The traditional benefit administration platform is too entrenched in process application, overly focused on labor relations and lacks HRIS and other technology capabilities, Melissa Marrero, managing partner at Mequon, Wisc.-based consultancy Health Exchange Resources, said during a recent conference.

Employers and brokers have been focused on benefit design and communications and not the system that supports those items, she explained at the July conference sponsored by HR technology provider PlanSource in Park City, Utah.

Instead, she argued, brokers should be looking at a benefit delivery approach that concentrates on what gives the most impact. That includes total benefit and compensation statements. In the near future, it will be strategic HR, including benefit portals accessible to HR and employees, 24/7, on their own terms.

Historic measures of success for benefit programs revolved around service model and level of coverage. Now, success is measured by ease of use and accessibility, Marrero explained.

But, “the problem is most employers haven’t moved from measuring benefit administration in that model,” she explained. “It is still traditional, [and] not asking questions [such as] if you can access benefits when you need them.”

Simplified personalization
To overcome that challenge, Marrero recommended measuring relevance, which would be how employees can get what they need to do done without excessive clicks or phone calls.

“People want simplified, tech-enabled access and personalization across their … connected devices,” she said. “We want it in our hands. … The problem for the employer is there no one-stop shopping for all these services, because of multiple types of employees and health status.” To date, most benefit administration has been focused on cost, she added.

She suggested advisers work with their clients to find a middle ground that focuses on improved health and wealth decision-making, efficient benefit processes and compliance, but also contains user-friendly tools and support.

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Employers can expect to see more technology, a bigger focus on employee benefits and an enhanced job candidate experience in the next few years.

To do that, Marrero recommended employers work with their advisers to assess their current and future strategy over three-to-six months, by analyzing what services should be outsourced and what role a vendor plays.

From there, advisers should help their clients define business requirements, including what are the outsourced program requirements and priorities.

Phase two involves market survey and vendor selection and takes up to two years, she said. After that, there is implementation and ongoing review, to ensure employers have the most positive experience.

In the end, success will happen when advisers treat outsourcing as part of a long-term program strategy, she said.