Are You Prepared for a New Benefits Model?

Craig Stephens

May 24, 2021

Man at laptop

Originally published on BenefitsPro

If you’re a broker in the fiercely competitive world of employee benefits today and you want to keep your current business, expand wallet share, and gain new clients, you need to take a hard look at how a more employee-centric model for benefits administration technology and service is dramatically gaining traction.

Increasingly, the trend is that employers (and your competition) are relying on fewer and more-comprehensive partners to deliver the administration, benefits and technology that the new benefits business model demands. They’re looking to meet three critical needs:

  • A modernized user experience (for the employee and the benefits administrator)
  • A full array of benefits that care for and nourish the whole employee—and experienced support that employers and employees are demanding around those benefits
  • Efficient, employee-specific communication that drives employee understanding and appreciation, engagement and ROI

A quick explanation of the new benefits model

HR systems are being reimagined from the perspective of the needs of the employee, rather than the needs of medical claims payors and HR processes. They’ve also moved away from focusing so much on core medical, dental and vision benefits.

Yes, this transformation has been evolving for several years, but now it’s caught fire and isn’t going to change direction. The COVID-19 pandemic made employers and employees much more focused on benefits needs that are more holistic and simpler to access.

Employees and employers are seeking benefits that put the employee at the center and benefits platforms that make life easier and better for employees in every aspect of their lives. This goes beyond making the employee portal and user experience friendlier; the actual benefits being offered are changing. More large organizations are experimenting with broader portfolios of benefits and tools for everything from financial wellness to physical health to mental well-being. The lines are blurring between the narrow categorization of benefits and even between who in an organization is responsible for which program.

Look who’s getting all the love now: voluntary benefits

As the demand for integrated health care benefits continues to grow, voluntary products are now in the spotlight. Once the lonely tag-along benefits, voluntary benefits are opening up in a huge way as employers and brokers race to modernize benefits to resonate with the younger generations in today’s workforce and deal with the ramifications of the pandemic.

For example, employer investment in employee well-being rose over 500% in 2020 compared with 2019, according to an analysis of the employee well-being landscape by The Starr Conspiracy. New benefits today run a huge gamut, including:

  • Flexibility of workplace and hours
  • Having a voice in a company’s values and mission—two-way communication
  • Community focus
  • Support for nontraditional and multigenerational families
  • Student loan repayment
  • Financial planning and counseling for all employees
  • Lifestyle flexibility
  •  Lifestyle benefits, like subprime loans through employers

What’s a broker to do?

By now, it may be clear why this article started with the bold claim that the trend is moving toward employers—and your competition—relying on fewer trusted partners (or maybe only one) who can deliver the administration, benefits and technology for the new business model. That partner needs to deliver:

  • A modernized user experience for the employee and the benefits administrator
  • A full array of benefits, core and voluntary, focused on delivery of the employee-centric experience and supporting the whole employee
  • Efficient, targeted communication that helps employees understand their benefits and that drives employee engagement and ROI

Is there truly integrated and automated employee benefits administration and employee engagement software? What are the key elements to look for in those three critical areas? Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.

Without the right communication delivered to the right people at the right time, the odds that any program or initiative will gain traction and succeed drop significantly.

  •  Search out a solution vendor that empowers employers to truly connect with their employees. After all, half of all employees are either unsatisfied or only partially satisfied with their current benefits.
  • Look for a platform vendor with integrated engagement software to create impactful, personalized communications and a user-friendly enrollment experience. When it comes to an array of benefits, look for a partner that not only has the products but also the technology to seamlessly manage all of an employer’s benefit plans, no matter how complex they might be.
  • A solution provider with a broad and deep inventory of core and voluntary/worksite benefits will reduce hassles, headaches and compliance risks for employers.
  • The right technology will also allow HR to access employee and group structure history, electronic document storage and more, at the touch of a button. Look for a solution provider that has years of experience and can manage life events, eligibility, compliance and demographic changes in one convenient location.
  • If that partner also has integrated employee engagement capabilities, you’ll have a one-two punch for solving the dilemma many employers face. Be sure your partner can manage large and complex configurations and sets of benefit business rules. The user experience for the administrator and the employees is more than having a slick user interface (although that’s nice to have).
  •  Make sure your technology partner has a first-class, highly experienced and dedicated team of service experts who work with your clients from setup through implementation and beyond.
  • Ensure the partner you go with offers a 24/7 experience for employees simply with an internet connection from any device—without requiring the employee to download another app.

It’s a tough bill to fill. You’ll find vendors of benefits administration technology that are strong in one or more of those three critical areas. You’ll find some employee engagement solutions can knock communication out of the park. But brokers who want to position themselves as a trusted advisor going forward need a partner that covers all three bases solidly and expertly.

Craig Stephens is Chief Revenue Officer at Selerix, an industry-leading provider of benefits administration software. 

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