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What It Looks Like to Be a Benefits Administration Superhero

To be a benefits administrator means that you care deeply about the employee experience. You care that employees can easily enroll in the benefits that are right for them, that life event changes like the birth of a child are straightforward for employees to navigate, and that communication and education are supporting all of it.

You know benefits have the power to transform people’s lives, and without benefits, people can experience heavy hardships. Working in this field, you’ve also more likely than not heard stories from your own employees about how their benefits have directly impacted their lives — whether it’s a working, traveling mom utilizing a perk like overnight shipping of breast milk, a Gen Z employee taking full advantage of your company’s 401(k) match, or a pet parent not having to drain their savings to care for a sick fur baby. This is the warm, fuzzy part of carefully crafting a benefit strategy.

But benefit strategies continue to get more complex, and alongside that is a continued rise in healthcare costs. In fact, the average amount spent per employee per year on health care has gone from $2,500 to $14,800 over the past decade.1 That spend is not expected to level off anytime soon, either. The medical cost trend is projected to be around 6 percent in 2020, with price and utilization as driving factors behind that growth.2

And this increased complexity and cost often results in employees not using their benefits effectively. For example:

  • Half of U.S. adults say they or a family member put off some sort of healthcare in the past year due to cost.3
  • Only 8 percent of U.S. adults aged 35 or older received all recommended, high-priority, appropriate clinical preventive services in 2015.4
  • The industry average for telehealth usage is two to three percent of employees who are offered the service.5

Poor utilization of your health plans and programs can set off a viscous cycle, as care avoidance can lead to more serious and expensive care down the road, ultimately leaving both employees and your organization with higher healthcare costs.

So how do you combat these dynamics? To be a benefits superhero in today’s workplace, where you're left with limited resources to manage increasingly complex benefit strategies, it actually requires doubling down on the employee experience. With a hyper-focus on the employee experience, benefit administrators can help employees use their health plans in a smarter, more efficient manner, which can have a direct impact on healthcare cost control.

The result? You’re ultimately able to validate all of the work that you do, while serving your population and getting closer to the employee.

So, let’s talk about what that looks like practically.

Lean on AI-Driven Technology

Artificial intelligence has the power to connect employees to their benefits at the right moment, supporting all of the work you’ve put in. Plus, it enables you to modernize and take your engagement efforts to the next level with minimal effort.

AI synthesizes all of your benefits data to recognize the different moments when your employees may need to learn about options or coverage available to them, and proactively engage with them – whether it be reminding them to get their flu shot or making sure they’re doing what they need to manage their chronic conditions.

Engage Employees Throughout the Year

AI can be a powerful tool, but there’s still a need for a thoughtful, year-round approach to benefits communication. Some examples of how to begin incorporating this type of approach include:

  • Delivering total rewards statements prior to open enrollment kickoff so employees can see the total value their company provides and start considering any changes to their benefits.
  • Conducting a series of short videos or webinars throughout the year around different benefit topics. At Benefitfocus, our benefits team led live events called the “Benefits 101 Series” to help associates understand how to utilize their benefits.
  • Creating a calendar of monthly benefit campaigns that coincide with national awareness months. For example, May is Mental Health Awareness month, which is the perfect opportunity to highlight your EAP or other mental health benefits.

The possibilities are endless, but the bottom line is that to really empower employees with their benefits, communication strategies must move to the same level of importance as your benefits strategy.

Deliver a Modern Experience

In today’s digital age, our lives are on our mobile devices. For a great illustration of this, I'll share a brief personal anecdote. A few weeks ago, I left my house for work only to discover I forgot my wallet and did not pack a breakfast or lunch. After a brief consideration of turning around to go twenty minutes back the other way, I realized I could just use my smartphone’s wallet app to purchase what I needed. In that moment, I felt the joy of modern technology.

Everything from our bank accounts to credit cards and social lives can be accessed via mobile device. Delivering an experience like that with benefits is paramount. A couple on leave enrolling a new baby, a parent in line at a drugstore checking their HSA balance while waiting to get their son’s prescription, or a new employee that simply wants to check their coverage – all of these individuals should have the anytime, anywhere ability to view and manage their benefits with ease and simplicity.

 

1 National Business Group on Health, 2019
2 PwC
3 Kaiser Family Foundation, Data Note: Americans’ Challenges with Health Care Costs
Health Care Industry Insights: Why the Use of Preventive Services Is Still Low, CDC
5 Telemedicine Improves Health and Saves Money, If Employees Use It, SHRM 2018

About the Author

Whitney Cwirka is an Engagement Strategy Manager at Benefitfocus, where she dedicates herself to creating insightful content for the HR and benefits community. Passionate about the power of communications, Whitney is on a mission to help employers connect the value of their benefits to their employees. Whitney holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina as well as a Group Benefits Associate (GBA) certification from the Wharton School of Business.

Profile Photo of Whitney Cwirka