Tech Talk: New Innovations and Enhancements for HR Professionals

It’s so easy to get excited about new technologies, especially those that offer the promise of delivering solutions that will eliminate common problems that HR professionals like you often face.

Now allow me to jump in with a little bit of caution: not all these so-called advanced technologies live up to their often-enormous hype. Truth be told, introducing them into your company can turn out to be a bit like purchasing an app that looked good on paper, only to never be used after it was downloaded onto your smartphone. (Yes, I’ve been there!)

Then, how do you know which new technologies are appropriate for you?

A suggestion, look for those that do any of the following:

  • Reduce the administration time required by your HR staff;
  • Give your employees easy access to their benefits programs and information;
  • Improve communication with your employees;
  • Integrate with your current technology;
  • Help you train and onboard staff;
  • Promote wellness;
  • Assist in the delivery of healthcare;
  • Enable you to reduce your benefit-related costs.

Sounds like a tall order, right?

Well, not really. Over the last while, some technological innovations and enhancements have emerged that deliver solutions in these areas.

A Virtually Great Form of Health Care Delivery

How many times have you dedicated half your day to a doctor’s appointment that only resulted in basic diagnosis and treatment?

Welcome to the bold new world of Virtual Medicine, where it’s incredibly easy to get fast and convenient access to treatment. A bold new innovation that’s come to the forefront during the pandemic, it’s something Samantha Scimmi, Human Resources and Marketing Manager at Loopstra Nixon LLP says, “is quickly becoming a go-to resource for people”.

With virtual medicine, you can connect to doctors by phone, video or via secure messaging on any device wherever you happen to be – with no app download required.

You can even receive referrals, requisitions, prescriptions and other documents you need, all online.

It’s highly beneficial to employees because they skip the waiting room and have no wait times. For employers, it means less lost time and better productivity for their employees who do not need to leave their workspace for their appointments.

Virtual medicine also has a strong reason for being on the mental health side. Getting in to see a counselor – and eventually having them reach some type of diagnosis – can take months or sometimes, even years via conventional channels. Virtual medicine can accelerate the process, and in some cases, help address early symptoms before they turn into something more significant and long-term. There are also virtual tools that can assess and monitor mental wellbeing, thereby helping employees get the assistance they need right when they need it.

Reap the Benefits of Better Employee Benefits Enrollment

Are your employees still enrolling in benefits with a pen and paper?  There are now simple processes that allow them to skip this step and keep the paper off your HR professionals’ desk.

Carmelina Raimondo, Human Resources Partner at UKG states that, “Insurance companies have finally realized that they need to make the enrollment process easier for HR. Not only have they made it easy for our employees to enroll online, they also enable them to submit their healthcare related receipts digitally to speed up the time it takes for them to be reimbursed for their claims.”

An Application Program Interface (API) can pull together a bevy of employee information, with this data being shared across benefits and HRIS platforms.

Shawn Rosenzweig, Partner at accounting firm SBLR LLP, discusses what this has done for his company. “All of our onboarding and offboarding is done virtually through software that we use, which has become invaluable as we, for the most part, are currently working from home.” He adds, “Time off requests are also approved and managed either in the cloud or through an app on a smartphone.”

Ben Tilly, Global Benefits and Compensation Manager at Maui Jim Sunglasses, adds another dimension to the mix – how technology is fostering better data integration with benefits vendors. He points out, “We’re seeing more and more vendors where we can generate custom enrollment reports that we can use to manage enrollment data.” All of this has made life easier for him. “It has been a huge time saver and really helped transform my role from transactional to strategic,” he comments.

Systems that Make Benefits Administration Easier

Today, there are technologies that can assist in the area of Human Capital Management (HCM).

Many insurance carriers have enhanced their systems so that changes can be made to employee data and then synchronized with a company’s payroll process.

Continuing on the subject of payroll, many companies have used technology to make their organizations run more efficiently. William Cunningham, Vice President of Investment Operations and Finance at investment management firm FGP, points out that, “We recently migrated over to a system that in addition to managing payroll, has a lot of other HR features such as vacation/booking approval and the issuance of electronic pay statements and T4s.”

There are even analytics and performance appraisal modules that may be added to the system to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your benefits plans.

Employing Even More in your Employees Benefits Portal

Yes, employee benefits portals have been around for some time. But these portals can be more than static websites that hold PDFs associated with insurance plans.

They can contain benefits resource libraries that can be accessed from anywhere, serving up nutritional advice, meditation videos, health and fitness tips, stress management suggestions and other content that is particularly important during these challenging times.

Using Gamification as an Employee Learning Tool

As we all know, a lot of companies have trouble communicating the mechanics of their benefits plan to their employees. Gamification is a manageable, highly effective solution.

It’s where game-like experiences are used to impart valuable information to employees. For instance, you could design online games that offered employees short quizzes on wellness or other topics rather than communicating this content via long articles or meandering videos. Gamification can also be used to drive behaviour. A mini-website with game mechanics such as leaderboards, points badges medals, progress bars, team competition and leveling is something that could be used for virtually any experience and goal. Gamification programs work best when they help people fulfill a specific objective, so well-being and health programs are some of the most useful places to employ them.

Receive Immediate Feedback on What’s Working and What’s Not

It’s always helpful to know how your employees feel about your benefits programs. One way to do this, is to administer online surveys. Easy to create and administer using a variety of available online platforms, these surveys are cost efficient, convenient, scalable, flexible and accurate. Just as important, they are objective and provide respondent anonymity allowing employees to provide open and honest feedback. As well, you receive fast results – and you can analyze the feedback and quickly address any issues or concerns.

Remember to Choose your Technologies with Caution

Technology should only be used and leveraged when it makes sense. And its tangible benefits may not be experienced immediately. So be patient!  Take your time to decide which platform fits best because it’s a big job to rewind from one system and restart with another. Be careful about getting trapped in a one-stop-shop approach as your business may require more flexibility in terms of adding or removing parts. Regardless, seek impartial advice or speak with your community and ask why they decided on a certain platform.

Before implementing any technology, be sure to identify your objectives. That way, you will be in the position to measure and evaluate whether the technology turned out to be the solution to your challenge and enabled you to get a solid return on your investment.

The investment you make in technology will pay great dividends for your business if you do it right.