How Technology Helps Benefits Administrators

3 Ways Tech Is Helping Ben Admins Unleash Their Inner Hero

It used to be that employee benefits (and HR in general) were just an operating expense - the cost of doing business - represented by a litany of tedious administrative tasks and mountains of paperwork. At times, many administrators were lucky if they could even get up from their desks for five minutes to stretch their legs, let alone give any serious thought to strategy.

No more.

Thanks to the convergence of several factors, including the ACA, cost pressures and unprecedented workplace diversity, employee benefits have arguably taken on more significance than ever when it comes to the overall success of organizations. And thanks to specialized technology, benefits professionals can rise to that challenge, shifting from task-oriented administration to impactful, strategic management.

Here are three main ways this tech-enabled shift is taking place:

1. Efficiency & Accuracy

To err is human. But when it comes to health care and benefits, it can also have serious consequences.

Data entry mistakes on the part of a benefits administrator can result in employees being enrolled in the wrong health plan or not enrolled in a plan at all, creating a logistical mess for all involved (employees and their families, insurance carriers, payroll, etc.). And now the ACA, with its Employer Shared Responsibility provisions, has introduced more complexity than ever before. Many employers now have to track and report on employee hours, benefit eligibility, dependents, waiting periods, health care coverage offerings and enrollment, or pay the price of hefty penalties from the government. For the average organization, especially one with fluctuating work schedules (retail, hospitality, health care, etc.), manually gathering all of this information—and gathering it correctly—is a daunting effort.

New technology has made it possible for administrators to offload repetitive, time-consuming tasks through automated data exchange. Employers can now consolidate all benefits activity into online hubs that integrate with their insurance carriers and payroll systems, eliminating error-prone manual processes and simplifying ACA reporting. User-friendly workflows and dashboards are empowering administrators to handle the small details of their job more efficiently, with greater accuracy and confidence, so they can spend more time focusing on ways to improve their benefit programs - without worrying that something has slipped through the cracks.

2. Data-Driven Insight 

In their pursuit of improving their benefit programs, benefit administrators of course need a clear understanding of their benefit programs. That means access to good information. The better the information, the better decisions employers can make about what benefits to offer, how to communicate those benefits to employees and how to help employees extract the intended value from their benefits.

In the past, employers have gotten their information from several different sources, including third-party consulting, employee feedback and national surveys. While no doubt helpful, these sources fail to deliver the certainty of real-time data: information that presents the actual activity taking place within an employee population. With new benefit analytics tools, this insight is now possible.

Just as Amazon and Netflix guide their users' decisions by showing them what other users have done, the latest enterprise benefits management technology can guide benefits program decisions based on how employees are currently interacting with and using their benefits. Integrating and visualizing real-time benefits data (health care claims, enrollment transactions, etc.), these tools can help administrators identify cost drivers, evaluate the impact of plan design changes, improve utilization and other key strategic elements.

3. Meaningful Engagement

Like most HR professionals, benefits administrators don't go into their profession because they like to run reports; it's because they want to connect with and help people. And if there's any area where employees desperately need connection and help, it's benefits and health care.

As benefit programs evolve to reflect a more consumer-driven approach to health care, employees need more insight into what their benefit options actually mean for them - how their benefits fit into their personal situation. To avoid the confusion that can lead to poor decisions at enrollment time, employers need to have a communication plan that gives employees a simple, convenient and engaging way to inform and prepare themselves. But while most organizations feel like they currently communicate benefits effectively, only one out of five employees believes that’s the case.

One reason for this disparity could be that a majority of employers seems to ignore the simple fact that not every employee communicates the same way. Despite the unprecedented level of diversity in today’s workforce, nearly 90 percent of benefit professionals say they do not tailor their benefit communications for specific groups of employees. But technology can change that.

New online benefits communication tools enable administrators to easily personalize employee communications based on classification, demographics, geography and other factors. These solutions can identify the specific information an individual needs and send a tailored message that will resonate on a personal level, driving more meaningful engagement and more confident benefit decisions.

Conclusion

Benefits management has no doubt gotten harder, and the stakes are higher than ever. But the technology to help has evolved to match this reality, and put benefits administrators in a position to be company heroes - making benefits more than just a budget line item, but a key part of long-term organizational success.

For more on the tech-enabled shift to strategic benefits management, check out the on-demand webinar, Benefits in the Digital Age: 5 Things You Can't Ignore. Click here to access!