New media in group benefits

There’s no turning back now. As technology advances and we become more mobile and more accustomed to on-demand access, plan sponsors have no choice but to keep up if they want to keep their members engaged.

Scott Hunter, senior vice-president, employee benefits with JLT Canada, provided an overview of what new media is (information that is accessible any time, on any device and with interactivity), and why it’s so important to benefits plan providers and sponsors at Benefits Canada’s Benefits & Pension Summit in Toronto.

“The key to success to online experiences is becoming the look and feel, not just the function and content. It becomes an element of the brand experience, and you’ll be judged on that brand experience,” he said. “Providers can expect to be judged not just on ‘did they pay the claim’—because, quite frankly, that’s expected—but how did that experience feel from the member’s perspective?”

As a case study for new media done right, Virginie Bastien, director of HR, and Kenny Santoso, human resources specialist, both with software firm Macadamian, talked about how their organization implemented its own new media system to complement the company’s enhanced flexible benefits plan.

“If we want to reach people, we need to use tools that they like and enjoy,” Bastien explained. “We had one type of plan and no options, and we wanted to offer a lot of flexibility—and all of this [presented] in new media.”

For employees, a new media-based system means they can log in at any time, enabling them to review their benefits options from home and with their families, said Santoso. For the employer, advantages include less paper filing, not having to chase after members for information, and an enrollment process that is easier to track in real-time. As well, it’s possible for administrators to respond and monitor members’ plans remotely, reducing employees’ wait times for responses.

“Going on new media forced us to review our processes and offerings and be more efficient,” said Bastien.

Of course, even the best of systems can cause problems. Santoso said that they encountered some technical road blocks, and advised plan sponsors to maintain transparent communication with the plan (and technology) provider of what works and what needs adjusting, in order to maintain a positive user experience.

As well, while a new media system can help plan sponsors to automate much of their benefits management, not everything can be automated, especially when working with flexible benefits. “Because we also offer non-traditional benefits, there’s a lot of exceptions and human judgment that we need to use when we process them, depending on the type of benefit they’re claiming… or where the employee is living, for tax purposes,” explained Santoso.

The main takeaway is that new media shouldn’t just be a fancy tool; it needs to speak directly to members and appeal to the ways in which they want to access information. “You must be successful,” warned Hunter, “or you will be ignored.”

All the articles from the event can be found on our special section: 2014 Benefits & Pension Summit Coverage.

Tammy Burns is a Toronto-based writer and editor.