talk about some of the pros and cons here?

Megan: Sure. So the pros are that these solutions can be very quick and easy to implement. And as Jen mentioned, they can encourage gamification. So with Airbow and others, you can reward people for attending certain webinars or if they take certain action or if they register for a vendor’s website. You can reward that either through points or raffles. I know we just got a question about that. So you can incorporate that into the online platform experience. The cons are that they can be harder to brand to your organization. So you can add your logo and maybe colors but not a lot else to make it look and feel like you.

So the next step in taking this one step further is going to custom online experiences. Jen, do you want to talk about that?

Jen: Yeah. And this is an approach that we’re seeing some of our larger clients prefer. Particularly the ones where employer brand and the employee experience is front and center and a big, big priority. So you can really create anything you want with an online experience. And we’ve seen a lot of interest in marrying the approach of how high-tech companies plan their virtual events. So, you can create a really beautiful webpage and have a mix of live and on-demand content and have everything really beautifully branded and very highly produced in terms of the live content.

And this can create an experience that really feels similar to how a lot of those virtual events are happening online and have moved online. And this can be a really neat thing to create. And it kind of has that wow factor that Megan mentioned before. And we can talk through the pros and cons of this one, too.

Megan: Yeah. It can also support not only annual enrollment, but you can use it ongoing. So Jen talked about this a little bit earlier in making the content evergreen. So that’s a pro of this custom online experience. You could tailor it for that. So if you have someone who joins your organization in December and they missed annual enrollment, they can go back and access this information. And so therefore you get to leverage it a little bit longer. The cons are that it’s less plug-and-play which requires more time to implement. So you need to spend more time upfront thinking through the experience, incorporating visual approach and really making it fit your brand and the language and the visual look and everything else. So it’s more time intensive and maybe resource intensive from the requirement of your involvement upfront.

So one other thing we wanted to talk about is involving your vendors. So we’re talking about benefits fairs. Often, you would require them to travel to you. To set up a booth. Or to fly across the country to attend your benefits fair. And so how can you involve them in a more virtual way? First, you can ask them to record videos and post those to your website or to any of these different options that we just walked you through. And it can be something that’s really brief and high level that only takes 30 or 60 seconds to watch. And even if this is done on an iPhone, that's okay. People are very forgiving right now of all of the ways that we're trying to reach people electronically. And using even something as simple as an iPhone works very well for this.

You can also ask them to host a live webinar. They may have these already. And you can record that or make that available. Promote that on your website. And then also promote the recordings afterwards so that people who have missed it in real time can access anytime, anywhere. You can ask them to join you for office hours or to ask questions. Maybe you’re hearing a similar question. You’re introducing a change and you’re getting three or four or five similar questions. You can ask them to create an FAQ. It could be a video FAQ. It can be very creative. And address their concerns. Your participants concerns. Post that online. And you can also ask them to contribute to the cost of developing the site. So normally a vendor could travel to you. That would include airfare and hotel and food and so there’s a big investment that they make in helping to serve you as their client and they may be able to take and use some of that funding and maybe help support some online content that you're looking to build during this period.

Jen: And I would add that we’ve gotten really good interest from our clients’ vendors’ vendor community in helping support moving the on-site events to more virtual events. As well, if you have any leftover communication credits or leftover commission dollars and so forth, that can be a good place to get more funding for doing the virtual events. And we’ve seen many cases, especially in the case of a plan change happening or a new vendor being implemented that there may be communication credits that can be used to help build out these virtual experiences.

A couple questions came in on this topic while we were talking. So I thought we could just speak to them. One question is around incentivizing attendance to webinars or online lunch and learns and is there a way to virtually replace the benefit fair raffle prizes. And we’ve been exploring a lot of different options for this. There’s certainly are lots of ways to replace the virtual or to replace raffle and chotskies and other incentives and rewards of those on-site events. You can have something like the Airbow platform that gives you points as you engage. And then based on the number of points someone receives, there might be an incentive. You can offer raffles for folks that attend and stay to the end of a webinar and then mail them a prize or send them a digital prize.

