Engaging clients through technology beyond open enrollment

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When it comes to implementing benefits technology tools, brokers are divided into two groups — the ones who get it and the ones who don’t. That’s according to Mike Ehrle, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Hodges Mace, an employee benefits technology and communications company.

“We’re in this major evolution right now,” Ehrle says. “Now it’s full benefits delivery. Employers and the brokers who get it know it’s about engaging employees year-round.”

But not all brokers are on board. Some still look at benefits as a once a year process, mostly focused on open enrollment. While open enrollment is important, advisers are being myopic if they believe a once a year interaction with a client will be enough, Ehrle says.

“The brokers who don’t get it are still thinking of the enrollment platforms. They’re thinking about just trying to win the next deal and giving away the technology for free because they think that needs to be a part of their solution,” he says.

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But brokers do have an opportunity to improve their services by finding solutions that help educate workers about their benefits year round. “The biggest shift we’ve seen is these employers starting to say this is no longer [just] an open enrollment technology,” Ehrle says.

One way they can do this is by bringing new technology to clients that can better engage workers in their healthcare. Indeed, employees want better tools when it comes to healthcare and there is already tech on the market that can help. For example, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant can now answer employees healthcare questions. Wellbe, another voice activated digital assistant from HandsFree Health, also answers employees’ health questions.

“Employers are challenged in two areas: retaining and attracting the best talent they can, and also doing so within a tight healthcare and wellness budget,” Ehrle says.

If, for example, an employee has high blood pressure, an adviser may offer a tool that could help that worker learn more about potential ways to address the condition. Brokers could provide tools that educate “about high blood pressure and maintain that throughout the course of the year,” Ehrle says. The advisers that get that, are the ones that have a competitive advantage, he says.

“Benefits are finally getting the attention of employers,” he says. “It’s a bigger part of their budget and when [employers are] losing employees because they perceive the benefits to be better someplace else, something is wrong.”

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