The Challenge: A Pandemic During Open Enrollment
When the COVID-19 crisis hit the United States in March 2020, schools and businesses across the country immediately shifted to remote operations. The timing couldn’t have been worse for school system’s HR departments, as the outbreak coincided directly with open enrollment. Suddenly, in-person benefits fairs were simply not an option.
Keenan and Associates, a benefits broker who works with California school districts, municipalities, and healthcare organizations, faced a dilemma. They considered canceling the benefits fair and providing information about benefits to their clients through email.
“But we understood how important the benefits fair is for employees,” said Charlotte Doepker, VP of Marketing at Keenan, knowing that employees value the experience of hearing information directly from carriers during benefits fairs.
“You only get one time a year to make those decisions,” she said.
But we understood how important the benefits fair is for employees. You only get one time a year to make those decisions.
VP of Marketing, Keenan
Charlotte had several requirements when she searched for ways to match the value of an in-person benefits fair:
A place where employees could have private conversations with carriers, like the way they would quietly step aside at an in-person benefits fair to ask personal questions
Something like a booth, where vendors could handout additional information about their benefits and entice foot traffic with swag or raffle prizes
A way to track attendance and collect contact information for people who wanted to learn more about a benefit
An easy to use, intuitive system that will not require any user training or instruction
Charlotte and her colleagues at Keenan considered hosting a benefits fair via a video conferencing platform, but this option limited employees’ ability to engage with and easily revisit specific bits of content. They also checked out virtual trade show platforms but these were cost-prohibitive, took too much time to plan, and wouldn’t be accessible to many employees because they run once, for a few hours.
The Solution: Airbo’s Virtual Benefits Fair (VBF)
Charlotte reached out to Vlad Gyster, Founder and CEO of Airbo, an employee communications SaaS. As a longtime client, she already knew that Airbo’s HR communications software was intuitive and engaging. Still, she worried that it might be too late to put together a VBF just two weeks before open enrollment.
Airbo is innately set up with a gamification of the whole system. So it was really easy to put the prize aspect in there and have multiple raffles going on during a Virtual Benefits Fair.
VP of Marketing, Keenan
Tiles functioned like ‘booths’ at an in-person benefits fair. For example, instead of having to repeat themselves over and over again as employees walked up to their booth, Delta Dental included a pre-recorded introductory video at the top of their Tile and briefly described their benefits in an accessible, easy-to-understand overview. Carriers also linked to additional resources or included an attachment for employees who wanted to download a flyer with more information to visit later.
Carriers were pleased with the opportunity for brand visibility and the chance to speak with employees directly about the value of their benefits. Vendors are used to tracking foot traffic, so they were thrilled with Airbo’s attendance and engagement data. By the end of the event, they had a list of people who opted-in for more information–in other words, highly qualified leads. They could easily see the value of their investment.
Most importantly, with a VBF, Keenan ensured that employees got the information they needed to make decisions about their benefits. In-person benefits fairs only last a few hours in a fixed location. Many employees skip these events because of schedule conflicts, and their spouses never get a chance to participate.
Since the VBF was accessible anywhere and anytime, employees could include their dependents in the decision-making process. They could also take time to consider a benefit, seek additional information, and privately ask questions to find out how each benefit pertained to their individual situation. The VBF proactively answered common questions and bridged the gap between employees and carriers, which helped reduce the amount of emails and phone calls for HR.
IT departments were already stretched thin with remote transitions. This didn’t create more work for them.
VP of Marketing, Keenan
The Results: Data and Feedback
In just two weeks, Keenan put together a fully-customized and branded series of VBFs. Charlotte and her team were shocked at the ease of use and how quickly they were able to set up their fairs.
More than 1,110 employees attended the VBFs and more than 600 employees provided positive feedback about their virtual experience. Employees commented that they felt less overwhelmed, more educated, and more entertained when compared to an in-person benefits fairs experience. Employees also welcomed the ability to request more information about specific benefits information. They enjoyed being able to learn about their benefits at their own pace from the comfort and safety of home, with the ability to include their spouses in the process.
One employee said,
“This was very helpful. I have had problems in the past getting to the benefits fair. It was so convenient to do it virtually. I had no idea we have opportunities to save on legal fees.”
Another employee said,
“It’s amazing that it’s as easy as opening an app to get answers on co-payments, appointments, etc.”
Airbo’s platform provided the solution for a benefits fair while practicing social distancing during the pandemic. The virtual event was so convenient and effective that it could replace or supplement in-person events in the future, regardless of the circumstances.