More than half of U.S. employers say they are expanding the use of technology to manage costs associated with employee benefits programs, according to new research conducted by Prudential Financial, Inc.  The results were derived from the fourth in a series of five research briefs that highlight the major findings from Prudential’s annual study of employee benefits.  According to "Today & Beyond," employers expect the importance of benefits technology to grow substantially over the next five years.

“Employers are looking for their insurers to do more than pay claims,” said Joseph Hayes, chief information officer of Prudential Group Insurance. “They want a streamlined benefits process using technology that allows their employees and benefits administrators to connect directly with their insurers.”

Among the key technology strategies noted by employers: Half of those polled (51 percent) say it is important that their benefits systems interface with their insurance carrier’s systems; More than half (59 percent) are looking for their insurance carriers to offer “plug and play”—the flexibility to adapt and connect to other carriers or a third-party administrator; Nearly half (45 percent) report that benefits technology has helped improve worker productivity.

The push for technology and functionality comes in spite of survey results that show a low to average use of online benefits tools among employees, with less than half conducting any online activity this year. The most commonly used tools are online enrollment (50 percent) and 401(k) management (47 percent). Additionally, employees are generally satisfied with the quality of online tools, rating most features as “good.”

Employers did acknowledge the need for improvement in the survey. More than half of employers noted they would increase their use of online tools if their websites were easier to navigate, functionality was more useful and sites were less cluttered and easier to read. Even though employers were generally satisfied with the functionality of their employee benefits online activities, they cited a need for improvement in submitting claims, integrating payroll processing, managing and tracking employee absences and recording evidence of insurability.




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