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Automation in Employee Benefits: A Necessity for Today’s Workforce

Selerix Leadership

May 29, 2024

Originally published in BenefitsPro

In a world driven by instant gratification, consumers are not the only group that expects quick and seamless experiences. Employees, HR teams, and benefits leaders do, too. From using a smartphone to pay at the gas pump to snapping up the latest fashion trends with a single click, the digital revolution has conditioned us to favor speed and efficiency in every aspect of life. This expectation seamlessly extends into the professional sphere, including having a significant impact on how the entire landscape of employee benefits. When HR adds a new hire to payroll, they want it to happen in real time. Employees want to immediately see the change they just made to their 401(k) contribution amount show up on the app for their employee benefits portal. Benefits leaders want to be able to compare current, updated offerings among benefit providers.

While today’s demand for benefits-related tools to be efficient, fast, and comprehensive is felt in every industry, it’s most acutely experienced by HR and benefits leaders — and employees — in high-turnover industries. For example:

  • Truck drivers and other delivery workers are out on the road and only have access to benefits and HR information from a mobile device. This has traditionally hampered clear, robust, and timely communication for the driver and HR.
  • Education wrestles with serious employment fluctuations at the beginning and end of every school year and often at mid-year. The roller-coaster of onboarding, offboarding, and payroll is challenging without a way to fit into the rhythm of payroll and employee benefits — and still get everything done accurately and on time.
  • Health care employers, from urgent care clinics to hospital systems, must deal with a vast array of differences in benefits eligibility across roles, full-time or part-time status, certifications, and more. Managing this manually can be a nightmare.

In short, today’s employees, HR teams, and benefits leaders want their interactions and benefits tools to mirror the convenience they experience in their consumer lives. Everyone in the company wants to spend less time on administrative tasks and have more time for things that matter — and use tools that have less room for error.

Traditional paperwork or slow, manual processes are no longer acceptable. Why should employees have to wait for weeks on enrollment confirmations when a mobile app can deliver instant proof? This shift in mindset means employers who are striving to attract and retain top talent — and trying to foster a fully engaged workforce — must integrate automation within their employee benefits.

Benefits advisors who understand this shift and appreciate its impact on corporate America today can act as trusted advisors to employers and, through that, increase their value to clients, expand business with current customers, and grow their business.

Ripe for digital transformation

Far too often, HR departments are bogged down by the cumbersome, error-prone task of managing employees’ benefits manually. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. By automating this process, companies can minimize human error and increase efficiency, all while providing a streamlined, user-friendly experience for employees.

One of the main benefits of implementing automation in employee benefits is, in fact, to eliminate paper-based processes. The argument really could be this simple. Not only does this save time and resources, it also reduces the risk of data entry errors and lost documents. With automated systems, employees can meanwhile access and manage their benefits information through a single platform, eliminating the need for multiple logins and paperwork.

Additionally, automation allows for real-time data tracking and reporting. This increases transparency and accuracy, and it provides HR departments and company leadership with valuable insights into employee preferences and trends. With this information, companies can make informed decisions about their benefits offerings, ensuring that they are meeting the needs of their workforce — with the support of a benefits consultant or broker they trust.

Moreover, automation can improve the overall employee experience. Streamlining processes and providing easy access to information makes employees feel more in control of their own benefits and gives them a better understanding of their options. This leads to higher satisfaction and engagement among employees, ultimately contributing to a more productive and motivated workforce.

So, the future of employee benefits is undoubtedly digital. With its numerous advantages, it’s clear that automating employee benefits is not only beneficial for businesses but also for their employees. 

5 ways ben admin automation can make a difference

Here is a deeper look at five areas where automated employee benefits can reap rewards for employers and their workforce and where benefits advisors can help guide change.

1. Redefining communication: Automation can revolutionize how information about benefits is disseminated within a company. Instead of static emails or printed documents that can quickly become outdated or misplaced, automated systems can deliver timely, personalized updates directly to an employee’s device.

This real-time communication ensures that the workforce remains informed about their benefits options without sifting through piles of paper or a cluttered inbox. It also allows for easier access to important information, such as plan documents, enrollment deadlines, and any changes to benefits offerings. Automation can also improve communication between employees and HR. Through self-service portals, employees can quickly get answers to their benefits questions without needing to wait for a response from HR. This saves time and reduces the burden on HR professionals, allowing them to focus on more strategic tasks.

