How can advisers help their clients improve benefit utilization rates and engage with their employees more effectively? One tool they might consider adding to their arsenal is a new mobile app from Hodges-Mace.

Dubbed SmartBen, the app is designed to send personalized benefit notifications to an employee’s smartphone.

“The employee-employer dialogue is changing as we live in an ‘always-on’ world,” says Hodges-Mace’s Mike Ehrle, SVP of strategic partnerships at the Atlanta-based provider of employee benefit enrollment services. “Employees expect employers to meet their needs in real time, and for HR this means the gap between the employment experience and an employee’s personal life is getting thinner.”

Employers invest $825 per employee per month on benefits, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, and at least 60% of employees value their benefits over pay, according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Yet, 47% of employees are actively looking to change jobs, and if they leave their current position, Ehrle says it will cost their employers one-and-a-half to two times their salary to replace them. One significant source of their dissatisfaction, he adds, is that they simply don’t understand all the benefits they’re receiving, and this really undermines the trust they have for their employer.

More effective communications

With only 7% of U.S. workers able to define basic insurance terms like copay, coinsurance, deductible and out of pocket maximum, advisers need to help their employer clients find more effective ways of communicating the value of the benefits that they provide.

Ehrle notes that many employees receive ample messages regarding their benefits. But with Americans receiving an average of 132 emails a day, those communications are frequently ignored or overlooked.
To counter this, Ehrle points to three ways employers can cut through the clutter and better engage with their workers:

1. Give them something they want.
2. Put all the information they need in one place.
3. Send them more relevant messages.

Hodges-Mace’s SmartBen app is designed to do all three. The software sends tailored push notifications to an entire workforce or specific groups of employees.

“Eighty-three percent of Americans own a smart phone,” Ehrle points out. “If we look at the average time a person spends on their phone, we can leverage that for benefits education.”

To illustrate his point, Ehrle describes one Hodges-Mace client which was struggling to engage its employees through email. But once it began sending notifications to its employees’ smartphones their response changed dramatically, and they’ve been flocking to their benefits web site ever since.

Beyond messaging, the SmartBen app allows employees to conveniently access benefits-related information such as their paid-time-off balances, which also helps with engagement.

“We are no longer in an open-enrollment-only world,” Ehrle observes. “Employees want to hear from their employers throughout the year, and they want it done in a concise way.”

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