To paraphrase Tennyson very loosely, at this point in the year, the thoughts of many HR pros turn to Annual Enrollment. AE is effectively the year’s “main event.” The spotlight is on, and it’s time to shine.
There’s a lot at stake. Employers offer benefits for two important reasons, both inexorably tied to organizational success:
- To recruit and retain the workforce
- To support the workplace culture and employee value proposition
Record-low unemployment and demographic trends are making it harder to hang onto human capital, so the benefits you manage are more visible. Employees value their benefits highly, and there’s a correlation between competitive benefits and employee tenure.
So, how do you differentiate? How do you both highlight and manage your program to ensure you’re generating the optimal ROI for the organization, both during Annual Enrollment and throughout the year as employees are using their benefits?
Two words: Benefits technology.
Benefits technology connects your employees to their benefits seamlessly and successfully while also providing you with the flexibility and information you need to do your job well. Both types of end-users are important, and each has a set of unique needs. The best benefits technology solutions meet the needs of both benefits pros and employees, both for enrollment and for ongoing engagement.
What do benefits and HR pros need?
HR and benefits teams continue to be asked to do more, so an approach that creates value without adding work is important. Ideally, look for a solution that delivers on the following.
- It addresses employee questions, so you don’t have to. A recent study found that 17% of HR teams spend 20 hours a week or more responding to inquiries about administrative tasks. When employees can rely on the solution for answers, that can free up significant time for you to focus on more strategic work.
- It provides meaningful, real-time data. HR and benefits teams oversee significant spend for big-ticket costs like compensation, training and benefits. This requires understanding things like utilization and, ultimately, ROI. Having access to data on an easy-to-use dashboard helps you keep your fingers on the pulse of what’s happening during Annual Enrollment and throughout the year. And, it makes ongoing reporting easier to accomplish.
- It helps with compliance. Benefits administration is complex and adhering to myriad rules around such items as notifications can be challenging. Automated communications and associated reporting take the burden of manual fulfillment and tracking off your plate.
What do employees need?
Employees are benefits consumers, not pros, so their needs around technology go to their experience choosing and using benefits. More and more, expectations around benefits delivery are informed by how people behave in their lives outside the workplace. While this is especially true for Millennials, all employees are looking for easy access and support that solves for a lack of deep benefits knowledge. And, to help cut through the complexity, they crave personalization.
State-of-market benefits technology can address these expectations:
- Providing end-to-end access. In addition to traditional web-based access, any benefits solution should offer an easy-to-use, robust mobile experience along with live support. While employees may not use mobile exclusively for their benefits access, some certainly will. That’s why mobile must be available, and why it should enable users to do whatever they are able to do online. And, for truly complex issues or for those who want to speak to someone, live assistance should be part of the solution.
- Delivering 24/7/365 service. People don’t have benefits questions only during business hours. And when they do have questions, they want answers immediately. These expectations can’t be successfully addressed with only a call center. An online benefits assistant, powered by AI and machine learning, can answer employee questions with no wait time. This technology offers voice recognition and can speak back to the user, and it also supports multiple languages. This allows employees to get answers whenever and wherever they need.
- Offering decision guidance. Benefits are complex, and there are more options as employers create robust programs that employees can customize for their own situation. In addition to traditional coverage, employees often have access to complementary voluntary offerings. While employees want choices, they also want support. Low benefits literacy can infuse choice-making with stress and potentially lead to over- or under-insurance. A choice architecture that is easy to understand and that offers easy-to-use and -understand decision assistance reduces the stress and risk of enrollment.
The key takeaway here is that the right technology can help drive value from an organization’s benefits program.
- First, it can free up the time and talent of HR and benefits professionals by solving for certain specific day-to-day challenges that not only eat up time but that also potentially expose the employer to risk.
- And, second, it creates the kind of experience that employees want and expect, strengthening understanding and appreciation of benefits, which helps with retention.
With advances in technology, benefits delivery is now constantly evolving to become more sophisticated and impactful. Don’t settle for functionality that met your needs a few years ago. Whatever your current solution, make sure to take advantage of any enhancements and additional functionality. Seek the best experience for both your team and your employees and generate the highest return on your overall investment.
As planning for Annual Enrollment gets into full swing for many employers, setting goals around benefits choice-making and delivery success makes sense. As part of offering benefits that meet larger organizational goals, HR pros should think critically and strategically about how they are connecting benefits to both employees and their own departments and expect a higher level of function and experience from their benefits technology solutions moving into this year’s Annual Enrollment and beyond.
Learn more about how one organization used technology to double their benefits membership.