Benefits and Compensation

Six Criteria for Evaluating a Self-Service Model for Voluntary Benefits

If you provide your employees with voluntary benefits, you’ve most likely considered offering them through face-to-face annual enrollment meetings or over the phone.

While these enrollment methods may still be considered valid approaches, those traditional norms are changing.

The pandemic has obviously impacted access to employees. In fact, a reported 50% of the workforce is working a hybrid schedule or completely remotely. It’s no wonder why over the last two years employees’ technology habits have changed, too. They’re more apt to jump online and handle the details themselves.

With one-on-one meetings not being as viable an option as they once were, where does that leave HR leaders who are re-evaluating how to offer and enroll voluntary benefits? And is there a more future-ready alternative to the traditional face-to-face or cell center mode, without sacrificing the unique needs-based approach found in the traditional one-on-one setting?

You bet there is! Based on what we’ve learned from working with many different sized organizations over the last couple years, the following are six things HR leaders should consider when making that decision.

#1: Understand the Technology AND the Industry

There are two pieces to any self-service solution – capabilities of the technology itself and expertise as it relates to employee benefits. Having a self-service partner that understands both and whose goals are aligned with yours is extremely advantageous. To gain clarity, ask detailed questions like:

  • What tools does their technology platform provide to address all components associated with benefits enrollment and administration?
  • How difficult is it to support and enroll all health benefits?
  • How long have they been providing a self-service solution?
  • How focused are they in educating versus selling to employees?
  • What has been the experience of companies in my industry that have implemented this solution?
  • What administrative efficiencies can you provide?

#2: Easy Implementation

Your ideal partner will have a proven, streamlined process with written documentation (such as an implementation plan or process flow chart) and be able to implement a fully customized platform in very short order. To ensure you understand precisely what’s required, ask:

  • How much of the implementation burden will fall on you and your team?
  • What have previous clients had to say about the amount of effort required on their part?
  • What does a standard implementation timeline look like?
  • How much time will the implementation process require on my part?
  • What’s their track record with staying on track?
  • What are the most common implementation roadblocks, and how can you avoid them?

#3: Excellent Employee Communication

We all know the importance of solid communication when it comes to anything related to employee compensation and benefits. That’s why you’ll want to take a close look at any potential vendor’s communication process or tools surrounding enrollment. Do they:

  • Make it easy to deploy?
  • Include multiple, modern touchpoints? (e.g., email, text, video, etc.)
  • Deliver consistent messaging?
  • Tailor or segment content for different audiences?
  • Include languages other than English?
  • Provide educational resources in advance of enrollment?
  • Connect with employees on an emotional and a rational level?

No two employees are alike, so inquire as to what methodology is used to create their approach to communications. And, of course, ask to see multiple examples of what they offer.

#4: Accommodate All Employees

Another important consideration is how well the self-service solution can assist you with accommodating employees in various life stages. Do they also have clear and easy-to-use processes to support new hires and employees who have a qualifying life event? Of course, they should be able to handle your open enrollment needs easily. That is table stakes.

And what type of educational tools do they offer to help employees find solutions for their unique needs? Do they:

  • Provide custom educational videos for all benefit offerings in multiple languages?
  • Supply an easy-to-use decision support tool for health and voluntary benefits?
  • Deliver data analytics-driven solutions?
  • Is there call-center support for individuals that need technology support or who have enrollment questions?

#5: Flawless Data Management

I’ve never met an HR leader who’s looking for another data headache. And I’m guessing you aren’t either. So, to avoid them, you want a technology partner that has active connections in place and uses either file feeds or an API or to flawlessly connect your carriers, payroll, and human capital management systems.

Here’s the time to get specific about the following:

  • How will your system(s) communicate with theirs?
  • What audit methods are in place to ensure data accuracy?
  • Is there a fee to connect with a new vendor?
  • Will you be required to make administrative entries (add/changes/terminations) in multiple systems?
  • Is the data flow manual or automated?

Knowing and understanding these expectations will help you make a well-informed decision (and get ahead of any potential issues).

#6: Understand the Costs

The final criteria you want to understand is cost. During a system demo, be sure to ask what the standard offering includes versus what components being shown have a fee tied to them. If you have looked at technology options in the past, you know there is no shortage of options out there, no two are created equal, and many of them come with a hefty price tag.

The good news is you and your employees can enjoy a modern enrollment experience,  at no additional cost to your company. While there are vendors who may offer a self-enroll option, only a few have made it their business to truly perfect the self-service enrollment approach.  We’re talking a modern self-service enrollment approach with a path to speak to a live person, if needed. As you evaluate your options, ask whether the solution comes with any of the following fees:

  • Platform
  • Set-up
  • Per-employee-per-month
  • Data exchange
  • Self-service reporting
  • ACA/COBRA

If you are looking to save on your bottom line, select a partner who will allow you to completely fund the technology solution by offering voluntary benefits and one who does not require the addition of new products annually.

Get Prepared for the Future

Will one-on-one or call center enrollments still be options in the future? In certain cases, yes. But are there other ways to get similar or even better results with a self-service solution? Absolutely. The market has been embracing more technology-focused solutions alongside traditional enrollments for years and the pandemic has only accelerated that change.

An effective self-serve voluntary enrollment is within reach; use these six criteria as your formula to find an alternative that is right for you. It’s a data-driven approach that will help you meet employees where they are, evolve the way you offer benefits, reduce your HR workload and simplify the process.

Shaun Urista is a Regional Sales Manager with Trustmark. Belinda Maffei is Vice President of Marketing with TBX®.