So there are a lot of ways to incentivize that. And I think the right approach really depends on your organization. And what would feel right for an in-person event is think about that feeling right for a virtual event. So if you would expect and you would get a ton of people to show up just for the sake of going to an event, you probably don't need to think that hard about incentivizing online participation because there’s going to be the value in that content. But if you do a lot of raffles and that's just kind of part of the way all of your on-site events work, then think about trying to replicate that. And there’s another question that came in around the tax consideration for any of those prizes.

And there certainly are tax considerations if you’re giving any sort of monetary incentive. So talk to your legal folks about that to make sure that you’re doing it in a way that isn't going to raise any eyebrows. Megan, anything else you'd add on, on incentives or prizes?

Megan: Yeah. I would add a couple things. First, it can be very simple. And no matter what approach you take to replicating these benefit fairs, even if you’re not having a benefits fair online, if you just want someone to attend a webinar or to participate in a decision support module, you can ask them to register and collect that information and then offer the chance to win a prize. We have a client that does this all the time and it’s highly successful at driving action. And they also sometimes link it to their wellness platform so they can get points towards their wellness credit and that has worked really well for them in the past when they do this with all types of quizzes that they offer. And various different topics within the benefits spectrum. So it can anything from retirement to health benefits.

Another thing, given the virtual nature that we're living in right now and how it might be difficult to mail things to people, you can give them a gift card to some place that they could really use. But you could also donate to a cause right now and that’s something that is increasingly in people's mind. And so that might be something that really resonates with your participants.

Jen: Yep. Absolutely. Thanks. Well, let’s talk through a couple case studies and then we’ll wrap up and have a little bit more time at the end for Q&A. You can put any questions in the Q&A box and most definitely the recording and the slides will be available after we wrap up. So a couple of case studies. The first one I’ll mention is with a large university that we worked with a couple of years ago to make major changes to their health benefits. And we actually just put this case study up on our website. This is an organization that hadn't made any significant changes for over 10 years.

And we were introducing a new wellness credit, all new health plans, requiring active enrollment and they were rolling out a new HRIS platform at the same time. So lots of changes happening all at once. What made this campaign successful is really, really starting with that strategic approach that we mentioned early on. Understanding really what we want people to do, how it impacts different audiences and then engaging a large group of stakeholders to ensure that we understood how people were going to receive the message and what was going to hit the mark.

From there we were able to develop a really decisive and bold campaign that was very, very clear. This year is different. You have to take action and this is exactly what you need. So the materials were really, really clear about what was changing and what people need to do. And you can see more of this case study on our website. But it's a great example of really thinking about that strategic approach upfront in order to inform the communication process.

Megan: One thing I would add before you move on, one thing I would add to that case study that’s important to consider is that this organization had a broad spectrum of stakeholders that they needed to vet information through ahead of launching the campaign. And so you can find out more about this in the case study online as well because it was a really important step in getting buy in from various groups internally. And that really helped make the whole launch of the campaign that much more successful because they did all of that homework upfront and no one was caught by surprised when they rolled out this campaign.

Jen: Absolutely. Great. I want to share a few examples from Intuit. And for many, many years, we have done really nice beautiful print materials to support Intuit’s enrollment. And they have a very diverse employee population. And a big part of enrollment has been elevating all of the benefits. The full spectrum of benefits. Not just the health and insurance programs but everything that’s available to support financial well-being and work life and so forth. And so that’s been a big focus of the campaign is really making sure that we’re elevating all of those programs that support people. And we’ve done some really creative print materials over the years. This is a brochure that has multiple pages kind of stacked that people can page through.

