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According to a 2020 report by Forrester, over 70% of organizations were relying on manual and paper-based processes at the start of 2020. As COVID-19 spread, many of these organizations discovered that these processes were either "crippled or failed completely" due to going remote.  Fast forward to nearly a year since the start of the pandemic, and according to McKinsey, there's been a huge uptick in digital and technology adoption, about 25 times faster than before the pandemic. What this means for our industry is that many more organizations are evaluating their processes and leveraging benefits technology in 2021.

At EverythingBenefits, our mission has always been to simplify and automate benefits administration - whether it's infusing AI into the benefits enrollment process or creating stronger carrier connections. We understand what organizations should not have to compromise on and what is possible in 2021. With that in mind, we put together a list of what to look for as you review benefits technology. Be sure to get to the end to download our comprehensive and printable benefits enrollment checklist!

1. AI-powered Benefits Decision Support

Open enrollment is a stressful time for HR, and is likely more challenging when workers are remote. In addition to demystifying benefits for employees virtually, the biggest pain-point is helping them choose their benefits. AI-powered benefits can offer employees personalized and data-based recommendation that takes into account their age, income, location, current health, and other personal information to take the guesswork out of benefits selection. This can free up HR teams during their busiest time. According to CIO, since the pandemic struck, "investment in AI platforms has skyrocketed, shifting from a 'nice-to-have' initiative to a full-blown business imperative." 

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2. Integration with Payroll Companies and Carriers

Organizations with disconnected benefits, payroll, and carrier systems may have a hard time relying on their data, and can miss important updates like when a dependent turns 26 and is removed from their parents healthcare insurance. If the HRIS system doesn't recognize this event, the dependent will then miss their COBRA qualifying event, and will wind up without health insurance. There are many other scenarios where it's crucial to have all systems connected to ensure that important life events are not missed. Integration with payroll systems of record and carriers makes it easy to track all benefit changes, to update carriers without logging into multiple sites, and to reduce the chance of errors or inconsistencies between the systems.
 
3. Carrier Connections

Many companies rely on brokers, manual carrier updates, and custom export files to communicate changes to their carriers. With many more ad-hoc changes occurring during the pandemic, there may be errors and resolution delays that can affect coverage. Additionally, what happens when the one person at the company who understands this unique and manual process becomes ill or is not able to perform their job function?  

Automated carrier connectivity takes the relevant HR data provided by an employee during open enrollment, eligibility changes, or life change events, and automatically transforms it into the required carrier format, and securely transfers it to the appropriate carrier. The best solutions can reduce the time it takes to build a carrier connection to a few weeks or even days, and can help prevent errors, delays, and compliance issues. 

4. Compliance Tools

Staying compliant with the law, particularly considering that there are frequent regulation changes, is a major issue for every business that offers benefits. Look for the following built-in compliance tools when evaluating employee benefits software:

  • Automated Benefits Reconciliation. According to one study, 12-15% of carrier invoices may contain errors. Rather than manually checking carrier invoices against payroll and enrollment records to verify them for accuracy, an automated Benefits Reconciliation solution can match carrier invoices against employee premiums and enrollment data to check for billing discrepancies, uncovering hidden premium leakage. The solution flags under-deductions, under-coverages, and over-payments to help prevent liability exposure.
  • 401(k) Administration. An organization’s 401(k) plan is governed by complex ERISA rules and other regulations. Failure to update the 401(k) provider of deductions made on the last payroll can result in loss of interest on the amount deposited for employees, late fines, and even being disqualified from the 401(k) plan. Failure to provide timely and accurate updates to financial providers can have a direct financial impact and drive up liabilities. The right solution supports all 401(k), 403(b), 529, and other retirement plans, integrates into the employers HRIS, and automatically and securely delivers the necessary payroll data, contributions, deductions, employee demographics, and salary-related information. Additionally, look for a vendor that offers uni- and bi-directional feeds that allow data to flow to retirement plan providers and back automatically.
  • ACA Automation. The complexities of ACA regulation make it overwhelming and time-intensive for those managing the process. Navigating a multitude of topics including full-time eligibility, look-backs, synchronization of time keeping data, ensuring that contribution limits are in line with regulatory requirements as well as compiling, reviewing, filing, and sending forms can be daunting. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic with more complex employee scenarios. Employers that don’t file or file incorrectly may face hefty penalties, which can be challenging to refute, particularly if there have been changes in HR personnel or loss of documentation. Look for a solution that automates all of the above, tracks compliance in real-time, sends out employee forms, and does filing with the government.
  • COBRA Regulation. There are many time-consuming compliance nuances and penalties that come with COBRA administration. One of the most important things on any COBRA compliance checklist is ensuring that participants and beneficiaries are notified of COBRA information in the time periods when they should be. Look for a solution that monitors for changes in real time, communicates with employers, carriers, and participants to reinstate coverage, collects payments, and provides support. 

5. Analytics

Do you know which employees have waived their benefits? How about how many employees are enrolled in benefits across all of your business units, by location, role, seniority? Do you have a good grasp of your employee churn and turnover? The best benefits technology platform can provide answers to these frequently asked questions and many others to help your company understand the ROI of benefits, and make critical decision easier. It's important to stay ahead of the trending numbers to manage the impact on your organization and to keep leaders feeling empowered. 

6. User Interface

Almost no one enjoys software training. Choose a vendor that offers easy-to-use, intuitive, and multi-device accessible solutions for both employees and employers. Additional features to look for include:

  • Does the platform require paperwork for enrollment or benefits management?
  • Can employees predict their out-of-pocket costs for medical benefits?
  • Can employees trigger qualifying life events and make the necessary updates throughout the year?
  • Can employees upload documentation such as adoption papers, marriage, and birth certificates?
  • Do employees have an easy way of communicating and keeping track of conversations with your benefits team during their enrollment process?

Download our checklist to see additional items: What to Look for in Employee Benefits Software in 2021.

7. Adapts to Your Business

It's important to choose tech that's easily configurable to your unique business. Do you have the ability to create diverse offerings? Add new carriers? Adjust enrollment periods? Customize and share graphs and reports? Can you set up workflows for repeatable, scalable processes to save time? Can you customize email templates, upload a video from your HR team, or customize eligibility rules to ensure that a plan’s policies will fit the solution? Make sure the software can easily accommodate your business. 

8. Multilingual

Can your platform speak Spanish or French to support your multilingual staff? If this is important for your team, look for solutions that offer this as an additional feature.

9. Fast Integration & Set-Up

The speed of integration with new employee software is really critical. Whether you're migrating from another system or starting from scratch, the solution should offer a rapid launch and set-up so that you can begin taking advantage of the automation. If you're already using an HCM or PEO platform such as SAP SuccessFactors, ADP, PrismHR, iSolved, UKG, or others, they may already offer an employee benefits solution, which can make your launch that much easier and faster!

Download our checklist of What to Look for in Employee Benefits Software in 2021

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2020 was a challenging and unusual year, spurring many changes and a stronger need for automation. We'd love to show you how EverythingBenefits supports tens of thousands of organizations in automating their benefits to help them save time and stay compliant - no matter where they are!

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