When human resources professionals are choosing among benefits administration technology platforms, price is less important than ease of use and the extent to which the technology can be integrated with HR information systems, a survey by employee benefits advisory firm Pacific Resources has found.

The survey of senior HR or benefits executives from 91 organizations across a range of industries was conducted during June and July 2017. The survey was designed to capture the current perspectives on benefits administration platforms of some of the largest employers in the U.S. as these platforms grow in both competition and complexity.

The results showed that the most valuable outcomes employers have reported in their experience with benefits administration platforms are best-in-class employee user experience (49%) and the ability to integrate benefits technology with HR functions (37%). By contrast, the total outsourcing of HR/benefits business processes and below-market costs were rated as valuable by less than 10% of respondents.

The 2017 survey also found that cost is no longer the driving factor when selecting a benefits administration platform: only 23.9% of respondents cited cost as the most important consideration in 2017, down from 64.4% in 2016. In the 2017 survey, the most important factors were identified as administrative ease at 61.4%, up from 38% in 2016; and empowering employees to make informed benefits decisions at 51.5%, up from 24.4% in 2016.

The findings also showed that 83.2% of the employers surveyed view communication, employee education, and engagement as integral to their overall health and welfare benefits delivery strategy; and that 88.8% of respondents see cost calculators, plan comparison tools, and guided decision-support tools that help employees select benefits that meet their personal and family needs as at least somewhat effective.

The share of respondents who indicated that they outsource employee eligibility and enrollment processes also increased sharply, from 36% in 2016 to 58% in 2017. By contrast, just 30% of respondents said they currently manage all employee eligibility and enrollment processes in-house, and expect to continue to do so.

While the findings indicated that the employers polled are confident in and rely on technology to deliver benefits, only 45.5% of respondents said they are likely to remain with their current benefits administration platform vendor, while 29.5% said they are unsure and 25% said they are likely to request bids from other platform vendors.

The survey also asked the HR professionals what approach they are using to manage their health and welfare benefits in response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The largest share of respondents (43.7%) said their approach will be dictated by the outcome of changes to the ACA.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 61, Issue 3

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