We did a neat campaign. There’s a benefit for that. Everything that you could need, everything that you’re struggling with in your life, we have something to support you. And that’s been a big focus of the campaign to really drive action and engagement across the spectrum of benefits. And you can see really beautiful materials that we’ve mailed home. This year, we took a little bit of a different approach with moving a lot of that print online into an online experience that wasn't just put in the information within the webpage, but creating something for people to really engage with and walk through. So this was kind of taking some of that very highly produced feel of the print materials and moving it into an online format.

It was really well received by their folks. Their enrollment is in the spring, so we just finished this in the last couple of months. Really well received by folks. And a really good way to display the information. And it’s worked because they already have a very robust external website that has all of the details about all of the different aspects of benefits. So it’s important to really think through how you’re going to give people information and how the different resources connect. And then you can experiment with the right combination of print and online and what those online resources look like for your organization. Megan, you want to finish us up with Lenovo case study?

Megan: Yeah. Thank you. Next up is Lenovo and for many years now they have lead with a digital purse strategy. You’ll see on the next slide their homepage to their annual enrollment campaign from a few years back and how that translates into different pages. What's important about their site is it’s very marketing focused. So it has brief information. It's very succinct. It's very direct. And it clearly identifies the enrollment window and key pieces of information that individuals need and their families need.

So typically they use all digital media and then they use on-site signage and they send a postcard home. You'll see a couple of examples of the postcards they’ve created over the years. And these postcards focus on being very promotional. So they outline, again, the dates of annual enrollment. Where to go for more information. And high level information that people will need in terms of what might be changing, what they need to do. It’s very basic and it's meant to get to that decision maker at home and to give them the idea of what’s happening and then to go to their website for more information. And then from there, they go to the administrator to enroll. And this has been really successful for them year in and year out and they continue to have very active participant, active enrollment numbers, regardless of how much they’re changing from year to year.

So we shared a lot with you over the last hour here together. Some key takeaways that we just want to wrap up are that the pandemic has forced all of us to rethink the annual enrollment experience this year. Ground your approach in strategy. That will help you really make sure that you’re staying true to your goals and help you get the best value for money. You want to create an ecosystem of consistent messaging across a variety of media. And embrace new channels. Experiment. You might find something that you’ll use this year that you’ll continue to use going forward. I know we just spoke about Lenovo. This year they’re thinking about using screensavers and taking over a screensaver to really reach people right in front of them, wherever they are. It doesn't matter if they’re in the office or not.

So use a mix of live and on-demand resources. Make sure, because people's schedules can be different than they normally are, that you’re making sure you can make things available after. And that you’re clear about where the replays of webinars are so that people can access that information anytime, anywhere. And most importantly, keep in mind that mindset plays a really big role. Think about what people are bringing to the conversation when they take a look at your materials and how that might affect them. So be really sensitive and empathetic to the feelings they have. The state that they’re in. The stress that they're under. There’s so much going on for everyone right now, and keep that in mind. That will play a big role in the messaging, the tone and tenor of the material that you develop.

So let’s go to Q&A. I see that there are a lot of questions coming in. Jen, have you had a chance to take a look at what we’re getting?

Jen: We do have a lot of questions that have come in. And if you have a question, you can put it into the Q&A box and we will get to it in the next few minutes. The recording will be available. Someone just said that they missed the first part and will they be able to catch up. So yes. We’ll get the recording and the slides out right away after. The first question that came in is again on the pros and cons of virtual events. And really what is the benefit of doing things virtually versus in-person and do we think that virtual is going to replace live events long-term in some cases? Megan, do you want to speak to that to start?

Megan: Absolutely. So like I said earlier, I think virtual can be really great in helping you reach people in new ways. So you can reach the dependent and spouse who may not have been able to attend a session in person in the middle of the day. So that’s a really important audience that you may be able to reach now. It also, as I mentioned earlier, harmonizes the experience. So people everywhere, whether they worked in the home office or in a small office or a manufacturing floor, they feel that they have the same access to content. So I think that those are all great benefits of online. Thinking about in-person and the future, I definitely think in-person will always be an important channel. It’s a way that we connect with others. Employees and participants may feel more empowered to ask questions that they may be afraid to ask online.

