Brokers who take a holistic approach to 2017 open enrollment will be able to meet and overcome employer challenges that increasingly fall beyond standard benefits and insurance. Courtney Simpkiss, vice president of broker strategy for ADP, says advisers should embrace every element of their clients’ human capital management needs.

EBA: What are some new challenges for 2017 open enrollment?

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Simpkiss: This is a really interesting year for HR and business owners. Communication is always a big challenge when it comes to employee benefits, but this year in particular presents additional challenges. In the last year, with the Affordable Care Act and the availability of more options of healthcare for employees than ever before, it is important that HR is in front of the opportunity with their employees to ensure they are aware of what their employees’ options are.

In the midst of that, HR departments are starting to see the first releases of the exchange notifications. Not only is this open enrollment a time when communication is more important than ever before, but the complexity and administrative side of benefits administration is increasing rapidly as well. We saw in a recent study that many midsized companies haven’t added additional support staff, so they are relying on business partners, like their benefit brokers, more than ever before to help relieve some of that stress and burden.

EBA: What should brokers be doing to help?

Simpkiss: In the midst of the pre-enrollment process, being able to take a holistic approach to your client needs, not just around benefits communication and enrollment, but around every element related to human capital [is important]. Whether it is the technology the business is using to attract and hire employees, to onboarding them, to enrolling them. Beyond that, how the benefits fit into the overall value proposition of the company. Any opportunity to have that all-in-one centralized platform, where employees engage and are able to be communicated with — be it mobile or online — gives an opportunity for a business owner to have an additional touchpoint with that employee. They are relying on their brokers to be more involved in that than ever before.

EBA: Can brokers keep up with HR’s new demands?

Simpkiss: I believe they can if they have the right partnerships and are able to leverage tools that their partners provide them. One approach ADP has taken in the last 18 months is to develop solutions that our broker partners can leverage in order to be efficient in the way they are working with clients — not only on the benefits administration side but all of those areas of human capital. As a broker’s role is evolving and they are being required to play a more hands-on role and have access to more data, providers that are able to give brokers data, means and tools that allow them to play that role is essential.

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EBA: What role will technology play in 2017 open enrollment?

Simpkiss: Last year, everyone was scrambling to make sure they had a system or some method for filing or reporting around the ACA. This year … the opportunity [exists] for businesses to bring together more of an integrated HR technology solution where payroll, benefits, HR, and time and attendance systems are all talking and integrating with each other. That may be one provider providing that to a business or through APIs or EDIs, a combination of efforts, where through integration, the employees can access all of the information in one spot. This year, that is going to be key.

EBA: Will it change again for 2018 open enrollment?

Simpkiss: We will continue to see additional consolidation of platforms. We have seen this for a number of years on the ADP side, because business needs have changed the amount of systems, and keeping information related to their employees is only growing. The ability to have multiple systems talking to each other and an integrated solution come together, that creates less administrative effort on the HR staff, freeing their time up so they can focus on the employee engagement side.

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The role of the benefit broker is going to increase. I see many firms embracing that evolution of becoming a driver of human capital experience for their clients and not just experts in benefits and insurance. But really taking the steering wheel for their client and helping them navigate all of the technology options out there, assisting with implementation and service models, depending on what the business model is. The broker is playing a key role in that.

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