Browse, point, click: Embrace today’s benefits technology

We buy everything from clothing to groceries with a simple click. People — both young and old — prefer online shopping, as opposed to fighting crowds and searching store aisles. This self-service shopping mentality is also becoming the preferred method when it comes to buying employee benefits.

“Now, more than ever, employers are looking to manage costs while reducing administrative burden. And, employees want the convenience of shopping for benefits online utilizing smartphones and tablets,” says Ron Smuch, insurance and benefits analyst at JRG Advisors.

Smart Business spoke with Smuch about embracing employee benefits technology.

How have employee benefits changed?

As the health care landscape has changed, so too has benefits technology. Although HR systems have existed since the 1980s, they weren’t developed to be very robust or flexible because they did not have to be. Now, employee benefits administration has become quite complicated and, according to many HR managers, a nightmare. The demand for technology has created a boom in software development and platforms that support enrollment, status changes, compliance, COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985) and record keeping.

This technology growth is the product of several key factors, such as the inception of the Affordable Care Act and its compliance requirements, particularly how and to whom benefits are offered as well as how enrollments and waivers are tracked and reported. Another key factor is the popularity of high-deductible health plans. Employee cost sharing causes employers to embrace the concept of defined contribution aimed at empowering employees to make coverage choices for their specific needs, utilize those coverages wisely and ultimately take an active role in managing their health.

Employees are no longer simply enrolling in a set benefits plan that may not suit their personal circumstances.

Why do some employers hesitate to get this technology?

Many employers still shy away from benefits administration technology under the false assumption that their employee population prefers paper enrollment. A 2016 LIMRA Study: Benefit Communication and Enrollment revealed that 38 percent of employers believe employees want to use a computer to enroll in employee benefits and 27 percent believe that employees still want to enroll with paper forms. Conversely, 68 percent of employees said they prefer online enrollment and only 16 percent preferred paper forms. Surveyed employees who preferred online enrollment felt that companies still using paper enrollment were stuck in the past, out of touch with today’s technology or thought that it would simply be better done electronically.

The study also found that 10 percent of employers automatically re-enroll employees annually in some type of benefit, but less than 10 percent of employees prefer this process.

With more millennials entering the workforce, LIMRA believes the disconnect between employers’ paper-centric enrollment mentality and the modern technological approach of their employees will only grow.

How can employers find the right solutions?

While there are many benefits technology solutions on the market today, it is imperative you find the right technology to fit the needs of your company, your benefits program and your employee population. You should work with a knowledgeable employee benefits professional who has experience with benefits technology software to help you align your company goals with the correct technology solution.

Consider questions like: What are your ultimate employee benefit objectives? How could technology support your objectives? Does your employee benefits program present any major challenges? How might technology help alleviate those challenges?

Implementing the right benefits technology solution can not only ease the administration burden on your company and HR staff, but also improve your employees’ awareness and understanding of their benefits. The end result is a more engaged employee, which has been proven to increase productivity and performance.

Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by JRG Advisors