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Online Benefit Fairs Work

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What You Need to Know

  • Videos can help replicate the booth experience.
  • An online fair can be more convenient than the traditional kind.
  • A live chat or online helpdesk can give employees a way to ask questions.

In recent years, online benefit enrollment platforms have gradually gained in popularity. During the pandemic, however, we experienced a momentous shift in adoption rates, caused strictly by the need for social distancing. As many within the workforce continue to work remotely, human resources managers, guided by their benefit advisors, are rethinking their approach to open enrollment and employees benefit fairs.

When coronavirus was classified as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, social distancing restrictions mandated we get creative. By the end of August 2020, my own firm introduced a one-stop, free online benefit fair platform where clients’ members could access benefit information, review frequently asked questions, find nearby providers, and download a free mobile app.

Here’s what online benefit fairs can offer.

An online employee benefit fair is a virtual event designed to communicate benefits information to employees through a digital environment rather than the in-person experience. Online fairs typically utilize interactive tools such as webinars, virtual booths, live chats, or recorded videos.

When designing our free online benefit fair platform, we wanted to replicate the experience of an in-person fair by providing our clients, their members, and brokers with such materials as: an audio recording welcoming visitors as they enter the virtual ‘booth;’ benefit summary brochures; a provider search tool; links to download a mobile app; a video introducing the member’s vision benefit program; and even the ability to foster member engagement through a customized plan sponsor-approved raffle.

In creating this platform, a solution to a short-term problem became a long-term benefit for benefits pros and their plan sponsor clientele.

Get benefits information anywhere, anytime.

One of the greatest advantages of a virtual benefit fair is convenience. It allows members to access information about their benefits anywhere, anytime. While the personal touch of an in-person event is generally preferred, finding a time during the workday when all employees can attend is inevitably a challenge, particularly for fast-paced businesses or those with team members who travel for their jobs. If employees are off or out in the field on the day of the benefit fair, they miss out.

In contrast, a virtual benefit fair is flexible and can accommodate every employee’s schedule: it’s available round-the-clock and is on-demand to anyone in the company, whether they are working in the office, offsite, or odd hours. This eases the scheduling burden particularly for parents juggling virtual learning and remote work as well as overseas employees working different hours in different time zones.

Ensure that employees make the most out of their benefits.

During open enrollment, employees usually receive a lot of paperwork and attend several presentations from benefits administrators in a short period of time. The information shared can often be hard to digest and understand. If employees do not understand their options, how can they make an educated choice? Having all the information housed on an online platform gives employees a consistent benefits resource center and allows them to learn about their benefit options at their own pace.

A virtual environment can also help ensure employees are more vocal with their benefit questions. Many people are afraid to ask questions at company-wide meetings, in large groups, or at a booth with co-workers lingering. Features like a live chat or online helpdesk are a great way to reduce social anxiety, allowing employees to ask their questions without concern of judgment.

Benefit decisions should not be made lightly. They can impact the well-being and financial state of employees and their families. An on-demand platform that can be accessed at home allows family members, like spouses, to be easily included in the decision-making process.

Online benefit fairs can be used beyond open enrollment season.

Another advantage of an online platform is its ability to be evergreen. For us, the move to an on-demand model allowed our members to access information about their vision benefit when they needed it, not just during a once-per-year in-person benefit fair. This means the virtual benefit fair is invaluable not just for big open enrollment events but also for smaller ones, such as when presenting benefit options to new hires or assisting employees with life-changing events.

The past year has shown us that during times of great change and upheaval we must come up with creative ways to help our clients and their members. Providing convenient access to clear and consistent information is critical. It is also proof that sometimes the solution to an unexpected need can surpass what was in place before. The adjustments employers are establishing amidst the pandemic will impact how we approach open enrollment for years to come.


Dave Karlin, Benecard Services, Clifton, NJ. 09/06/2017 Photo by Steve Hockstein/HarvardStudio.comDavid S. Karlin is president of National Vision Administrators, Benecard Services and Heartland Fidelity Insurance Company.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)