HR Technology Conference 2017: Top 3 Takeaways for Benefits Pros

HR Technology Conference 2017: Top 3 Takeaways for Benefit Pros

Last week, the Benefitfocus team attended Human Resource Executive's annual HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas.

There was naturally a different feel to this trip than in years past, with the city reeling from the tragic events of October 1 (the conference show-runners should be commended for their respectful recognition of the victims, their families and first responders). But the superior quality of the conference's content hadn't changed at all. There was still plenty of insight for HR leaders to take back home.

In addition to sharing all-new solutions to help employers streamline COBRA administration and consumer-directed healthcare account management, the Benefitfocus team was able to attend several sessions throughout the conference that shed light on key trends impacting the function of employee benefit professionals.

Here are some of the top takeaways we gathered specific to the benefits function:

1. Employees want a personalized work experience.

Outside of work, when your employees log on to their Amazon or Netflix accounts, everything they see revolves around them. Their name, their recent activity, their recommended next activity, etc.

And this hasn't just made it easier for them to shop and entertain themselves; it's conditioned them to operate in a personalized environment, where their needs and preferences dictate the process—whatever the process may be. So when it comes to work, employees have come to expect a similar degree of personalization. 

During last week's conference, Mercer shared results from its latest Talent Trends Study, which reflected the expectation of employees that their employer "make work work" for their individual circumstances.1 Things like flexible work options, career development and financial counseling are just some of the ways employees are looking for a more personalized work experience.

Health and wellness are another key area of focus, and one that you as a benefits professional can directly impact.

It starts with providing an enrollment experience that makes it easy for employees to identify the most cost-effective choices for their individual situation. Tools to help employees answer the question, What benefits does someone like me need?, are becoming increasingly crucial to making sure employees aren't exposed to more risk than they can handle.

Your benefits communication plan is also an important consideration in personalizing workplace health and wellness. Understand that your employees have a wide range of preferences for how they want to receive information (email, text, video, face-to-face meeting, etc.), and the better you can cater to that, the better your efforts will resonate and drive meaningful action. A multimedia, multi-channel and mobile-friendly approach to communication helps you meet employees where they are—and shows them you understand how they operate.

For more on optimizing your benefits communication efforts, check out this free on-demand webcast!

2. Technology has to do more than just automate.

Since their emergence, HR technologies have been built primarily to automate existing processes. But a key theme at the conference was that this simply isn't going to cut it anymore.

Talent management strategies are more important for companies than ever before, and HR leaders need technology designed to help them be more strategic.

That's especially true for benefits, which account for over 30 percent of total compensation costs and play a leading role in talent attraction and retention. 

Just like your peers in finance have moved to specialized technology that helps them strategically manage things like expense management, so too do you have an opportunity to use new technologies to take a more strategic approach to benefits. Many of the systems companies use today for benefits administration – benefits "modules" built onto an HCM platform or ERP system – were built primarily for automation and simply don't offer the level of sophistication needed to efficiently support things like:

  • Complex eligibility rules
  • New benefit types
  • Regulatory compliance changes
  • Personalized communication and enrollment
  • Health plan cost control

At Benefitfocus, we talk about this sophistication in terms of our Benefits Management Maturity Model, which is comprised of four distinct phases today's organizations fall into, based on the benefits technology they use.

Click here to find out where you currently stand, and learn more about the steps you can take to enable strategic benefits management.

3. Data is powerful, but only insofar as you can use it.

It's no secret that data can and should drive business decisions. The real question is how.

As a benefits professional, most of your biggest decisions are related to plan design—making sure that coverage is adequate to meet employees' needs, and that you're not over-spending in certain areas. Traditionally, your brokers and consultants have been a big help here, but emerging technology has made it possible for you to take things a step further.

If you're self-funded, the data you need to proactively manage your group health plan is yours to use; it's just a matter of how readily available it is that determines if you can use it effectively. If you're currently just getting monthly or quarterly reports from a third party, you're limited in your ability to proactively make necessary course corrections. It's like only looking at your personal bank statement once a month, and finding out too late that you've spent twice your allotted budget for eating out. Thankfully, with online banking, you can check your account activity at any time. You can and should have the same accessibility to your benefits data.

But it's one thing to have ready access to your data, and another thing to understand what it means. That’s why data visualization and smart reporting tools are so important, because you can't spend your entire day poring over spreadsheets trying to figure out what’s going on. You need clear, immediate answers.

And then once you get those answers, you need to be able to act on it. Say, for instance, you notice you're spending a lot on name-brand prescriptions for a certain condition where a generic is available. With data analytics tools that enable you to model plan design changes, you could easily see what the impact would be if you tweaked cost-sharing levels for name-brand drugs. (And with sophisticated communication tools that enable the personalization discussed earlier, you could also launch a targeted communication campaign to encourage the relevant individuals to switch to generics.)

Learn more about tools that can transform your benefits data into dollar-saving decisions.

What's next?

Benefitfocus has its own annual HR technology conference, but the content is 100-percent focused on benefits!

Join us in March for One Place 2018, and see the latest solutions built to simplify benefits communication, enrollment and administration—all while networking with peers and learning about key trends shaping the benefits function.

Register today to take advantage of Early Bird savings!