The tech savvy adviser: strategies for modernizing benefits communication

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LAS VEGAS — Several days prior to the start of open enrollment, a text message pops up on employees’ smartphones with a link to coordinate a sit-down with a benefits counselor. A few days later, a voicemail from a consultant encouraging workers to get excited about enrolling in benefits and offering an option for a call with a spouse, who may also be using benefits.

This is just one way Chris Wolpert, founder of the consulting firm Custom Benefits Solutions, said brokers could use technology to modernize their open enrollment communications strategy. Although employees are increasingly used to adopting new technology, many employers have still not updated their benefits enrollment processes, Wolpert said, speaking at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Workplace Benefits Mania conference last week.

“There’s still a lot of spreadsheets, a lot of paper processes,” he said. “There are many ways to leverage tech to make it more efficient for HR directors.”

While there is a burgeoning number of benefits tech solutions, many employers are not using up-to-date tools. About 70% of employers feel their HR systems were not a fit for the modern workforce and only 9% say their company’s HR technology met expectations, according to recent data from software company SumTotal and Fosway Group. Employers have struggled to keep up with the pace of HR technology, but brokers may be able to help, experts say.

See also: Employers’ tech is out of date. Here’s why they need to update it

Caitlin Hodge, benefits adviser at insurance agency HJ Spier, said brokers need to move away from once a year open enrollment meetings and instead should look for ways to use technology to engage workers all year round. For example, a mobile application can be a good way for employers to keep benefits top of mind for employees, Hodge said. Employers can elect to send alerts as often as they want, which will remind workers about the benefits they have available to them.

“You have some employers get so involved in it that they start using [the] app as their hub,” she said.

Advisers may also need to rethink how they are approaching internal employee communications. Eric Silverman, founder of Voluntary Disruption, said employers need to look at benefits communication as internal marketing. Employers often allocate considerable communication efforts to recruit new talent, but they spend significantly less continuing to engage workers once they are hired. For instance, short videos of executives that can be shared with employees at offices across the country, can help keep workers connected with corporate.

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“It’s all about marketing internally with your clients,” he said. “This is a constant reinforcement of ultimately why they work there and how amazing and incredible it is.”

Ultimately, it’s about meeting clients where they are and finding solutions that work for their unique needs, said Danny O’Connell, founder of Next Level Insurance. Advisers should cultivate close relationships with service providers and have a good understanding of what they bring to the table.

“All of our clients are different,” he said. “You want to work with good reliable partners who can provide all the solutions for that client.”

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