Thanks to technology, Americans expect to be able to complete a multitude of tasks and answer nearly any inquiry with the touch of a button — and without having to surf multiple sites. Employers and employees expect the same convenience from their benefit enrollment system.
It needs to be a one-entry system, says Neil Model, president of CBIZ Model Consulting, based in Plymouth Meeting, Penn. C-suite executives are all asking for technological efficiency, he says. “They want it to populate up and down,” Model says. “You want to do it from hire to retire.”
That’s one of the reasons why Model was acquired by CBIZ last year — to be able to compete with larger brokers who have the means for development and implementation of such systems.
In previous years, a broker could set themselves apart from the competition by offering a benefit admin solution. Now, it’s required of everyone. “It’s a necessity to compete,” says Mark Rieder, senior vice president, HR technologies and benefits administration at NFP. “Integration with existing platforms is on the top of the list for employers.”
Having one access point is critical — no one wants to be forced to search multiple sites and remember multiple usernames and passwords. “We have plenty of logins,” says Rieder, who’s based in Austin, Texas.
Furthermore, integration of enrollment systems with other tech platforms limits the amount of data entry. Clients want efficiency — no HR department wants to manually edit information on other platforms, Rieder says. “They want their data to work for them,” he says.
Transaction capability is also key. The days of information-only websites are gone — employees must also be able to transact using the site and/or an app, Rieder says.
Being able to enroll in benefits via a cellphone or tablet is another necessity in today’s industry, Rieder adds. “Mobile accessibility is huge,” he says.
Be the expert
Employers are not experts when it comes to enrollment systems, and clients rely on their adviser for guidance, Rieder says. New solutions frequently enter the marketplace, and any potential partner must be vetted, he says.
The same is true of retirement plans. “The advisers really need to be the quarterback, the consultant for the plan,” says Diana Jordan, director of client consulting at Unified Trust Company, which is headquartered in Lexington, Ky. “I want our advisers on the hook for driving those outcomes.”
A well-functioning retirement plan with a high participation rate makes for happier employees, which in turn makes for happier employers — the end result every adviser is looking for, Jordan adds.
In the near future, Rieder expects to see the ability to integrate employee benefits and retirement. Though not as popular today, employers are asking about such platforms, he says.
Implementing a new system isn’t a simple process — and consultants need to ensure their clients understand that, Model says. Employers must also understand their limitations, and it’s the adviser’s job to help design the right strategy, he says.
“These things take time and energy,” Model says. “There needs to be appropriate expectations set, but there also needs to be an appropriate understanding of what your capabilities are.”
At the end of the day, functionality reigns supreme when it comes to benefit enrollment systems, Rieder says. “It’s more than having a flashy user interface,” he says. “It has to be functional.”
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