Aon Hewitt’s Consumer Experience practice partnered with a leading interactive video provider to create solutions for the company’s clients to better educate and communicate with their employees on health care plans, well-being programs, and retirement options.
Given today’s information environment and the deluge of complex, confusing information about insurance and health care, Aon Hewitt clients face a number of major challenges when communicating with their employees. These challenges often occur at both the national level and the individual-employee level, and they involve the difficulty of improving health literacy for older adults and other members of society.
The critical importance of health literacy
Understanding health and health care information is a daunting national challenge in the United States. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) has added more complexity to the nation’s health care information, and it has increased the business challenge for employers who want to ensure that their employees fully understand basic health issues and coverage information.
At the individual or company level, it is common for many employers to have a wealth of printed or online documents available to employees that explain benefit details, company HR policies, or health insurance information. Often, that information is either difficult to find or hard to understand. This leads employees to either get stuck and do nothing or call the human resources group for help. Data from Aon Hewitt’s 2015 Consumer Health Mindset Study had previously revealed that most employees still do not feel confident in their decision-making about health care and employee benefits. Aon Hewitt’s experience shows that employees are “hungry for resources and guidance that are simple, accessible, and relevant.”
In addition to the information overload challenge, Aon Hewitt clients often deal with the issue of employee disinterest or lack of follow-through, even when employees already know the services available to them and how to access said services. The disappointing participation rates for employer wellness programs are a prime example of this challenge. As David Westfall, senior director of decision support and innovation in Aon Hewitt’s Consumer Experience practice, explains it, the primary people challenge with these types of employer-provided benefits programs is “capturing the attention of a human being. If [that human being] is not interested in what I’m trying to say, then everything else—all the other ‘background stuff’— doesn’t matter.”
Confronting the information deluge
Faced with these business and people challenges—complexity of benefits, bombardment with too much information, policy- and program-specific differences from one company to another, as well as lack of individual commitment, engagement, or topic literacy—Westfall and his team focused on a basic question: “How do employees best interact with this information?”
The simple answer is that human beings interact best within the context of a story and communicate best when telling or listening to interesting stories. This is hardly surprising; over the millennia, storytelling is the primary means that we, as human beings, have used to communicate.
The Aon Hewitt team used interactive video as a powerful medium for storytelling. As Westfall notes, the team had traditionally loaded all sorts of data onto a website. Now, they use interactive video to take all of that digital information and turn it into a compelling and entertaining story: “[We wanted to create an] interesting story that you are willing to devote attention to, to capture [your] attention and curiosity, and present a compelling story as to why [you should be] interested and where you can go to get more information,” he says. Although linear video is already used to provide health care and insurance information, interactive video is unique in that the viewer can choose the story line the storyteller is going to tell, rather than being “talked at” by the video presenter in a one-way information dump.
Let’s pause for a moment and briefly review the differences between traditional video and interactive video. These will help explain why Westfall and his team chose interactive video for their storytelling solution.
Interactive video, in earlier formats, has actually been around for a long time. Interactive video merges storytelling with the interactivity of the web to create a personalized, immersive, user-driven experience. Anthony Mullen of Forrester Research writes that, broadly speaking, there are three approaches to video:
- Linear static video. A video with pre-rendered content that simply plays from beginning to end.
- Linear dynamic video. A video in which “content is customized per user or segment, often at run time,” Mullen writes. “This approach interacts with consumers’ data (e.g., social profile information) and/or context (e.g., location) but does not allow users to directly interact with the material when playing.”
As Paul Clothier has also written, linear videos are useful for learning, but they are passive. While these types of video may be interesting and engaging to a certain degree, the viewer or learner does not participate or interact.
- Interactive video. A digital video that supports a rich variety of “user interaction through gestures, voice, touch, and clicks,” Mullen writes. Using this type of video, “interactive elements are surfaced to users through hotspots associated with items in the video or timeline triggers, or are continually visible as an overlay to the video.” Interactive video users “can interact inside the video itself, from filling out forms to taking interactive tutorials, playing game-like experiences, or viewing nonlinear jump cuts to new video material. Interactive video can also include dynamic elements.”
Aon Hewitt’s Guided Experience is an interactive user-controlled experience around a subject of interest. Users are introduced to the topic and, from there, are able to click through a list of video sub-topics (Figure 1) to find out more information about their specific questions, such as: “I want to improve my health. What does my employer offer to help me?”
Figure 1: Explaining how the user can explore educational topics of specific interest
After viewing the selected video topic, users are given links within the video to outside tools that help with additional decision-making, such as the Aon Hewitt Decision Direct preference modeling tool (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Explaining how to use the preference modeling tool (Aon Hewitt Decision Direct) to model medical coverage preferences
Westfall described the key benefits of the Aon Hewitt Guided Experience as follows:
- Ease of use. By allowing the user to navigate topics more naturally and with a human-like experience, Aon Hewitt puts the user in control of the experience.
- Authenticity and control. Unlike websites or other forms of communication, the solution presents users with a real, interactive person. It puts them in control of the information they want to learn more about, and it does so in a human, interactive, and intuitive way.
- Personal and relevant. The solution uses the latest trends in visual communication, content marketing, and content distribution technology, such as hyper-personalization, whiteboard animation, and hyperlocal marketing.
