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Water utility helps employees manage change

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Water Utility Company Helps Employees Go with the Flow

When new options and plans are offered, a robust benefits engagement strategy helps people maximize their choices

American Water is the largest, most geographically diverse publicly traded water and waste-water utility company in the US. Each day, the company provides drinking water and related services to more than 14 million people. To support employees, American Water offers a comprehensive benefits program designed to provide options that are market-competitive and offer people the opportunity to pick benefits that meet their specific needs.

Company Snapshot
  • Headquartered in Camden, NJ
  • 7,100 professionals
  • Workforce included represented and non-represented employees

Challenge

When the whole world began shifting in March of 2020 due to the pandemic, Businessolver leadership realized quickly that they would need to pivot many of the tried and true strategies around annual enrollment – from plan design to delivery.

“Like many organizations, we quickly transitioned from a multi-office, nationwide employee base to a fully remote workforce over the course of one weekend. Our team, IT and several other departments supported almost 1,200 employees moving to home offices without missing a beat—and without disruption to our clients and members,” said Marcy Klipfel, Chief Engagement Officer.

Amidst the challenges of sustaining company culture and resourcing everyone for their new “offices,” the engagement team was in the third and final year of a full replacement project for its medical plans and had already planned for an active mid-year annual enrollment.

A Sense of Urgency

Finally – the biggest challenge of 2020 – as the leadership team evaluated the impact of COVID-19 on the business, they realized that auditing the total rewards package even further could create significant cost savings and create a buffer for future impact of the pandemic. But how do you pivot your benefits strategy just a month or so before plans and costs need to be loaded for enrollment? Then, how do communicate those changes quickly so employees don’t miss out on essential benefits?

With so much on the line for the employees and the business, the Solvers got to work.

Solutions

Virtual Benefits Fair

The foundation for communicating these changes was a virtual benefits fair. The Studio B  team, Businessolver’s employee engagement practice, quickly stood up the experience using an innovative online publication technology. Working closely with engagement to provide the content, Studio B created a themed interactive benefits event that leveraged video from our chief engagement officer as well as explainer videos. It highlighted the changes and plan details in easily digestible bits of information and linked out to Benefitsolver® so Solvers could take instant action to enroll.

With the virtual benefits fair delivery, Businessolver was able to provide an after-hours and family-accessible site while also getting insights about employee engagement throughout the fair period, including unique site visits and time spent in each section.

“What really helped the engagement team was being able to track the engagement for each component of the fair. We were even able to see whether the fair was accessed on a desktop or mobile device. Having this kind of data helped us determine how effective the fair was, and it will help us shape our approach for future benefits communications,” said Sarah Warren, Benefits Manager.

Finally, the biggest time-saver is that Businessolver can continue to use this virtual benefits fair offering as the ongoing benefits guide for new hires. Once all the information is entered, it becomes a much more engaging way to educate new hires and provide an ongoing resource, and the engagement team is relieved of the task of maintaining a massive, static PDF document (that no one really reads). Businessolver became the pilot program for our virtual benefits fair experience that we can now deliver to clients for their AE.

E-Learning for Adults

While group conference call technology certainly isn’t proprietary to Businessolver, in the year of the virtual-everything, it became a critical alternative to the in-person meetings the team had employed in the past. The engagement team held two virtual “learning lounges” in lieu of typical on-site meetings in the larger offices, so interested employees could hear from the chief engagement officer about the details of specific plan changes, learn why the plans were changing and ask questions in a casual format.

Layout Manager

Additionally, the Businessolver engagement team worked with Studio B to “punch up” the look and feel of the employee benefits home page within Benefitsolver. In addition to creating a more appealing and fresh landing page, the engagement team was easily able to make mid-AE messaging changes in response to popular questions. For instance, a frequent source of confusion appeared to be around HSA enrollment timing. Warren was able to update the home page in minutes to change the messaging. Throughout the AE cycle, Warren and her team could generate messages that clarified the deadlines and enrollment information based on employee feedback.

Action Manager

Because of the significant plan changes, Businessolver required an active enrollment for the first time in several years. In order to communicate the importance of making elections to continue coverage, the engagement team used Benefitsolver’s Action Manager communications framework to set up reminders that could be sent on a defined schedule to employees at each stage in their enrollment journey. Not only could they deploy reminders to continue or start the enrollment process, they could also set up the communications with targeted messaging to members of specific plans or with particular benefits. All employees received reminders, and the communications could be instantly updated or amended when needed.

“We leveraged the Action Manager in a greater way this year than we had before,” said Warren, “it really made a difference in getting the right messages out to the right employees based on their specific enrollment needs.”

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