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How to Evaluate Your Benefits Administration Solution in 2022

A good rule of thumb for companies is to perform an annual formal evaluation of their benefits administration provider.

It’s crucial to determine whether they have the proper solution right after open enrollment when the pain points are most evident. Workterra‘s white paper explains why evaluating your benefits administration solution is more important than ever. Moreover, it will pinpoint the four key areas of your evaluation that will lead you to success. These include:  

  1. Flexibility & Agility: Can your benefits administrator provider support your plan changes quickly and efficiently? 
  1. Service & Support: Does your provider offer timely solutions? 
  1. Ongoing Administration: Will your provider offer in-depth administration support? 
  1. Employee Satisfaction: Is the overall benefits administration experience an asset for your employees?   
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Four key factors that highlight the importance of evaluating your benefits administration solution to determine whether they are compatible with you and your organization’s needs:

1) Benefits are Аmong Тop Priorities in the Aftermath of COVID-19

It’s no surprise to see a rise in the demand for health and wellbeing solutions in the workplace after the pandemic hit. According to Aflac’s 2020-21 Work Forces Report 63% of employees expect at least one additional mental health, financial wellness, or telemedicine benefit to make them feel safe and secure in the workplace. 

So, now is the time to utilize the strengths of your benefits program and, at the same time, get insights on which benefits additions will be most valuable for the future. 

Therefore, benefits administration providers must offer flexible solutions compatible with the ongoing adjustments and impeccable customer support to promptly address employers’ needs and pain points.  

2) HR Tech is the Core of Employee Experience in Remote Work

More and more companies are switching to hybrid or fully remote work. Therefore, having an advanced tech infrastructure is a must for successful recruitment, onboarding, training, benefits enrollment, teamwork, and much more. 

In fact, according to Hartford’s 2020 Future of Benefits study, 63% of employers agreed that due to COVID-19, their company’s enrollment strategy would depend more on online resources.  

Consequently, it’s of utter importance for companies to rely on benefits administration solutions delivering simple and consumer-like experiences for their employees.  

So, now is the time to utilize the strengths of your benefits program and, at the same time, get insights on which benefits additions will be most valuable for the future. 

Therefore, benefits administration providers must offer flexible solutions compatible with the ongoing adjustments and impeccable customer support to promptly address employers’ needs and pain points.  

3) Onboarding Efficiency is a Staple for the "Great Rehire"

As the 2021 SHRM survey shows, almost half of the U.S. executives reported much higher turnover rates in their organizations over the past six months. Plus, up to 84% of them said that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, job openings were unfilled for longer periods. 

Thus, in this highly competitive labor market, HR teams must be careful in choosing the tech solutions responsible for onboarding, especially benefits enrollment. Simply put, if the tech solutions are causing issues instead of resolving them, that may be detrimental to the overall onboarding processes and result in poor first impressions.

4) Underestimating the Status Quo comes with a High Price for Employers

Sticking to the existing benefits administration provider may seem like a safe and less expensive solution for both HR teams and companies.  

But the lack of evaluation of the incumbent benefit administration solution and the unwillingness to change an inefficient one may cost employers more than they think and result in stagnant businesses. 

And if that’s not enough, a recent article by SHRM, Letting Go of Legacy Systems,” emphasizes three key questions to help HR teams upgrade their systems by taking into consideration their lack of quality service, support, flexibility, compliance, and data integrity issues, and more. 

Focus your Еvaluation around Four Key Areas to Ensure Success

Because of benefits administration’s multifunctional nature, the formal evaluation of your provider can be a complex task. Hence, following these key areas can be of great asset in the overall evaluation process.

Benefits Administration

1) Flexibility & Agility: How Quickly and Efficiently can Your Benefits Administration Provider support Plan Changes?

Together with the steep talent competition, the pandemic pinpointed the importance of the benefits plan. In fact, according to Care.com’s “Future of Benefits” report, a staggering 98% of HR leaders plan to implement at least one additional employee benefit to their existing plans.  

That is why flexibility is one of the key concerns when considering a benefits administration solution. Ask yourself: are you hesitant to change your benefits plan because that would translate to a lot of work and money? 

Well, your provider should be able to implement the required adjustments and improve the overall experience, not create another obstacle. Errors, delays, and hesitation in adding or adjusting benefits may worsen employees’ experience and prevent you from attracting top talent. 

2) Flexibility Translates as Back-End Tech Support

What does it take to modify plan designs and eligibility rules?  

You’ll find the answer in the platform’s back-end flexibility and ease of customization, which will further determine the adjustments’ effort and cost. While marketers’ promise guarantees a positive outcome, frequently, that means hours of coding uncovered by your service agreement. Moreover, these shifts may put your solution at risk of new bugs and errors and other issues and delays.  

To sum it up: As you prepare for the open enrollment period, pay attention to when you submit the required information and when that change is made.  

  • Was the time within the period listed in your agreement?  
  • Were there problems with the change?  
  • Did you need to follow up to check on the status?  

The questions above can help you evaluate the flexibility and agility of your benefits administration solution. 

3) Service & Support: Does Your Provider Offer Timely Solutions?

The “tech only” benefits administration seems like the best solution for some companies. While initially, it may save them money, ultimately, it can cost them even more.  

For instance, smaller companies and organizations with minimal workforce may benefit from this solution and manage the service in-house. However, most organizations also need a consultative approach to benefits administration and tech solutions. 

4) Effective Service Models are the Basis for a Well-Established and Successful Communication

Often tech provider services and client operation teams operate individually. Each team is responsible for different tasks to deliver an optimal result at the end.  

