4 ways to leverage the most underutilized tool in your employee benefits arsenal

When you regularly use your employee benefits technology to gather and analyze data, you’ll be able to work smarter, not harder, saving you and your company time and money.

Originally published in BenefitsPro December 15, 2021

During a recent conversation with an HR professional, I asked how things were going with their new employee benefits plan. 

The response? “No one’s complained, so I guess things are fine.”

That’s a really low bar, and we can do so much better. What that individual failed to realize is that a company can glean a wealth of information from its employees using the right benefits technology. 

Going digital is now the norm and more relevant than ever. Last year, by choice or by circumstance, companies were forced to adapt and digitize to serve their employees working from home and geographically dispersed. Paper became passe; online and on-demand were the new standard. And your employee benefits technology should follow suit, gathering data and providing insights to better inform consumers and aid in company benefit decision-making. 

Here are four ways to better leverage your employee benefits technology:

1. Know the capabilities of your employee benefits technology (or lack thereof) 

If you’re feeling a bit lost in how to access your employee benefits data (or to know if your current technology helps collect it), you’re not alone. Every day I speak with organizations who lament that their system isn’t giving them what they need or have no idea that it could.

A benefitsnews.com article highlighted a survey by Artemis Health that found 88% of benefits leaders say data is somewhat to extremely important in designing and managing an effective benefits program. Yet, nearly 53% percent say access to data is their biggest challenge.

Grant Gordon, CEO and co-founder of Artemis Health, confirms this: “When you look at data, you can make a hypothesis about what you should do, and if it’s working, you double down. If it’s not working, then you change tactics. But because data is so hard to get here, many benefit leaders don’t have that reflex or muscle memory.”

Your employee benefits package is among the top three largest investments your company will make, so it makes sense to maximize its effectiveness. If you’re using the right technology system, you have access to the tools and data built-in. If you’re not, understand that it does exist, and it may be time to change your technology.

2. Educate your employees on how to use it

In its Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study for 2021, MetLife found that employees who say their employer’s benefits communications are easy to understand are 99% more likely to feel valued or appreciated.

In addition, the research showed that when employees understand how their benefits work through their employer’s benefits communications, they’re 100% more likely to trust their employer’s leadership, 78% more likely to be happy with their job, and 50% more likely to be loyal to their employer.

And yet, nearly a third of employees (31%) don’t think their employer’s benefits are easy to understand. More than half of employees (55%) wish they were more informed about their benefits so that they could get more value from them.

The good news is that your employee benefits technology can do the heavy lifting, provided you educate your team members on how to use it. And with the right solution, you can create an experience that’s user-friendly and intuitive. Even better, once trained, employees can have instant access, either online or through an app, to the information they need without having to wait or go through another person or process.

3. Review your data pre-OE, post-OE, and throughout the year

So many companies I speak with prep like crazy for open enrollment (OE), get through rollout, and never think about benefits until 12 months later. But there are so many opportunities to learn at every stage.

Use your pre-OE phase to gather input from your employees on what new benefits they’d like to see, the current benefits they value most, and the ones they don’t. This will help you develop a plan that meets your employee’s needs and saves your company from spending on unnecessary or unwanted benefits.

Post-OE, analyze the behaviors and patterns of your employees to gauge things like the adoption rate and how long your employees took to complete the enrollment process to assess and address any points of friction. You’ll also want to use this opportunity to create benchmarks to compare against future years. And if you haven’t done it this year, it’s not too late. Start planning now so in 12 months, you’ll have data and better access to get on the path.

MetLife’s survey found that nearly 7 in 10 employees want to hear from business leaders about their benefits after they’ve already signed up for them. So throughout the year, continue to survey your employees to solicit their feedback and measure their participation and utilization rates to evaluate and optimize your offerings. 

4. Identify trends

One of the best things about fully leveraging your employee benefits technology, is as you track data over time, you’ll be able to cull useful and insightful trends.

As mentioned earlier, once you establish baselines, you can compare them to future years to review year-over-year trends. You can also carve out specific demographic behaviors and preferences. For instance, your 20-year-old employee may value tuition reimbursement as a benefit, but her decades-older colleague would rather have discounted prescriptions. And you’ll quickly see which benefits programs are working and those that aren’t, so you make more informed choices. 

When you regularly use your employee benefits technology to gather and analyze data, you’ll be able to work smarter, not harder, saving you and your company time and money.

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