Five tips for employee benefits technology solutions in 2021

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Organizations are increasingly turning to technology for their benefits administration as an efficient and compliant solution to manage the ever-changing world of employee benefits. The transition to digitizing benefits administration can offer advantages in both management efficiencies and culture. Employers that are more digital than paper-based in managing their benefits programs report higher levels of employee satisfaction with their benefits.1 In addition, workers who have a more digital experience when learning about, enrolling in, and using their benefits, tend to have more favorable attitudes toward the value of their employee benefits package.

The use of workplace benefits technology has seen significant growth in the past three years. Since 2017, there has a 70 percent increase in benefits administration via online platforms. Also, the recent growth in the remote workforce will likely accelerate the digital adoption curve. “In the age of COVID-19, having access to benefit information via an online portal is imperative, as in-person meetings are limited at best. Providing employees with a repository to not only view and understand benefits, but to complete election changes is a very important aspect of supporting remote work,” says Andy Moore, Director of API Program and Digital Partnerships at Guardian.

The shift to digitizing employee benefits increasingly seems to be much less of an “if” and more of a “when.” So, what should employers be prepared for when making the transition to an online benefits administration platform?

1. Establish your objectives

Before getting started, clearly identify your organization’s primary motivation for re-assessing its benefits strategy. Is it to move away from paper and convert all administration to digital platforms? Are you dissatisfied with your current benefit technology platform, capabilities, services, or cost structure? Or perhaps you’re scanning the market for new technology to ensure that your current platform is still the best fit for your organization.

While doing your due diligence and researching which solution would be most appropriate for your business, it’s important to know that not all platforms are equal. A platform’s ability to support different types of benefits and eligibility rules will widely vary. Clearly defining your objectives will help to narrow down options and parse out any solutions that won’t be the right match.

2. Decide what services you need

Once your objectives are established, deciding what services you’ll need is the next step in your transition. In addition to providing enrollment software, employee benefits technology platforms often offer wrap around services like spending accounts, COBRA administration, ACA reporting, and call center support. Adding these types of services can be both cost-efficient and an administrative win for your organization, depending on your needs.

3. Talk to your benefits broker

Thanks to new cloud-based applications, employers of all sizes have gained more access to platforms that handle many aspects of human capital management (HCM), including benefits administration. As you look at options, make sure to talk to your benefits broker to see what solutions they might provide. Many benefits brokers offer solutions directly or can recommend a solutions provider. These options might offer discounted access to benefits administration systems or tools that are otherwise unavailable.

4. Determine your in-house benefits technology management

Employers say that managing benefits is becoming increasing complicated, with 59 percent in 2019 claiming that they are challenged by complexity, up from 47 percent in 2012. When considering benefit technology platforms, make sure to understand the levels of service the provider offers. This will help your team prepare for the commitment required of them to manage a new employee benefits technology solution.

Employers that are most challenged with the complexity of managing benefits are twice as likely to digitize their benefits processes. Avoiding platforms that seem to require more internal bandwidth than your team can handle will help to prevent administrative bottlenecks. The right human capital management solution for your organization will serve to streamline benefits administration, help to establish greater efficiencies, and lighten the workload for your employees.

5. Educate yourself about cost structure

Investments in workplace benefits technology continue to grow, with nearly half of employers allocating financial commitments to the digitalization process since 2017. In addition, 52 percent expect to increase their benefit technology budget over the next three years. Although your organization may be prepared to make an investment or increase its current commitment, business models, ecosystems, and pricing structures will vary across providers. Here are five questions that will help in understanding cost structure while making your evaluations.

  1. What is the per employee per month (PEPM) fee, are there minimums, and what services are included in the fee?
  2. Are there fees to build out or update electronic data interchange (EDI) feeds?
  3. Are there fees charged at renewals?
  4. How much experience do they have exchanging data with your current payroll provider, insurance carriers, and/or third-party administrator vendors?
  5. How are they embracing new and emerging technologies like APIs and artificial intelligence to improve their platform?

Familiarizing yourself with the workplace benefit technology trends will also be a big help in understanding what emerging technologies to look for in a provider. Download our infographic below to learn more