Employee Benefit Technology: Bridging the Gap between HR, Employees, and Brokers

By Ed Ligonde


Employee benefits are a crucial part of any company’s people and experience strategy. For most employers, it is not a ‘check the box’ option, but rather a recruitment and retention tool.

However, understanding employee benefits is not always easy for employees, and HR teams can struggle with bandwidth. In this article, we will explore how brokers are leveraging technology to bridge the gap between HR, employees and themselves. At the end of the day, there are ways to deploy technology to be triple efficient!

The Challenge: lack of understanding

One of the primary challenges that employees face when it comes to benefits is a lack of understanding. According to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), only 42% of employees could correctly identify the amount they paid in health insurance premiums, and only 36% could correctly identify their deductible.

This lack of understanding can lead to confusion and frustration for employees, which can ultimately impact their job satisfaction and productivity. Not to mention, if an employer were to make plan changes or transition to a self-funded plan with significantly more moving parts, while well-intentioned changes were imposed, the impact could fall negative due to the lack of understanding and savviness of navigation.

Additionally, let us not forget about the workload for the HR and people operations teams. HR teams can be overwhelmed with the task of educating employees on their benefits or dealing with simple questions on a consistent basis, leaving them little time for other important tasks.

The Solution: benefit technology

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

Fortunately, brokers are leveraging various forms of technology to assist HR teams and employees in understanding and accessing their benefits. One example is mobile apps, which can provide employees with easy access to information about their benefits, including coverage details, deductibles, copays and accumulators. 

Advocacy and navigation tools are another technology that can help employees better understand their benefits. These tools can guide employees through the complex process of selecting the right benefits for their needs, as well as provide personalized recommendations based on their individual circumstances. May it be decision support or an AI-driven self-service model, these tools are significantly reducing the impact and burden on HR to manage their benefit programs — when rolled out properly, of course.

Another technology solution is the one-stop-shop approach, which consolidates all benefits information into a single platform. This approach can make it easier for employees to understand and access their benefits, as well as provide HR teams with a centralized platform for managing benefits enrollment and administration. One of the lessons learned during the pandemic is how difficult it was for employees to navigate their benefits or how many various apps they need to download to manage their healthcare needs, especially since they cannot walk down the hallway to have a quick chat with HR.

How about delivering bite-size pieces of information on a consistent or periodic basis?

At open enrollment, employees are drinking from a firehose with how much content they need to consume and then expected to retain this information for themselves and their families for the following 12 months. Text message and push alerts are additional communication deliverables that can help employees stay up-to-date on their benefits while giving HR an outlet to disseminate anything and everything they need to communicate. These tools can provide timely reminders for enrollment periods, deadline reminders, and other important benefit-related notifications in the matter of seconds. On average, when it comes to mass emails, the average open rate is 20%  — while for text messages, it is 98%. This is also due to the fact that text messages create a sense of urgency and up until recently, you couldn’t mark a text unread.

Finally, ongoing benefit education and communication are crucial for ensuring employees understand their benefits. These types of technologies give us all the slick mediums to ongoing deliverables HR teams need to deliver for ongoing benefit education and communication to employees. This can help to reinforce understanding and keep employees engaged in the process.

The benefit to brokers

In addition to assisting HR teams and employees, benefit technology can also provide significant benefits to brokers themselves. Technology can help brokers stay relevant and foster growth and new business opportunities.

For example, technology can provide brokers with a more efficient way to manage their business, including client data, quote, and proposals. This can help brokers streamline their workflow and increase their productivity. 

This industry is archaic at best in many areas. Fortunately there is a lot of innovation happening not only in member facing and employer facing deliverables, but also the back channel for brokers to manage their internal workflows. 

Digital benefit solutions can also provide brokers with a competitive edge.

By offering technology solutions to their clients, brokers can differentiate themselves from their competition and provide added value to their clients. However, we would argue it needs to be part of an overall benefit and communication strategy, rather than just a bolt on solution in order to garner success from the program overall.

In short, technology is changing the way we approach employee benefits as a whole. By leveraging various forms of technology, brokers are able to assist HR teams and employees in understanding and accessing their benefits, while also providing a communication medium for ongoing benefit education and communication. Additionally, benefit technology can provide significant benefits to brokers themselves, including increased efficiency and a competitive edge. As we move forward, we can expect to see continued innovation in the area of employee benefit technology, with a focus on enhancing the employee experience and improving business outcomes. It’s time we challenge the status quo of how we consume our benefits. 

Ed Ligonde is EVP of Nielsen Benefits Group in Westlake Village. He is known as an innovative and forward-thinking partner amongst his clients, colleagues and business partners. Ed believes that as benefits advisers, we have a unique and incredible opportunity to positively impact the employee and employer experience and enhance it in innovative ways. Whether it’s effective technology, lifestyle benefits or unique funding strategies, Ed takes a comprehensive consultative approach to his business. In 2019, Ed was named a “Rising Star in Advising” by Employee Benefit Adviser magazine, and in 2021, he was named the “Broker of the Year” by BenefitsPRO magazine.