Are advisers sufficiently up to speed on benefits administration technology to meet their clients’ expectations? Not necessarily, some providers of HR and benefits platforms contend.

“You cannot be in the benefits business and not know how HR works or how payroll works,” asserts Joe Markland, founder of HR Technology Advisors. “The technology [employers] are using is goes beyond benefits and is better-rounded than that.”

Markland compares ben admin platforms to cell phones with regard to how their usage has evolved.

“Back 15 or 20 years ago, a cell phone only needed to be able to make a phone call,” Markland says. “Today cell phones need to be able to make a call, text, take photos, access the internet and be our GPS.”

In the same way, he says, the role of ben admin platforms has leaped forward to encompass many more functions and, commensurate with that, advisers now need to understand how the technology supports numerous other business functions beyond benefits.

One of the companies attempting to incorporate benefits, HR and other administrative requirements into an integrated platform is Maestro Health with its maestroEDGE platform.

Nancy Reardon, Maestro Health’ chief product officer, agrees with Markland on the direction of benefits technology and the necessity for advisers to broaden their knowledge base.

Doing more with less

The reason behind the market’s transformation, Reardon says, is employers scrambling to do more with less. “All employers know is that they are being asked [by their employees] to do a lot more with the same amount or less resources,” she explains.

MaestroEDGE aims to include HR management, a benefits marketplace, benefit account management and self-funded insurance functions in a single, easy-to-use platform. But Reardon also admits that a one-size-fits-all benefit administration system does not address most employers’ needs. That’s why, she says, “We are building our platform to be flexible and modular.”

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“You cannot be in the benefits business and not know how HR works or how payroll works."

For example, Reardon says that if the main problem an employer is facing is its high turnover rate and the time required to perform all the requisite on- and off- boarding, maestroEDGE can be configured to exclusively address that issue. Should the employer’s requirements expand down the road, the company can purchase more functionality and expand the use of the platform.

Advisers, in the meantime, need to stay abreast of each of these areas and the support that benefits technology can provide to each of them, says Reardon. At the same time, she acknowledges, some employers may just want to work with a specialist that can handle a specific set problems.

Relating this back to the cell phone analogy, she says “There may be an app on smartphones to access a GPS; however there are some people out there who still prefer to use an actual GPS instead.”

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