So when you’re thinking about transferring and translating these experiences into a more virtual environment, how can you then think about those one off conversations of ways to get people to have those conversations in meeting format or one-on-one meeting where you can still feel comfortable and empowered to ask those questions. So you want to make sure that no one feels missed or left out. But then to answer the question about is virtual the way of the future, I think it will be a central component of many campaigns going forward. But I think there's always space for in-person events, when that becomes feasible again just like I think there's always space for print. I think we can't underestimate the power of print just like you can't underestimate the power of human connection in-person.

Jen: Yep. Absolutely. A question around the different populations in how they’re impacted this year, how do we reach people who have maybe been impacted in terms of their eligibility for benefits? And I think in particular this question is speaking to furloughed populations or people who have had their hours reduced a lot. And we are doing quite a few separate campaigns for populations that have been impacted by a furlough or by moving from full-time to part-time status. So this is a great example of where doing a targeted campaign can be really helpful. If you have a large population of folks whose eligibility has changed in some way, carve them out and send them a specific piece that really speaks to their unique situation rather than burying a paragraph about what it means to your benefits if your employment status has changed.

So really getting direct to those folks in some targeted channels can be really, really impactful. Megan, anything that you would add there?

Megan: Yeah. Taking a step back, when people make decisions about their health and their retirement, their financial security, these are highly personal decisions that require a lot of trust. So the way that you connect with your employees through any media is an opportunity to build trust or to remove trust. And if you’re in a situation where you have a population that may feel more sensitive or that has special consideration like a furlough, that’s an opportunity to do something unique for them to build trust and to reassure them or to be very clear to them what they have access to or what benefits apply to them during this period. So I would just remind people they're making decisions about things that are at the core of their importance in terms of their families, their life, their livelihood and think about ways that you can build trust rather than create confusion or add to this information.

Jen: Yep. Absolutely. We have a few more questions that have come in so we’re going to keep chatting a few minutes past the hour. But for those of you who have to drop off, thank you for joining us. Mine and Megan's e-mail addresses are on screen. We’re always happy to chat one-on-one. And really appreciate everyone joining us. So I know lots of folks are going to drop off in the next minute or so, but we’ll keep answering a few more questions as they come in. So the next question is, in the past we've been on-site with our frontline employees to assist with enrollment. How do we assist them in a virtual environment? They have limited access to use computers.

Megan, do you want to weigh in on that to start?

Megan: Yeah. So what comes to mind immediately for me is setting up one-on-one time over the phone with people and to walk them through the enrollment process as if you were doing it side by side in-person. So you don’t have the ability to sit next to each other. Maybe you can do that in a way that feels comfortable socially distant or physically distant from one another. But you could offer up time slots to people and give them office hours of availability or specific times that they could reach you and set up appointments, and that would probably be the best way to reach those individuals.

Jen: Yeah. And I would also add, to lean on your benefits administrator. And what can they do as far as a mobile optimized experience. These are folks that may not have access to computers on their work site but they likely have a smartphone in their hand or someone else in their family does. So there may be a mobile experience that you can create for them with a little bit of additional guidance that would help them be able to walk through that on their own. And then you also need to think about the time and when folks are going to do that.

So some organizations with hourly workers are very, very specific of carving out a 20 minute spot while they’re in their shift to take care of enrollment. And if these are things that you're now asking people to do at home or in their off hours and engage with the resources, that can be really valuable to them and give them more opportunity to take advantage of those resources. But think about how that plays out with your wage and hour rule. And make sure that there's no unintended fears around that for folks that are trying to access resources off hours.

