How many Benefits Administration systems did you work with last year versus 5 years ago? Like you, I’ve seen a few different companies with multiple options in my career – I’ve seen a lot more in recent years. They’re getting smarter and more efficient. That’s good because today, most medium to large-size employers already have or are considering a benefit administration system.
Of course, the goal is to deliver benefits to employees in a more efficient manner. As benefit consultants and advisors, we should be prepared to help with the decision-making process.
Since I’ve worked on the administrator side and worked with hundreds of brokers to set up these systems, I’m sharing 3 key areas of functionality to consider when reviewing a new or current system.
1. Consolidation of Services - With Support!
The system should handle multiple carriers and offer enrollment for all employee benefits. This involves seamless connectivity for eligibility feeds to all carriers. The “holy grail” everyone is looking for is integration with a payroll system. True integration allows for one point of input for employee information, plus payroll deductions carried from the benefits system to the payroll system (that’d make the employer’s life a little easier, right?).
Also, while good software is crucial, support when things go wrong (because they will) is just as important. Some questions to ask include:
- Are account management and technical support available to the employer and carriers when setting up feeds?
- How are errors, reconciliation and auditing of data handled?
- What compliance reports are available to the employer?
2. Paperless, Self-Service Enrollment
The trend is headed toward paperless enrollment and self-service for employees. So what specific features are required to meet this need?
- Employees should be able to enroll in all benefits via the system, including voluntary benefits with the necessary restrictions for participation
- Benefit descriptions should be easily available in the system or via links
- HSA and FSA contributions should be captured
- Costs should be presented on a “per paycheck” basis
- Defined contributions will require credit bank functionality so employees can shop for benefits and use credits
Bonus functionality would allow employees to order ID cards, update addresses and change benefits due to qualifying events. HR should be notified when a change is made and be able to track these changes in a date range. Based on the love affair Americans have with their phones, I personally believe the demand for systems with mobile app enrollment will increase so it’s good to ask if the system offers this technology now or in the near future.
3. Content Management – External & Internal Streams
As they say, content is king. Cutting-edge systems will allow for delivery of critical messages and serve as a central repository for relevant news and updates. I see this feature as the most important trend going forward because it facilitates efficient communication between benefit advisors and employers, as well as between employers and employees.
Are you, as the Benefit Advisor, able to deliver news regarding carrier benefit changes, new product information, compliance information or trending benefit news? If you’re suggesting or providing the system to the customer, this type of news flow can be employer-specific or carrier-specific across multiple employers.
Internally, the employer can deliver useful information to employees and draw them to the site. Where do employees go for information now and how can the system help provide a better, more convenient information source? With help from you, the portal can include health and nutritional information, new medical breakthroughs and lifestyle information as a start.
We all know how hard it is to sort through emails and take note of all the information they contain. I believe the importance of a central “go to” information source will increase for you, your clients and their employees.
There are systems out there that provide a varying mix of these functions. It’s important to discuss these possibilities with your clients as part of their overall benefits strategy.
Now it’s your turn! What great features have you seen in benefit administration systems? What needs do your clients want met by these systems? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.