The secret to open enrollment tech? Don’t overthink it

If you’ve ever sat down to discuss the role of technology in benefits and the future impact of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data in furthering the profession, you’ve probably felt overwhelmed.

After all, who has time to think about the leaps made by algorithms and bots when you’re an HR professional, especially around this time of year?

HR tech vendors and experts understand that. And that understanding comes just as much from their knowledge of your employees as their knowledge of your concerns. At a base level, employees just want programs that make the most important questions easier to answer. For example:

What will my dependents and I pay out-of-pocket when (insert health problem) happens?
Should I stick with a PPO, or would I save more with a high-deductible plan?
Where and how can I take advantage of wellness incentives?
The important thing to remember, regardless of the benefits partners you have, your relationship with your broker or the technology you choose to implement, is that people need their questions answered as painlessly as possible. That’s the biggest driver of meaningful tech trends in today’s space, sources told HR Dive.

Think mobile-first, but people-centric
Business is driven by purpose. Benefits shouldn’t be any different. When evaluating your enrollment strategy, start with what your employees need, lest they feel confused or intimidated. That’s what the push for literacy during benefits selection is truly getting at, said Kim Buckey, VP of client services at employee engagement firm DirectPath.

“If employees can’t understand how to choose their benefits once they’ve elected it, then the employer is not getting their bang for their buck,” Buckey told HR Dive, “and it’s going to affect both the employer and the employee’s wallet down the line.”

Whether you’re planning on introducing a new app, chatroom or web portal, keep in mind the importance of tailoring the process to individual needs. To accomplish this, consider segmenting employee groups, just as a marketer would. Start with the frequently asked questions, based on your benefits experience with your particular population, and work from there.

“The top engagement mobile applications follow a pretty simple formula,” said Eric Helman, chief strategy officer of enrollment firm Hodges-Mace. “They give you things that you want to access more frequently, give you things that you need to know.”

So where is the industry trending toward on a platform basis? Due to the changes ushered in by millennials, sources seemed to converge on smartphones, even if it’s apparent that desktops and in-person talks haven’t fully gone away.

“The ability to talk to someone about what those benefits are is key,” said Michael Hough, executive VP at Advance Medical. Others agreed, stressing that one-on-one sessions mirror the same concept behind popular enrollment apps. Buckey says the push for face time between employees and enrollment partners is a useful remnant of past strategy.

“Back in the day, you’d be able to get that from your HR or benefits department, or you’d be able to get that from your manager,” she said. “In today’s workforce, we just can’t do that anymore.”

Encourage interactivity
Unfortunately, some old habits probably should die hard. The days of dense booklets and stale PowerPoint presentations outlining every single detail about an organization’s benefits package are still a reality for some workers.


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