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Technology Trends in the Benefits Industry 6/22/2017

Looking at iPhone

By Jared A. Moss, Co-Founder of iNGAGED

Technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, a reality that comes as a mixed blessing for those in charge of employee benefits programs. On the one hand, advances in data analytics, data security, content personalization, and service delivery models make it possible to connect and engage with employees in a way that was never before possible. On the other hand, organizations often struggle to keep up with the latest trends, or know how to leverage new tools effectively.

The fact that employers are spending big dollars toward benefits-related technologies comes as little surprise. In the 2016 Employee Benefit News Tech Survey, 90 percent of respondents said they spent as much or more on technology as in the previous year, and most plan to allocate a significant budget share toward continued improvements in 2017*. Key areas of focus include benefits enrollment and administration, employee benefits portals, benefits communication, and wellness enrollment. The goal for many employers is to use technology to improve employee awareness of benefits offerings and increase enrollment while also reducing benefits costs. To this end, HR departments are discovering the capabilities of cloud-based servers and mobile technologies to transform their most common work: paperwork and connecting with employees.

A Virtual Filing Cabinet
Since the advent of email and the Internet, the amount of employee data that employers and benefits providers capture and transmit has grown exponentially—to the point that managing the data can quickly become unwieldy. Enter the cloud.

Cloud-based servers let employers store and share an infinite amount of information without having to implement or maintain server hardware or worry about the perils of damage to systems housed on-site. Employers and benefits administrators can centralize multiple data platforms to more easily access, update, and share employee data, reducing the time and personnel needed to enter the same information into separate systems. The leading-edge data security protocols used by major cloud hosting providers also offer better safeguards than organizing data with spreadsheets, which can be accessed by unauthorized parties. In addition, cloud-based benefits management systems easily can be customized to the end-user’s needs, including customization for different demographic groups or geographical locations, and can expand seamlessly to support a company’s growth.

Of course, any new technology has its caveats, and cloud-based solutions are no exception. Organizations are charged with finding or creating a benefits management platform that includes all of their key capabilities—or else they can fall into the trap of using multiple platforms.As efficiency through data integration is the key to cloud, the efficiency of a company workforce comes by centralizing access to its benefits and operations within the company itself. Otherwise, employees are led into a fragmented experience—the ultimate stumbling block to employee engagement—and employers are bogged down in operational inefficiencies.

The Move toward Mobile
Along with migration to the cloud, businesses look to mobile technology to foster employee engagement with employer benefits programs. Increasingly, people rely on their phones and tablets to stay connected.The mobile phone recently rounded out the trifecta of essential personal items to carry, along with “wallet” and “keys”.Mobility and connectivity are the new standard. Many providers offer apps, but the challenge is that too much information without organization becomes clutter—even for apps.Nobody wants separate mobile apps for their dentist, for their ophthalmologist, and for their 401(k) administrator. Employees appreciate an annual check-up reminders and the ability to access information about their vision care plan at the touch of a button, but navigating 30 different apps to access benefits actually becomes a barrier to communication. Information inundation buries a meaningful experience. A person is more receptive to engage with their employer than with 30 of their employer’s vendors.

For this reason, Marsh & McLennan Agency created iNGAGED, a single platform for employers to host and communicate benefits information. The native mobile app meets employees where they are, sending relevant information when they need it.A company steps onto this platform to communicate all employer-related information—from medical benefits and wellness programs to retirement plans. Employees hear one company voice and access all points through a single interface. The proprietary system eliminates distraction so employees recognize their company and its benefits, understand the advantages, and use them at the correct time. For example, before an open enrollment period, the app pushes a notification reminder and extends the flexibility to review the content at their convenience.

With iNGAGED, an employee sees customized information related to their benefits, along with links to vendor portals and internal platforms, within their company app. There is no need to remember various usernames and logins for multiple websites. Everything is accessible within the company with which they already identify.Eliminating noise and confusion enables employees to swiftly and effectively participate in their company’s benefits programs.

Customized Content
Once barriers are removed, employers can direct action through app-powered communication to enhance benefits utilization.Leaving behind the quicksand of paper notices and emails, iNGAGED allows employers use push notifications to deliver customized content to specific employee populations. Targeted messaging generates awareness around benefits eligibility, and campaigns send reminders throughout the year and at strategic junctures to keep benefits offerings top-of-mind. For example, a large school system might send teachers a notification campaign about available medical benefits and wellness programs before the start of the summer break—when teachers have time to schedule appointments—to enable them make better healthcare decisions.

Similarly, push notifications provide a direct pathway to ensure employees use benefits effectively, increasing plan participation. For example, a push notification pops up on an employee’s phone reminding her that open enrollment has begun, and includes a link to the company’s benefit portal. When she swipes the push notification on their smartphone or tablet, the system opens the benefit portal in the browser and recognizes her user log-in automatically. Options for customization are limitless, and strategic engagement can be fine-tuned to the employer’s specific needs.

The Power of Big Data
iNGAGED also provides organizations with valuable analytics to help them measure employee action in response to communications. While emails inherently capture very little information or feedback, organizations can customize iNGAGED to track the recipient’s actions following a notification. Whether the goal is for the employee to complete a survey, call a phone number, or watch a video, employers have access to detailed analytics about employee response, allowing intelligent campaign modifications to increase interest and follow-through. Similarly, employers can capture data for their health and wellness initiatives to offer employees programs and resources specific to their conditions, or connect to monitoring tools, such as Google Fit and Apple Health Kit.

As technology continues to move forward, employers face critical decisions about the best way to allocate funds to get the greatest return. Streamlining systems so that HR personnel, benefits administrators, and employees can access information through a single, intelligent platform can improve operational efficiencies while also boosting employee engagement.This further reduces healthcare costs and ensures that dollars allocated toward benefits programs are well spent. For guidance on choosing the right technology tools for your organization’s benefits administration needs, please call our office at (972) 770-1600. To learn more about the iNGAGED platform, visit www.ingaged.co.


This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Copyright © 2017 Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC. All rights reserved.

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