So another question along those lines is there certainly has been a lot of activity in terms of the regulatory and legislative environment this year. How can organizations keep up with all the new compliance requirements? And we’re fortunate to work with a really amazing compliance team at Segal and there are several compliance and legislation focused webinars that are available on-demand on We also ... our compliance team has also created some really nice checklists around all of the things that have happened this year that you need to take into account. So any questions you have on that, we would be happy to follow up offline and get you in touch with those folks who can give you all of the ins and outs of everything that’s been going on.

Another question came in around what are the ballpark costs and the lead times needed for online platforms and the custom online experiences? So the ballpark costs, it’s very hard to estimate ballpark costs without knowing more about the organization and number of vendors. These can range from very inexpensive for small organizations with a limited number of vendors to quite sophisticated and elaborate and much more costly. So just like any sort of digital platform, there's a huge range in costs. Again, we’d be happy to talk offline to get more information about your organization in terms of population size and the number of vendors so we can hone in on a cost. And with lead time, the out of the box platforms like what we mentioned with Airbow are faster to implement than doing something that’s custom.

But all of these can be created relatively quickly and certainly there is time if you get started now to do some things that are going to be really, really nice by the fall enrollment period. We also have several clients that have opted to not do their virtual events until after enrollment. So they’re going to have the typical enrollment campaign of when you choose your benefits in late October and November. And then do the virtual events in December and January and really hone in on using those as an opportunity for people to understand the full spectrum of benefits and how they fit. So you don’t have to feel rushed to get all of this done in time for enrollment. These are opportunities that can certainly be very impactful after enrollment and around the start of the plan year.

Megan, anything you’d add on that?

Megan: I think it’s a great point in terms of not being hesitant to reschedule or to delay some meetings about usage in particular to the beginning of the new year. And that’s really ... it really aligns with mindsets and that mentality people have at New Year, with like new year, new you and wanting to set new habits and establish new routines and so forth. So that could be really important. Plus if you’re having employees and participants change to an HSA for example, you really want to help them understand how to use that effectively throughout the year. And it goes live 1/1, so that's an important time to get more information to your participants at that time.

Jen: Yep. Great. Well, the final question is, what advice would we give carriers during open enrollment? How should carriers prepare for their customer demands right now? I have plenty of thoughts on that, Megan. Do you want to start there with what you’re seeing in terms of the carriers and the vendors that are really supporting our clients in the best way?

Megan: Yeah. yeah. So, one thought that comes to mind immediately for me is making resources available. Whether it’s chatbots or information, the phone lines and having someone there to answer questions is having those available for a longer time, off hours, nights, weekends. Making things available for people not during business hours. Especially considering that you have people going back to ... you have families with children going back to school soon and people homeschooling and working and doing 300 jobs at the same time. You really want to make sure that this information is available to people during down periods when they can actually take time to engage. And then if you can think up some of your resources with the enrollment period, so if you have information or modules or things that could be useful to your clients, so to employers or to plan sponsors, let them know you have those resources and see if you can fit those modules in during the decision making process. So when people are actively thinking through whether to stay with one plan or to choose another, for example.

What about you, Jen? What are your thoughts?

Jen: Yeah. I think all of that is really helpful. And then I think making sure that any sort of processes and what is required of the client teams is as simple as possible this year and that we’re really honing in on where the biggest impact is. As we said earlier on, everyone is stressed in different ways this year. Everyone is overwhelmed. That’s true of the benefits teams. It’s true of the rest of the HR team. And it’s true of all of the employees and participants and their families that we’re thinking about. So really honing in on thinking about where the energy goes that’s going to make the biggest impact. Simplifying processes as much as possible. And then as Megan said, providing that extra support for the members and the participants.

Because we know that benefits are so important right now. People need them. They need the financial security and the safety nets and the support programs so much right now. We want to make it as frictionless as possible to get people engaged. Great. Well, we appreciate everyone for joining and we really appreciate the big group of you who stayed till the very, very end. All the materials will be available online shortly. And we're happy to have any other follow-up or one-on-one conversations. And wish everyone the best of luck with annual enrollment.

Megan: Thank you.

Jen: Thanks everyone.