Big data, artificial intelligence and smartphone technology are exciting developments that make it easier for employees to make better decisions about their benefits, according to one industry professional.
These innovations also increase year-round employee engagement, said Eric Helman, chief strategy office with Hodges Mace, an Atlanta-based benefits technology and communications company.
"The environment to deliver these innovations is being made easier because of advancements in big data, artificial intelligence and the near ubiquity of smartphone technology," Helman told HR Daily Wire.
The hyper-fast pace of developing technologies will continue, but Helman warned the benefits administration business may be lagging behind.
"Benefits administration is typically the least advanced category of all business functions due to lack of investment," Helman said. "However, given the extreme focus on recruitment and retention in this full employment environment, human resources departments may continue to be focused on non-benefits technology like performance management, employee engagement, learning, leadership development and analytics. This will continue to push the integration of new innovations in benefits administration to the back burner."
Helman argued the use of data and analytics in benefits administration needs to catch up, including in areas of benefit planning, execution and consumer experience.
The Hodges Mace chief strategist is a strong advocate for investment in technology, and argues that the business must adapt.
"When someone is looking to invest in benefits administration technology, they need to keep in mind that they are making a platform decision," he said. "Benefit strategies change and employee populations change. The benefits administration platform must be able to adapt and be customized for a variety of situations."
Further, the mix of technology and services must also be capable of customization from year to year, he added.
Helman highlighted transparency and user-friendly tools as important, but said they remain in "single digits" in many organizations.
"Recent innovations are delivering comprehensive, user-friendly tools which place transparency tools adjacent to frequently accessed information like account balances and amount of deductible satisfied," Helman said. "This keeps the transparency tools 'top of mind' and encourages more widespread adoption."
More generally, Helman told HR Daily Wire, the key to benefits is to attract and retain "a highly productive workforce while simultaneously controlling the growth in the amount of compensation spent on benefits."
"The pursuit of personalized benefits can result in challenges in the areas of risk management, administration and communication," he said. "Many employees report increased confusion and reduced appreciation when given too many choices. Decision support tools and algorithms can help but have limited value for some populations."