Q&A on HR Technology

This is a special advertising section featuring experts' thoughts on technology-related challenges.

By Rae Shanahan, Chief Strategy Officer, Businessolver Inc.

Q:What's the one HR-technology solution today that is transforming HR departments?

A: Affordable Care Act requirements transformed the entire HR industry, so it's no surprise that HR technology has surged forward to help companies respond to those new mandates. We're having conversations with HR/benefits leaders every day seeking accuracy, security and timeliness in their employee notices, reporting and data transmittal. It's not an understatement to say that creating and distributing 1095-C forms and transmitting the data on time to the IRS is an enormous undertaking -- one that would have been impossible without technology. Even though annual enrollment is hot on our heels, HR departments should still take time this fall to reflect on lessons learned with ACA compliance and apply them to make next year's reporting and transmittal process even better. In terms of potential IRS penalties, the stakes will be even higher for ACA compliance in 2017. HR departments should seek a quality technology partner that can maintain data accuracy and security.

Q: Going forward, what areas should HR leaders be focusing their HR- tech investments on to secure the best bang for the buck?

A: With the expansion of technology comes an explosion in the amount of data that HR professionals have at their fingertips. Investments in data analytics can help HR departments be more laser-focused on crafting a benefits strategy that effectively engages and supports employees the way they need it most.

More specifically, employers should select a benefits-administration platform that features comprehensive data capabilities and allows for an integrated, single-stop administrator experience -- offering insightful, actionable information across a wide spectrum of benefits. For example, plan enrollment by gender, coverage level, age and salary; movement across plans (from PPO to HDHP and vice versa); and premium trends all are among can't-miss data points. This type of data can have a profound impact on plan design and overall strategic planning to inform, influence and communicate with employees. We believe there's an unmistakable correlation between refined data analysis and employees' improved engagement/satisfaction with their benefits.

Q: In implementing new HR-technology solutions, what are the specific best practices HR leaders should be employing to ensure that those implementations go smoothly and successfully?

A: With a multigenerational workforce that's increasingly diverse by gender and culture, the reality of benefits is that employers can't afford to just offer medical and dental anymore. Not only are medical plans growing more varied and complex, but voluntary benefits are expanding as well. While this expansion is valuable -- and necessary -- to respond to workforce shifts, it generally means multiple carriers with diverging requirements for eligibility, coverage, payroll deductions and underwriting.

Many employers also offer credits/surcharges for dependent enrollment, tobacco use and wellness-program participation. Each of these benefits silos creates separate opportunities for a breakdown in the enrollment experience and/or data security. So first, a single-source technology platform with the capability to integrate multiple carriers and seamlessly import and export member information is critical.

Beyond those fundamentals, HR departments should have assurances that all of the boxes are checked in terms of quality assurance, user experience, testing and IT support -- well before annual enrollment to maximize the chances for success.

Finally, employers should ensure platform scalability. The smoothest implementations will come from a system that's nimble enough to accommodate any change at any time -- rates, plans, eligibility requirements, carriers, regulatory mandates and more -- and can shift with your people and business priorities without extraordinary cost.

Sep 1, 2016
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