Canadian employers are turning their focus to updating their benefits plans and ensuring a strong employee experience in an effort to address the challenges employees are facing in the coronavirus pandemic and to attract key talent in a tight labour market.

“Many companies are adding new services to their benefits plans to support their employees during these unprecedented times,” said Blair McTrach, director of service creation at SEB Administrative Services Inc., during Benefits Canada’s 2022 Tech Insights conference in mid-April. “These last couple of years have really shown that flexibility in designing benefits plans has become even more important.”

This push toward flexibility is coming as millennials, an incredibly tech-savvy generation, make up a growing proportion of the workforce, he said. Indeed, by 2025, the generation is expected to represent 75 per cent of Canadian workers and will “expect technology to be a part of anything that they do.”

Read: 90% of employers not integrating millennials into the workplace: survey

In that environment, up-to-date benefits technology is becoming crucial. SEB’s FlexPlus Enterprise, a software-as-a-service benefits administration and billing solution for small and medium enterprises, was designed to address these key challenges, said McTrach, noting SMEs make up 99 per cent of businesses in Canada.

FlexPlus Enterprise is available for third-party administrators, brokerages, managing general agents, union groups, large associations and even insurers. The bilingual, cloud-based solution is meant to “provide a modern experience for small and medium-sized companies” and comes fully labelled with the client’s and plan sponsor’s brands.

“Our clients’ relationships with their plan sponsors are very important in the small and medium market. FlexPlus Enterprise offers our client more visibility over their members’ data, their experience and the ability to administer more flexible, on-trend plan design, which will strengthen and protect their relationship with their customers.”

As SEB built the solution, it studied the lifecycle of a group benefits plan and sought to address the multiple unnecessary manual processes and delays throughout the process. It introduced a self-service portal for plan sponsors to shift some small tasks off of clients’ plates, such as adding or removing members or making profile updates, as well as a self-service portal for members to give them greater control over their own profile, add or remove dependents and select their own benefits.

Read: SEB’s FlexPlus is simplifying the benefits plan enrolment process

“Our mandate was to develop a system that would improve the process for all stakeholders — our clients, their plan sponsors and their plan members,” said McTrach.

It can also configure and support all plan designs, including traditional, flex and modular, and allows clients the ability to build or customize their plan design through SEB’s benefits library. He said it could save time in configuring eligibility rules, age bands or even rates.

The system is also carrier and product agnostic, meaning plan sponsors can have a single carrier or combine multiple products from multiple carriers or specialty providers for any plan design and view it in the same platform.

SEB has heard from clients about a desire to scale their book of business, said McTrach, but after factoring in the impact on their back-office operations, the expense has been a deterrent. The technology is meant to alleviate those challenges.

“In an era of advanced technology, it’s really surprising that there are so many manual processes in the industry,” he said, noting that dealing with paper forms and other manual processes can risk errors and limit clients’ ability to grow their core businesses.

FlexPlus Enterprise is meant to save time and optimize clients’ operations by automating daily tasks, minimizing data risk, errors and omissions and reducing liability, said McTrach, adding the solution was also designed with security safeguards in place to protect plan sponsor and member data.

Read more coverage from the 2022 Tech Insights conference.