A great service model should streamline cross-team collaboration to eliminate repetitiveness and delays. The result? As seamless an experience as possible.  

Go for service models where the communication goes through a single, authorized contact that transfers information effectively. This contact should understand your needs from the beginning of implementation through ongoing support.  

This service model guarantees both quick response times and timely issue resolutions.  

5) Open Enrollment Planning

Does your provider reach out prior open enrollment period to discuss any updates or changes to your plans and eligibility rules? Did the provider plan to test out these adjustments to prevent any upcoming issues?  

The point is your provider must prepare for the open enrollment well in advance to implement and test any changes to your system. 

6) Impactful Feedback Results & Continuous Improvement

Your provider needs to offer plenty of opportunities to provide feedback and act on it appropriately. Your partner should set up regular meetings to get useful insights that can lead to further improvements in their service.  

Besides meetings, providers should obtain useful information through client satisfaction surveys and other feedback models.  

During the evaluation process of a current potential benefits administration provider, you must have a thorough understanding of the service model they offer as one of the essential components of success.  

You should know whether your partner will provide a dedicated client success manager or how involved will they be in open enrollment planning. Also, pay attention if they ask for regular feedback and insights to improve their services. 

7) Ongoing Administration: Will Your Provider Offer In-Depth Administration Support?

When opting for a tech-only solution, you’ll miss out on many administrative tasks that HR teams rely on.  

While an all-in-one bundle HCM solution may be more appropriate (and more cost-efficient) for some (smaller) organizations, most of them need more complex solutions to handle HR’s daily tasks 

Rhonda Marcucci, Vice President, HR & Benefits Technology Consulting Practice Leader for Gallagher, agrees with this 

“It’s rare that benefits technology included as part of broader human capital management (HCM) platforms has the functionality or sophistication to match specialized benefits administration platforms. Benefits administration is rarely the platform provider’s core business, so it takes a back seat when it comes to functionalities and service.” 

8) Data Integrity & Data Exchange Management

It’s more than certain that you’ll face some data feed issues. But what’s important is how your partner is willing to resolve these issues and their approach with carriers. The main question is: will they work directly with the carrier to work out the best solutions on your behalf? 

The answers to these questions point toward the importance of ensuring the integrity of your data. Instead of a ticket system for reporting issues, data exchange (EDI, API, and more) teams should dedicate a specialist to manage your data feeds.  

This way, you’ll have a professional at your disposal who understands and promptly resolves your common issues.  

9) Continuous Enrollment & Administration Support

Everyone in the HR department will agree that managing benefits is a year-round process. Listed below are some of the numerous administrative complexities that many tech providers may not offer.  

  • Basic Call Center Support (included in base price) for login and navigation help  
  • ACA Tracking & Reporting (including state-level requirements)  
  • Consolidated Carrier Billing & Reconciliation  
  • Dependent Verification, COBRA, Retiree, QMCSO Administration Capabilities  
  • Vaccine Tracking  

Choose a benefits administration provider that focuses on problem-solving solutions rather than going for some cool features. Still, many well-established solutions offer similar solutions, with benefits administration being a mature market.  

Therefore, it is wise to choose a product that does a “killer job of solving your most complicated, messed-up functions or process pain points,” said Brian Sommer, president of the TechVentive consultancy, in a 2021 article for TechTarget. 

10) Employee Satisfaction: Is the Overall Benefits Administration Experience an Asset for Your Employees?

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the great demand for top talent comes to even greater competition. One of the things that give companies an advantage over others is the benefits they offer and the benefit experiences. 

These practices can strengthen the company’s hiring and retention efforts. Also, Gallagher’s 2021 State of the Workforce Study reported that 73% of HR professionals rank attraction and retention as their top priority in the competition for talents. 

11) Companies should offer Employees Excellent Online Benefits Enrollment & Management Experience

As pointed out above, work from home and remote work put engaging and effective digital solutions at the center of the employee experience. And it doesn’t mean going for fancy features. More so, employees want a simple yet intuitive online enrollment experience.  

Some of the most valuable assets for great employee benefits experience incorporate: 

  • A consumer-like shopping experience allows employees to review and compare plans. Each employee group should have access to different content and workflows as needed. 
  • Intuitive navigation with a minimal number of clicks. Employees should know what has been completed and what should be done. 
  • Centralized and quick access to plan documents, HR communications, multi-media education, and others.   
  • A self-service solution where employees can manage their information benefits, view communication, education, or request changes to their personal benefits dashboard. 

Employee Support = HR Support

A recent Paychex study says that “managing employee benefits” takes up almost one-third of HR’s time (29%), with employee training and recruiting surpassing this percentage. 

Furthermore, the same study suggests that employees believe HR teams spend significantly more time “managing employee benefits” than they really do. This results in benefits being one of the employee’s top inquiries to HR. 

Whenever HR teams and companies are evaluating potential providers, they should understand how the solution will support the employees and how much of the responsibilities will get back onto your team.  

Lastly, the benefits administration you choose should offer ongoing support for your employees.  

The open enrollment period is perfect for evaluating your benefits administration solution. Use the fresh employee experience to obtain feedback on benefits offerings and supporting technology. Later you can utilize this information to address pain points, common concerns, or most frequent questions.  

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About Workterra

Workterra is a fully configurable, easy-to-use benefits administration and enrollment platform built to simplify the growing complexity of benefits for HR and employees. Leading employers, brokers and carriers choose Workterra for its unmatched flexibility, robust reporting capabilities, and intuitive user experience as well as the personal service and support provided by dedicated benefits experts.  

To learn more, visit www.workterra.com, follow Workterra on LinkedIn, or email sales@workterra.com.