Creating a Dynamic Employee Portal at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts

Nate Douty

Nate Douty, HE&R’s Vice President of Human Resources, had a vision to create an employee portal that would effect a true cultural change in the way the employer communicated with its 7,500+ employees. In May of 2007, this vision was realized with the launch of MyPath (Personal Access to Hershey) – a hosted portal that is truly improving the employee experience with 24x7, anywhere/anytime access to the information that both the permanent and seasonal workforce needs to complete the entire range of work/life events.

Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Business Need – Specific Portal Business Drivers

  • Promote HE&R as a progressive employer in synch with a "cyber-age" workforce
  • Reduce administrative burdens so HR could be re-deployed to more strategic work
  • Replace an outdated intranet with a personalized, searchable 24x7 solution available from work or home – "24-Hour HR"
  • Help employees become more informed benefits consumers; increase participation in consumer-driven plans
  • Increase the ability for employees to complete their own transactions – such as benefits enrollment – in a 100 percent self-service environment

A portal project team was formed that included Kim Mann, Director of Compensation, Benefits, Employment and HRIS, and Myles Miller, Corporate Project Director. Mann described the business challenge, "At HE&R, the focus is on creating a guest experience that exceeds expectations. We wanted to ensure our employees had the same experience when conducting work/life events such as onboarding, getting married, enrolling in benefits and much more."


"Our existing intranet wasn’t meeting our employees’ needs – it wasn’t personalized or searchable and had static content that was difficult to maintain. This meant HR had to communicate by phone, paper and email. This was inefficient in terms of time and costs and ineffective in terms of employee experience. Employees were experiencing email overload – and it was hard to get their attention when we wanted to promote new benefits or reinforce policies.

The Solution

The project team deployed a MyPath portal foundation with the following components and features:

  • Transactional components: Infinium core HCM, eBenefits, Employee Self-Service and Manager Self-Service
  • Communications and decision support components: Enwisen AnswerSource HR Portal / Knowledgebase, Onboarding, Work / Life, Benefits Decision Support, Handbook, Managing People

Key Solution Features

  • 24x7 access from work or home
  • Personalized, searchable and "on-demand" content and decision support
  • Communications delivered via software-as-a-service so the vendor maintains all of the content/updates

When asked about the portal components, Miller commented, "We understood that for MyPath to be successful, it needed all of the key features that popular web portals have – namely personalization, information, searchability and transactions – on one easily accessible page – with transactions and communications never more than two clicks away."

Integrating Content with Transactions

"We also knew that to achieve true self-service within the portal the communications needed to be embedded into the transactions. A key to MyPath’s success has been integrating content and decision support ‘in-context’ to the self-service transactions," Miller continued. "If an employee is in the middle of enrolling in benefits, for example, it is important that they are able to estimate medical costs and/or compare plans in the same session. We wouldn’t have achieved our portal goals if employees had to stop what they were doing and call their manager, HR or our service center to get answers while in the middle of transactions or managing work / life events."

"It was also important that the content and communications were personalized – so employees are only seeing the policies, benefits and other information that is specifically relevant to them depending on their job location and category," Miller said.

MyPath Launch

The MyPath implementation went live in just three months. All year-round, benefits-eligible and seasonal employees have access to the portal – where they can get on-demand information about things like their 401(k) plan, time-off policies, benefits coverages for particular events, company discounts, tuition assistance and much more – from computer stations at work locations, or from their internet at home. The content is designed to be easy to use for the diverse workforce, which ranges from hotel chefs… to zoo naturalists… to spa attendants.

The portal project team worked closely with HE&R’s marketing group to put together a comprehensive plan – including contests, posters, newsletter articles, flyers, emails, voicemails and more – to promote the plan to the workforce. And the response has met and even exceeded expectations.

Early Success and Positive Response

Mann and Miller both feel that MyPath’s early results are meeting – and even exceeding – expectations. Some examples they highlighted include:

  • In the first three months after go-live, the number of visits to the site rose from 3,000 to 7,000 and has remained consistently high.
  • Calls to HR have been significantly reduced.
  • Benefits decision-support tools are very popular – not just for open enrollment but to understand coverages related to events, estimate medical costs, prepare for a doctor’s visit and more.
  • Participation in company-sponsored wellness programs has increased significantly.

In the first two months alone, employees processed more than 300 changes to their personal information in a self-service mode without requiring intervention from HR.

Just four months after go-live, HE&R began its first 100 percent paperless open enrollment.

When the enrollment period was only halfway through, more employees had made changes in their elections than during the entire period the previous year. At the time of this writing the enrollment period had just closed, and more than 60 percent of benefit-eligible employees had logged on to view and model their benefits – so the number of employees who made changes will in all likelihood rise more once all of the data is scrubbed.

Employees Accessing Portal From Home

Another interesting trend HE&R has seen is use at home vs. at work. "When we first launched the portal most of the access was between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. – from computer centers at work locations," said Miller. "Now, we see significant growth in usage between 5 and 11 p.m. – proving that home computer usage is becoming mainstream. Most important, it shows we are meeting our goal of providing the workforce with the information they need – when they need it – along with the ability to share information on decisions with significant others in the home."

What’s Next?

With the employee-facing components of the portal complete, the project team is turning its focus to line managers and new hires. "Next, we’ll be integrating the AnswerSource Manager content with our Infinium Manager Self-Service so that managers can respond to their employees with fair and consistent answers. We’ll also be implementing AnswerSource Onboarding to the portal – allowing new hires to "pre-board"– helping new employees get socialized to our culture, preview benefits, review and electronically acknowledge policies and have a fun, productive first day vs. filling out forms," said Mann.

"And the beauty of having the onboarding solution on the portal is that we engage new employees with a personalized experience the day they get their offer, and that experience can continue throughout the entire employee life cycle via MyPath."

Executing on Goals

Douty is pleased with the early results of the portal. "MyPath has been a very successful joint project for HR and IT. Our portal strategy is indeed engaging our employees and allowing them to personally take charge of their own work/life events. And it is helping brand HE&R as an innovative employer of choice. When HR can leverage technology to execute on business strategies, it helps all of us operate more strategically," Douty concluded.

Keys to MyPath Success

  • In-depth "marketing" program for rollout to diverse employee population
  • Team partnership with internal and external vendors
  • Content in context to transactions
  • 24x7 access to meet needs of a 24x7 workforce