SHRM 2018 - 3 Key Themes on Benefit Administration
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SHRM Conference 2018: 3 Key Themes on Benefit Administration

The Benefitfocus team was in Chicago last week for the SHRM 2018 Annual Conference & Exposition. As usual, the breadth of HR-related content shared throughout the event was impressive. But, naturally, we paid the most attention to the benefit administration track.

Here are some of the key themes that emerged from the conference sessions specific to benefit administration:

1. Benefits for a Diverse Workforce

Today's workforce now spans five generations, as post-millennials – also known as Gen Z, Plurals or iGen – take their first jobs out of school. Employers, especially those facing a shortage of skilled labor, must prepare for an influx of all-new values, characteristics and behaviors.

On top of that, the way people are choosing to work is quickly changing, and therefore so is the way companies are having to hire workers. Today, many organizations employ an array of full-time, part-time and contingent workers. And I was fascinated to learn from one session presenter that by 2020, it's estimated that nearly half of Americans will work in a contingent or independent manner.

The increasing diversity of the workforce creates both a challenge and an opportunity for employers to develop more expansive, inclusive benefit programs that can meet the needs of employees of all ages and lifestyles. From digital health services to identity theft protection to student loan refinancing, offering more non-traditional benefits gives workers the ability to cover every aspect of their lives. And in doing so, organizations can better differentiate themselves in the labor market as an "employer of choice."

But the effectiveness of offering a more robust benefits package depends heavily on 1) the ease with which employers can implement and administer additional benefits, and 2) the ease with which employees can navigate their options and select the right benefits for their particular circumstances.

Learn how Benefitfocus is helping organizations with both of these elements, and making it easier for them to offer greater choice in benefits to protect employee health, wealth and happiness.

2. Overhauling Benefits Communication

Another theme echoed throughout the benefit administration track – and really the whole conference – was the need to focus on improving communication and employee engagement. In today's workplace, being an HR expert should mean being a communication expert, as well.

When it comes to communicating benefits, specifically, employers have two major things going against them:

  1. Benefits are complex. Many employees are unable to correctly define basic health insurance terminology, let alone understand what their benefit options really mean for them.
  2. Employees face a daily barrage of communication from all angles. Their email inboxes are overflowing, their smartphones are constantly buzzing and their social media feeds refresh every second. There's a lot of noise employers have to contest with to be heard by their employees.

To win the battle for employees' attention, to connect with them and guide them to smart benefit decisions, employers need to take a fresh approach to communication. One approach that makes a lot of sense is treating benefits like any other consumer good that employees "buy," and using marketing strategy and tactics to "sell" them to employees.

By taking a page or two from the marketing playbook, employers can cut through the communication clutter, simplify complex topics and ultimately drive meaningful action among employees. Not only that, a well-thought-out, marketing-inspired communication plan can give administrators back the time they traditionally spend answering the same benefit questions from employees over and over again.

Learn more about how to communicate benefits like a marketing pro.

3. The Uncertain Future of ACA and Health Care Reform

The conference featured few sessions on the subject, but the ever-changing regulatory landscape of benefit administration was certainly on the minds of attendees. It popped up in conversations throughout the week, with folks wondering what's next for the ACA and health care reform.

As campaign season heats up in advance of November's midterm elections, it's possible we could see some activity in Congress that could impact employers, including:

  • Health savings account (HSA) reform
  • Association health plans (AHPs)
  • Public option proposals like Medicare Part E

Regardless of any forthcoming policy changes, however, conference attendees agreed that employers have a greater strategic imperative to continue looking for ways to provide competitive benefits at a sustainable cost, and to engage employees and help them get the most value from those benefits.

Still, it's important to keep an eye on what's happening in Washington.

Check out this on-demand webinar for more on the current state of ACA and health care reform, including a look at the potential impacts of the Congressional midterm elections in November.

American Eagle Drives Smart Benefit Decisions with Benefitfocus Technology

In addition to taking in all of this great content from other presenters at the conference, Benefitfocus presented in a session of our own.

American Eagle Outfitters, a Benefitfocus customer, joined us to share how our partnership has enabled them to effectively communicate benefits and manage enrollment for their 44,000-plus employees.

Download the full case study to learn how American Eagle achieved a 350 percent increase in adoption of high-deductible health plans during their latest open enrollment with Benefitfocus.