How to Host a Virtual Benefit Fair for 2021 Open Enrollment: Your HR Guide

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Amidst the chaos of this year, HR professionals are gearing up for the busiest time of year: Year-End. And kicking off this crazy time of year is Open Enrollment, the period when all employees are able to enroll or re-enroll in your benefits plan.

Even during a normal year, open enrollment can be challenging, with HR pros having to track down each team member and hand-hold them through the process. But this year, with most organizations adapting to a virtual “new normal,” open enrollment can become even more of a challenge if you don’t have a plan.

If this is your first year attempting a virtual open enrollment, not to worry! These 5 steps will take you through the entire process so you can be confident that you have your bases covered.

And if you have attempted open enrollment on a virtual platform in previous years, use these 5 steps and expert tips to hone your processes.


1. Update Your Documents and Process

Your benefits providers likely have a number of documents and communications assets for your benefit plans. Don’t recreate the wheel -- reach out and use their documents and resources. Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of information, and make any updates to internal documents as needed.

Next, update your process to fit a virtual format. Determine what deadlines make the most sense in adhering to your plan’s timing requirements. And, most importantly, establish how you will communicate with your team members to collect their information, and what process your employees will have to undergo to submit their enrollment virtually.

Depending on your organization’s size, it could help to create a virtual communications plan explaining how, when, where and what will be communicated to the team regarding open enrollment. This way, you, your other HR team members and your leadership team will stay on the same page regarding the process.


2. Check in with Employees to Establish a Baseline of Knowledge

In order to effectively plan and provide the details your employees need, start by evaluating where your employees’ level of knowledge is and what major questions they have.

Many employees typically have similar questions, like what does the benefits program include, who qualifies for coverage, and how much money will come out of each paycheck. Using virtual surveys or open Q&A sessions, you can determine what these primary questions are, and shape your communications accordingly.

Some ways to establish a baseline of knowledge with your employees:

  • Send out a short survey asking employees what questions they have about open enrollment. You can also gauge which aspects of your benefits packages that employees are most interested in learning about.
  • Check in with company leadership and other HR team members and collect any benefits-related questions that have been asked throughout the year.
  • Create and distribute an FAQ sheet to answer the most common questions from employees.
  • Shape your virtual benefits fair or town hall session around the most common questions and themes.


3. Create and Distribute Comprehensive Instructions

Once you’ve established the plan and process, and have checked in with your employees, it’s time to compile everything your team needs to know into a step-by-step plan and distribute it.

Open enrollment can feel intimidating to employees, too, so it’s important you don’t overwhelm them.

We recommend HR professionals send out an “Open Enrollment Cheat Sheet” to their teams. This can be a 1-page PDF that highlights what’s changed since last year, explains the Virtual Open Enrollment Fair, and provides instructions and deadlines for this year.

Tips in distributing information:

  • Establish an information “hub,” and communicate that to your team clearly. If you are communicating via multiple channels, including emails, instant messages, alerts and phone calls, this helps your team to understand where they should go for main information and to submit their enrollment documents.
  • Provide clear timeframe information, including deadlines for questions and forms.
  • Use visuals to make your Cheat Sheet easier-to-navigate.
  • If your company works with a project management platform, consider using that to manage the process.


4. Host a Virtual Benefits Fair

A virtual benefits fair or town hall can be your most effective tool in engaging all employees at one time around open enrollment.

To host your virtual fair, first determine what virtual format and platform makes the most sense for you. You can host via a zoom meeting, webinar, Q&A session or other virtual format. Depending on how large your organization is, it may make sense to break the virtual fair into time chunks based on department or employee sign-up. This way, you can answer questions and engage one-on-one with employees.

Next, distribute information to your team regarding the enrollment fair, along with the instructions you created in step 3. Make sure your team understands what they should accomplish before, during and after the fair.

Finally, host your Virtual Enrollment Fair! Best practices to keep in mind:

  • Be as engaging as possible and take every opportunity to include employees for questions or real-life examples.
  • Provide a presentation of highlights and changes to any benefits packages, as well as any FAQs that are appropriate to review with everyone.
  • If it makes sense, invite your broker or their team and use resources they have created. You can use their help to facilitate “breakout rooms” so employees can ask direct questions in a more private virtual environment.


5. Get Creative With Tools to Engage Employees

We’ve recently had to find creative ways to accomplish goals, and open enrollment is no exception. As you go through this process, make sure you are incorporating tools and ideas to keep your team members interested and engaged.

A few ideas on ways to engage employees:

  • Incentivize open enrollment participation with small gifts or raffle prizes. You can provide raffle entries or prizes to employees who participate in Q&A sessions or submit their enrollment before the deadline.
  • Host “Virtual Office Hours” a few times per week before and during Open Enrollment to offer one-on-one assistance.
  • Involve the leadership team to increase engagement with employees. You can have members of your leadership team “own” certain aspects of the fair, share their own personal examples, or cover specific benefits package features.


What are some of the ways you are preparing for Virtual Open Enrollment? Let us know in the comments below!

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