Bring your benefits business up to the 21st century

Back in 1964, Bob Dylan sang about how the times they are a-changin.’ Now, they’re a-changin’ even faster.

It’s imperative that we as an industry keep up. We need to recognize that our clients are doing things far differently than they were in 1964 — or even in 2004. Technologies likeFitbit now allow consumers to monitor their health by glancing at their wrists. Technologies from even a decade ago have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

If we want our customers to look to us for guidance, we need to embrace technologies that allow us to work faster, smarter, and more cost-effectively. 

Millennials are now the largest subset of the American workforce: They’re young, they’re tech-savvy and they want benefits that match their lifestyle. This generation gets its information almost exclusively online. If we want millennials’ business, we need to be open and available with blogs, regularly updated websites, Twitter accounts and even apps.

Doing business in the 21st century means more than selfies and tweets. New technologies can enable us to stem the tide of health insurance paperwork that wastes $375 billion per year — that’s more than the annual GDP of Norway. Americans are counting on us to do our part to reduce health care costs, and that means finding new ways to cut waste while maintaining quality benefits.

Technologies can also bring flexibility: Americans are comparing health care benefits in more ways than ever with the online marketplaces created after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The greater your online presence, the more competitive you’ll be with America’s contemporary workforce.

Also see: "4 reasons why algorithms won't replace insurance brokers."

And it’s not just the competitive landscape that’s changing — our entire industry is changing. While we might have focused on medical, dental and vision a decade ago, corporate wellness programs and voluntary benefits are becoming increasingly more important. In 2015, 55% of American workers reported viewing corporate wellness as an important tool for their overall well-being.

Benefit from new technologies

Weathering all these changes in our industry won’t be easy, but embracing new technologies can give us the best chance of coming out on top. Here are six ways to streamline your benefits business for the 21st century:

1) Invest in an online enrollment platform. Face-to-face selling and paper enrollment are quickly falling by the wayside, and online benefits administration is definitely on the rise. Online enrollment offers clients greater flexibility. They don’t need to sit down with you at a desk and sign on all the dotted lines. They can get things done at their own desk. They’re more willing to work with you when they can do it on their own terms.

2) Purchase the best payroll and HR systems. It’s much easier to advise your clients about their options when you’ve streamlined your own business with state-of-the-art benefits solutions.

3) Consider an agency management system. If your book of business is thicker than a dictionary, think about investing in an agency management system to make things easier. There’s no sense in spending precious time rifling through file cabinets when a computer could find the information in less than a minute.

4) Stay up-to-date with industry trends. Follow benefits groups on LinkedIn, subscribe to online benefits newsletters, and regularly read publications for industry updates. Attend webinars and demos to learn about new technologies that can make your life easier.

5) Know your agency. What do your employees need to be as productive as possible? Are they spending lots of time printing, faxing, or scanning paperwork? If so, you should consider investing in an online document management system, like DocuSign. Know what your staff’s challenges are, then consider how technology can help.

6) Hire Millennials. Millennials will signal to your clients that your agency is tech-savvy. They can offer a fresh perspective about what new technologies can help grow your business, and they can take the lead in maintaining social media profiles.

Towers Watson recently reported that 33% of HR departments plan to increase spending on technology to better communicate benefits information to employees. HR departments will increasingly demand to work with benefits brokers that are tech-literate and forward-looking.

Also see: "Why benefits admin, private exchange capabilities should be merged."

New technology means plenty of changes for our industry, but it doesn’t mean you can’t adapt. Look to your teammates to find out what their challenges are; then, look to your competitors and technology companies. The times they are a-changin’. Don’t get left behind.

Veer Gidwaney is the CEO and co-founder of Maxwell Health. View the company's latest whitepaper about tech adoption.

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