One of the processes used to create a better understanding of a process or opportunity is journey mapping. Using this process, the Aon Hewitt team looks at information and communications requirements “through the eyes of the target audience—an employee and/or spouse ‘persona’—and then plots out the path and experience of that persona as they interact with critical communication ‘touch-points.’ … [In other words,] what you want employees to know, feel, and do, and the messages and media you think will best get their attention and action,” Westfall explains. “This is just one approach we may utilize. Regardless of process, our approach is to first understand the ‘who’ and the ‘why,’ then we can figure out the ‘what’ and ‘how.’”
Aon Hewitt partnered with a leading interactive video provider who provided the cloud-based creative tool used to build the interactive video interface. This video interface navigated and branched throughout Aon Hewitt’s extensive video library in order to create flexible and personalized learning paths that satisfied the storytelling required by each viewer/learner.
The Aon Hewitt team views its entire interactive video platform as a holistic consumer experience rather than a technology platform or set of video tools. As described above, Aon Hewitt’s Guided Experience comprises several elements that, together, make up the holistic experience. These include:
- A microsite (Figure 3) that aggregates individual pieces of information and provides guideposts to the experience, as well as access to other information or content
Figure 3: Consumer experience microsite
- A library of interactive videos that comprise the information resources that support creation of individual storytelling paths
- “High-impact” email communications that alert employees to the information and drive viewers to additional sources of information, such as a microsite or video experience
Download the case study for additional details and examples of how Aon Hewitt provides a rich consumer experience. In particular, check out the Resources section for links to additional downloadable materials.
Although the Aon Hewitt interactive video learning initiative has been highly successful, Westfall warns that interactive video by itself can be successful only “when used correctly and appropriately—often in conjunction with other solutions that, in aggregate, create a full consumer experience.”
He goes on to state, “Sometimes video is not the right answer. [When used to] communicate a story, engage and develop interest, [interactive video can be a] powerful medium. [When interactive video is combined] into a consumer experience approach [and used to leverage] different tools and channels into a holistic experience, it becomes even more powerful.”
Westfall summarized the key lessons that he and his team gained from this experience:
- Think outside the box—Part 1. When thinking about interactive video for learning or communications, think outside the standard training box. For example, the Aon Hewitt team did not think in terms of courses or curricula. Rather, they looked at the communication challenge holistically—in other words, using tools such as journey or experience mapping—and more specifically asked: “why,” “what,” and “how” can we encourage action on the part of this individual human being?
- Think outside the box—Part 2. Furthermore, the Aon Hewitt team members did not think of themselves as “formal” educators who used instructional design tools or criteria. As a result, they did not get sidetracked with instructional design challenges or authoring-tool obstacles. As described earlier, the Aon Hewitt interactive video approach is more about the consumer experience, content marketing, brand journalism, and taking a holistic view of learner, viewer, or client engagement, rather than instructional design models.
- Be creative in using humor and unexpected actions. The team learned that when videos are done correctly and creatively, people will actually watch good videos over and over again. For example, the Aon Hewitt team introduced elements of humor such as “Easter eggs” or visual pranks into their informational videos. The pranks included having the actor simply “walk off the screen” to create surprise and laughter (Figure 4). When this happened, it turned out that viewers enjoyed the video experience even more. In fact, participants began waiting for the actor to do something funny because it surprised and entertained them with some unexpected action (Figure 5). As Westfall noted, using this creative approach made the video even more “real, human, and funny.”
Figure 4: Example of an “Easter egg” moment (actress sneaks off page and returns wondering if you saw her leave)
Figure 5: Example of an “Easter egg” moment (actor takes a selfie)
Aon Hewitt will move forward to enhance the interactive video Guided Experience that it provides to its clients. In terms of specific enhancements and plans for innovative video applications:
- Aon Hewitt’s interactive videos will become even more holistic and individualized, to the point where consumers and learners will be able to navigate through video and websites in the same fashion.
- The Aon Hewitt interactive experience will be less about facts and figures and more about telling a story around the facts and figures.
- The Aon Hewitt Guided Experience will continue to be presented in such a way that human beings can understand important health care information both intellectually and emotionally. In short, Aon Hewitt’s goal is to engage with both the client’s intellect and emotions in order to produce “true engagement,” and to holistically embrace the entire information and learning experience—in essence, the consumer experience overall.
In addition to this broader vision, Aon Hewitt has published a number of predictions that describe the company’s perspective on future use of interactive video within areas of employee benefits information and health information literacy. See the case study for a detailed list of these interactive video predictions (and much more).
Aon Hewitt’s holistic approach to interactive video is built upon a mindset that encourages innovative thinking and focuses on empowering the individual human being to traverse a personalized path toward confidence, competency, and (in this case) health care information literacy.
As we have seen in this case study, the Aon Hewitt team is using the power and reach of interactive video to help consumers comprehend and assimilate the current deluge of health care information, ask questions, steer the conversation, make decisions, and then take action. They are doing this within an innovative conceptual framework that keeps the focus on individuals, storytelling, and a rewarding and pleasant consumer experience.
Westfall encapsulated the holistic mindset by saying: “[The video] isn’t about talking at me; it’s about an experience that makes me feel as though it’s talking with me.”
Aon Hewitt. “Aon Consumer Experience Microsite.”
Aon Hewitt. “Are your employees listening? (Really listening?)”
Aon Hewitt. Consumer Health Mindset Study: From Passive Patient to Confident Consumer. Aon Hewitt and the National Business Group on Health, 2015.
Clothier, Paul. “Interactive Video: The Next Big Thing in Mobile.” Learning Solutions Magazine. 28 October 2013.
Clothier, Paul. “Training Goes Hollywood: Movies and Interactive Narrative in Soft-Skills Training.” Learning Solutions Magazine. 24 February 2003.