Over the last ten years, technology innovations have changed the way that many of us manage our benefits programs. Moreover, the companies that provide these innovations have become important partners to the employers and consultants who are charged with managing a broad spectrum of benefit delivery functions – from employee education, to enrollment and decision-support, to compliance and ongoing administration. The world of benefits is still no picnic, but technology is certainly making a difference. What’s interesting, however, is that many employers have begun to ask if the rush to automation has impacted the quality of their employee interactions. In fact, a recent survey suggests that our new benefit processes could benefit from a little more of the human touch.
One study reports that employees actually prefer a combination of software tools and experienced, professional support when making benefit decisions. Employees in many different industries seem to struggle with important enrollment and consumer decisions and with understanding their benefits in a way that feels empowering. It’s also interesting that benefits communication is often cited as being more important to employee satisfaction than the quality or cost of the benefits themselves. Sad but true. And spending more on benefits while yielding poor employee satisfaction results is not a popular trend among HR and business leaders!
In response to these trends, many employers now offer employees the option of meeting with a professional benefit specialist who can explain the benefits and help the employee make informed decisions. Some sessions even include a tutorial of the benefits software, so the employee can be better prepared for a future self-service enrollment. This two-pronged approach ensures that there is a responsible transition to new software and that employees understand all of the tools available to them.
When you take a deeper dive into the numbers about what employees expect, you see the following:
- 60% of employees do not feel that they understand their benefit options, according to Aflac research.
- Regardless of generation, employees want additional support beyond technology, according to Metlife research.
There are different levels of support that employers can provide during the transition to a new technology platform, or even the (re)promotion of an existing technology platform.
1. One-on-one meetings. The most impactful option is a one-to-one session with a salaried (i.e., non-sales) representative explaining the details of the benefits being offered by the employer, while also guiding the employee through enrollment on the software. Interestingly, this type of support is also the most requested by employees – across every generation, including the millennials and XGens who are often the quickest to adopt new technology.
2. Group meetings. When one-to-one sessions are not possible, some organizations choose to set up group meetings or “café-style” enrollment centers. In the latter model, employees are invited to enroll at their convenience in a kiosk environment (picture a large meeting room or conference center with 5-10 stations) where a benefit specialist is available to help them navigate the software while providing general assistance with benefit questions.
3. Telephone support. A professional enrollment call center provides employees with a resource to answer technical support questions and, depending on the service provider, capture the employees’ elections. Call centers are a practical solution for employees who travel or work remotely and for organizations where face-to-face meetings would cause a significant disruption to operational workflows.
Taking the time to develop a strategic plan for rolling out a new technology platform or gaining adoption in an existing platform will ensure your technology investment is well spent. Today’s technology is making a difference in the way employees understand, participate and utilize benefits, but it may need a helping hand to optimize its impact and yield the best results while improving employee satisfaction in the process. With the cost and complexity of benefits increasing each year, adding a professional service layer to your technology solution may be more important than ever.
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