2. Streamlining onboarding and annual enrollment: For new hires, onboarding presents the crucial first impression of a company’s operations. Automation can turn a once tedious paper-based process into an engaging digital experience. New employees can select their benefits packages through interactive platforms that highlight options and costs with clarity, making decisions simpler and more informed. 

Automating benefits also streamlines the enrollment process — for employees and HR. With online portals, employees can easily view and compare benefit options, make changes to their selections, and enroll in just a few clicks. This eliminates the need for paper forms or manual data entry by HR, reducing the likelihood of errors and saving time.

Additionally, automated systems can provide employees with personalized recommendations based on their individual needs and preferences. These decision-support tools help employees make more informed decisions while ensuring employees are selecting the best benefits options for themselves and their families.

3. Making data management more efficient: The use of technology in administering benefits drives better data collection and analysis for HR and benefits leaders. They are empowered to gather valuable insights into which benefits are most popular, how employees are utilizing their benefits, and what changes may be necessary to meet the needs of a diverse workforce.

This data-driven approach can help HR departments and benefits leaders make better-informed decisions about benefit offerings, pricing, and communication strategies. It also allows for a more proactive approach to addressing any issues or concerns that may arise with employee benefits. Compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is another area of data management where benefits automation can make a huge difference for overworked and harried HR teams. An optimal benefits administration vendor will have a module on its platform that provides more than giving the HR leader the ability to create job tickets. It will offer a robust project management tool for ACA compliance that gives HR ongoing snapshots and a clear outlook throughout the year and has features like automated 1095-C code population and electronic IRS submission and real-time insights into workforce eligibility.

4. Enhancing the entire employee experience: By streamlining and automating benefits throughout the entire employee life cycle, organizations can greatly enhance the overall employee experience. Employees get quick and easy access to their benefits information, can make changes as needed, and receive timely communication about any updates or changes. This not only improves satisfaction with the benefits program but also increases engagement and productivity.

5. Helping HR be more proactive in supporting the employee experience: One thing that, of course, has not changed is that HR today, as always, wants to make sure employees are cared for and supported. Today, that means more than just providing the right tools and workplace to do their jobs, but also providing programs, benefits, and support to make their lives away from work better. To do that, HR leaders need all the pieces of the puzzle working together — core benefits, voluntary benefits, programs like employee resource groups, and outside resources. An automated benefits system with a centralized platform or hub for all programs and services helps ensure employees are aware of the care and benefits that they have access to and are able to tap into those resources without jumping through hoops. It’s a simple notion that creates a powerful ripple effect on the employee experience.

For example, the right benefits administration platform can engage employees with communication that goes beyond benefits. It will take into account birthdays, company anniversaries, and other professional and personal milestones, and will have the functionality to set schedules to send personalized notes to employees at the right time. This level of personalization not only shows that the company cares about its employees but also helps them feel empowered and valued.

Flexibility and customization: keys to successful automation

While the larger framework of benefits automation is clear, it is equally important that any tool employed by an organization provides enough flexibility to address specific needs. A one-size-fits-all approach does not suffice in catering to a diverse workforce. Customization options allow companies to automate the aspects of employee benefits most impactful to their operations. For some, this might mean focusing on automated health insurance enrollment reminders. For others, it’s about having a robust self-service portal for employees to manage their benefits independently.

In an era where the phrase “time is money” has never been more pertinent, the ability to provide personalized and meaningful information at the instant it’s needed holds immense value. For HR professionals and benefits leaders, real-time data can illuminate trends and inform strategic decisions around benefits offerings. For employees, accessibility to current benefits information — and freedom from administrative red tape — can elevate job satisfaction and overall engagement.

Obviously, adopting automation in benefits isn’t an overnight process. It requires strategic planning, stakeholder buy-in, and a willingness to invest in the right technologies. However, the rewards of such a transition — a more satisfied workforce, a competitive edge in talent acquisition, and a more efficient HR operation — are well worth the effort. Benefit brokers can play a valuable supporting role in this process. 

Final thoughts

The modern workplace demands modern solutions, and in the realm of employee benefits, automation is the answer. By mirroring the convenience and customization that today’s workforce experiences in their personal lives, companies can ensure that properly managing benefits is not just a necessity but a strategic asset. In prioritizing automation in benefits, organizations will not merely keep pace but set the standard for a contemporary, efficient, and engaged workplace. 

For HR professionals and benefits advisors, the message is clear: To deliver on the expectations of today’s workforce, automating employee benefits isn’t just a luxury — it’s a critical element in the blueprint for business success in the digital age.

Brittany Biggs is the Director of Client Services for Selerix, a provider of benefits administration solutions for employers and carriers. 

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