Digital Transformation , Strategy — 10.05.2019

Four Tech Trends Helping Employees and HR Teams Manage Benefits Offerings

Katie Lukes, Principal, Product Strategy & Research

Benefits are simultaneously more important than ever in attracting and retaining talent and also more fragmented and harder to manage than ever. Faced with a workforce that can be composed of five generations and the pressure to offer competitive, differentiating benefits packages, companies are creating more personalized offerings and expanding voluntary benefits to meet a broad range of needs and lifestyles, from tuition reimbursement to retirement planning.

While the increased offerings are an exciting opportunity, they bring an added complexity in administration, cost, and management for both employees and administrators. Because of this, HR leaders must ensure that:

  • Employees and recruits are educated about all offerings so they can take advantage of them.
  • Employees can easily enroll and participate in offerings easily without additional burden.
  • HR leaders can gather and monitor the utilization rates and data on offerings to know what’s working and what’s not.
  • Management has the information to make strategic decisions for the future of the company and employees.

In our experience with companies in the benefits industry, there are four tech trends that alleviate the challenges facing both employees and administrators.

1. Automation & Self-Service

Automation & digitization have become a norm today as paper processes are being replaced with systems that allow employees some degree of self-service. Automation equates to less work on the HR side and more transparency and empowerment on the employee side.

For employees, automation & self-service…

  • Makes it easier for them to self-educate on offerings on their own schedule.
  • Allows for seamless enrollment.
  • Increases participation by removing manual or burdensome processes for enrolling.

For HR teams, automation & self-service…

  • Removes administrative, manual tasks that are time-consuming and tactical to allow them to spend their time on more strategic, consultative, and “human” parts of their jobs.
  • Frees them from having to stay on top of an ever-changing, regulatory landscape and allows them to stay in line with compliance protocols.
  • Reduces human error.

2. Communication & Collaboration

Communication is mission critical. Employers can create innovative and generous benefits packages but if employees don’t know about the benefits available to them, if they are confused by them, or if they miss important dates, they won’t participate or be attracted by them.

With the mix of generations in the workforce, and with that workforce starting to skew younger, it becomes vital that benefits administrators have the tools they need to effectively communicate important, deadline-driven information in a way that people will pay attention to, read, and act upon.

For HR teams, communication tools can be used to…

  • Send consistent messages in a variety of channels, which could mean text messages, emails, voicemails, or mobile app notifications.
  • Find the right message formats. For example, short, concise videos have emerged as an engaging way to get people’s attention and communicate important information.
  • Customize messages to the right audiences and provide valuable analytics. These analytics allow HR leaders to create more data-driven communications strategies.

3. Data & Analytics

HR and benefits are generating more data than ever, creating both opportunities and burdens. Is this the right data to be gathering? Is it complete? Is it reliable? The amount of data and its quality can be overwhelming and can become a distraction.

However, the right analytics are vital. Special skills are required to sift through that data to glean meaningful information. The right tech tools can provide HR leaders with goal-oriented analytics that provide not just a dashboard of pie charts and line graphs but meaningful insights that drive utilization goals and improve transparency.

4. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is technology that powers applications to solve problems, reason, and sometimes communicate like humans. Two key benefits that companies can realize from this technology are the potential for more personalization and the potential to derive actionable insights from large amounts of disparate data. These can be applied across the board for attracting talent, assessing applications in an unbiased way, or detecting attrition.

For benefits departments, AI can be put to use in…

  • Support or help desk. By providing automated answers to common benefits questions from employees, you can reserve the more complex or consultative questions for HR staff.
  • Employee benefits decision support tools. As healthcare benefits in particular become more complex, individualized, and hard to compare, tools can provide significant help for comparing plans and making recommendations. AI can gather information to create insights, recommendations and comparisons on plans, helping employees make the best decisions with information never available before.
  • Driving strategic decisions. As employers look to make longer-term decisions on benefits offerings, AI and machine learning can help with models that use historical data and statistical trends to help leadership make data-driven decisions.

Technology alone is never a complete solution. But these tech trends, when implemented with a solid foundation in employee experience, user experience, and domain expertise make the lives of benefits teams easier and allow them to make better use of their time, while also enabling employees to better take advantage of the benefits available to them.

Through automation of existing processes, consistent communication and collaboration throughout the fragmented workforce, a better use of data and analytics tools, and the use of AI as a support tool, technology can create a better employer and employee experience when it comes to benefits. These four tech trends allow employees to be educated about all offerings and easily enroll and participate in offerings, while management can gain insight into utilization rates and bottlenecks in the current process to make strategic decisions for the future.