Benefits administration only gets harder if you don’t make it easier. Slow processes, increasing complexities and mounting workloads impair the efficiency of your HR team while limiting the effectiveness of your benefits by making it more difficult for employees to engage and use them as you hope.
Administering benefits efficiently involves systematizing day-to-day tasks and leveraging technology to streamline workflows and improve the employee experience. Yet many companies still depend on paper and inefficient processes that strain admin teams, thus preventing HR from becoming the strategic partner that it could be within the business.
Enrolling just a single employee and their dependents could take 30 to 45 minutes if you use paper alone to sign them up for medical and dental insurance as well as any other benefits that you offer, said Shelley Pinegar, team lead for the bswift practice at Providence Technology Solutions. Optimizing benadmin with the right technology and processes would reduce that time significantly, freeing your HR team to focus instead on work that adds value to your business.
For example, your benadmin team could spend more time assembling the benefits packages that would help you recruit and retain talent in a competitive market. “Traditional benefits packages have expanded to include offerings such as pet insurance, student loan repayment, commuting subsidies, legal services, incentive-based health and wellness programs, and employee perks and discounts on products and services,” a benefits administration article by SearchHRSoftware notes.
Employers are also striving to make benefits more affordable for both their company and their employees, which requires them to work more on how much benefits cost and how to share them between the organization and its team. All of this must be done against the backdrop of changing regulations that require employers to be constantly vigilant to comply.
Finding time to address complexities such as compliance challenges, the choice of benefits and their costs is harder though if your benefits administration team wastes energy on tedious tasks that could be better managed with technology and efficient workflows.
When it comes to benefits administration, your keys to success for 2022 depend largely on your technology and processes. Pinegar and Karene Crane, benefit technology team lead for the Employee Navigator practice at Providence Technology Solutions, offer the following suggestions for benadmin optimization.
Optimizing benefits administration
1) Keep up with changes in regulations
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a flood of changes in employment laws, like adjustments to the COBRA subsidy under the American Rescue Plan act that provided for the continuation of health insurance coverage for employees. Many employers had to go back and update information in their benefits administration system because they had not recorded the reason they had initially terminated health insurance coverage for some employees, like whether they had been fired, laid off, furloughed or had found another job, Pinegar said.
You also should be aware of federal regulations like those under the Affordable Care Act so that you can comply with any mandates, Pinegar suggests. Stay on top of state regulations as well, particularly if you have remote employees who work from home. You must comply with the laws of the states they live in, Pinegar notes.
2) Commit to eliminating paper
If you are still using paper forms to administer benefits, stop. Or, at least look for ways to eliminate manual processes.
“One group that had paper forms was blown away from the simplicity of their day-to-day tasks once we added their information into their new benefits administration system,” Pinegar said.
Crane said, “Getting an online system is the best way to go for groups. They can really streamline HR functions by putting everything online and having a portal that employees can go to throughout the year for information.”
3) Integrate systems
Companies can further improve efficiency by connecting their benadmin software to external systems like those of insurance carriers, third-party administrators or payroll processors, Crane said. Businesses can make similar connections through their benefits broker as well if they use one.
“It optimizes their workflows if we integrate and connect them to carriers directly,” Crane said. “That saves hours and hours of work, especially during open enrollment.”
You also avoid errors by integrating with external systems because information does not have to be entered manually. If data has been inputted incorrectly, like the wrong social security number or date-of-birth, benefit technology experts can find and correct the errors during system audits.
4) Consider software options
Once you commit to going online and perhaps integrating with external systems, you want to find the benadmin technology that is right for you. There are many choices and they differ in terms of factors like features and costs.
Improving the employee experience would be one of the primary ways to maximize the ROI of your benefits technology. So consider a potential vendor’s self-service options that would help employees make decisions based on their personal situations, like by asking them questions about how they would use their health insurance when picking their plan.
Self-service also lets employees choose benefits and make changes without involving HR personnel. “It makes it easier for the HR person not to have to answer a bazillion questions and for the employee to be able to grab the information that they need,” Crane said.
5) Transition to digital
Some employers hesitate to go digital, even if they see the potential benefits because they do not want to let go of their paper processes. Or, they may worry that employees will resist.
But your employees’ concerns do not have to stop you from implementing benefits administration technology. Benefits technology specialists can help you gradually transition from paper to digital, like by phasing in processes and employees.
For example, you could use a “paper to portal” approach in which employees begin by typing information from a paper form into your benefits administration software and then gradually have them do more in the system. “Once employees get in and see how easy it is to enroll or to access the system they don’t have any negative feedback,” Crane said.
Making benefits administration easier improves the employee experience while increasing efficiency for your business. So, stop making it harder and optimize benadmin for success in 2022.