Is technology friend or foe for benefits enrollment?

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Another open-enrollment season is under way, but it’s bound to look slightly different from the previous year. One major reason: HR and benefits technology, which keep moving the goal posts from both a tactical and strategic standpoint. Ronald Kleiman, CEO of BenefitVision, a partner firm of U.S. Retirement & Benefits Partners specializing in benefits communication and enrollment, explains how the digital landscape is changing the face of benefits enrollment.

How can constantly changing HR and benefits technology and the exploding use of smartphone apps serve to ease open enrollment for employers and their employees alike?

That’s the biggest challenge and problem that we’re facing in our enrollment industry. Self-service is creeping from what started out with large employers to midsize employers and now to the small employer market. Self-service is an oxymoron. If you’re doing it yourself, it’s not service. But the greatest issue is it doesn’t help anybody understand their benefits. It doesn’t engage them. It doesn’t help them make their decisions. It doesn’t inform them so they can make their decisions.

What’s interesting is people are now looking at their smartphones instead of computers, and we need to come up with better technology across the board. Our enrollment apps won’t fit on a smartphone where people can see it. But in itself, that doesn’t change the equation that’s going to help people understand those benefits and help them make better decisions. If we want to really help employees understand their benefits and appreciate their benefits, it’s not just the technology. It’s how are we going to engage them and help them make those decisions.

So how can employers actually engage their employee populations to make better choices?

You want employees to know why it is so important that they understand and appreciate those benefits, that it will cut your turnover and costs. You need to give them someone to talk to whether it’s done through your HR department or however you do it. Employees want someone to help them with the process. People just are passive. You also need to give them more choices. People love having more benefits. And if you’re using an enrollment firm, you can now pay for the enrollment firm by doing that. So as long as someone’s not being pushed to enroll for stuff, I think that is a major asset.

Where do you see technology headed in terms of its capabilities for benefits enrollment?

It’s going to evolve onto that smaller screen off of the computer, and I think it needs to. We need to translate that where it works on the handheld screen. Our firm’s technology will fit on the screen and resize itself, but that’s not quite the same as being designed to fit on that screen. I think the next step forward is going to be to look at that screen as an end result, not an accommodation, and look at it not just to put it there, but hopefully as a part of the process of engaging the employee.

How do you see benefits communication evolving around changing technology?

People don’t read anymore. It’s just absolutely stunning. So putting it there on an app as opposed to brochures and all the prep material, the use of text messages throughout the year I think is going to get better and better as we get smarter about using the available technology to effectively communicate benefits.

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