For many employers, difficult decisions will continue to benchmark another year of operations. When the dust inevitably settles (and it will) these choices don’t have to single-handedly define an organization’s brand after the pandemic. The human resources department is your organization’s first responder team. As decisions impact the employee experience, they triage fall-out, stabilize the scene, ensure the health and safety of employee populations, and uphold business continuity. How HR continues to handle erratic disruptions in 2021 will bear far greater influence over your organization’s reputation than the decisions themself.
However, HR professionals are only as capable as the tools and resources at their disposal. Without an automated, integrative HR experience, the ever-growing complexities of human capital management will gravely hinder HR’s ability to push the organization past crisis response and onto recovery.
HR REINFORCEMENT IS ESSENTIAL BUSINESS
Organizations that intend to emerge stronger in 2021 already recognize the need to prioritize employee wellbeing above bottom-line health. However, knowing and doing are two very different affairs. According to the latest survey, investments in HR technology that could prove vital to maintaining order are on the cut list.
Prior to COVID-19, leadership finally started to recognize the impact HR technology has on improving core HR capabilities.
Then the coronavirus happened, derailing progress in key initiatives across the business landscape.
In an article published by HR Executive,
The decrease reflects a more than 10% spike in spending pull-out compared to this time last year.
According to the source, “researchers hadn’t seen that figure climb above 7% in a number of years.”
THE PERFECT STORM OF EVENTS IS BREWING
Between tracking furloughs, position transfers and pay freezes while tip-toeing around labor laws, drafting emergency continuity plans while communicating disruptive changes in employee benefits, and controlling the spread of germs while adjusting to mass remote work — HR teams are overwhelmed by change and liable to break down without proper reinforcement.
1. Mental health is still on the decline.
Despite the importance employers are placing on mental health, statistics prove that wellbeing programs are far from meeting the needs of employees. 75% of employees are currently experiencing burn-out while the risk for depression increased by 102% over the last seven months. Experts warn that the consequences of failing to address growing mental and emotional health concerns could have a devastating impact on employee performance, including poor cognitive function, task completion, decision-making capabilities and strategy development.
2. Experts predict a spike in benefits utilization.
The CDC estimates that 41% of adults deferred routine and emergency medical care this year, presumably to minimize exposure to COVID and avoid overwhelming the healthcare system. As a result, experts predict a sharp increase in benefits utilization “above and beyond non-pandemic projections” this year (HRExecutive, News in September).
3. Healthcare costs are increasing faster than wage growth.
Employers can expect to see another 4.4% increase in health plan costs this year, slightly less than earlier predictions. According to SHRM, “health benefit cost growth is now far outpacing the consumer price index and wage growth, both of which have slowed significantly.”
4. Employers plan to shift more cost onto employees.
Although the need to improve employee benefits is obvious, 18% of employers will take cost-saving measures in 2021 that shift more healthcare expenses to employees — for example, increasing deductible and copay amounts (SHRM). Cost-saving measures may also involve reducing retirement plan contributions.
5. Employees are losing faith in employers.
More than 25% of employees now claim that the pandemic has encouraged them to spend more time selecting their health benefits. Under normal circumstances, this would be considered a good thing. However, as lingering fears regarding health and financial wellbeing broaden the spotlight on employee benefits, what employees see has them slowly losing faith and trust in their company’s ability to make the best possible healthcare decisions.
OPTIMIZING YOUR HR DELIVERY MODEL
Concerns over health, safety and financial wellbeing are only expected to intensify. Assuming that ordinary solutions will solve extraordinary challenges is both short-sighted and audacious. Organizations that intend to go the distance will need to look beyond typical strategies for higher-value opportunities that enhance the organization’s flexibility and agility without diminishing the employee experience.
The same survey that revealed a decrease in HR tech spending this year also discovered that organizations “thriving” through the pandemic have several things in common, including a sharp focus on the long-term impact of each decision they make and continued investment in technology infrastructure. Rather than addressing the problem, these organizations address the need that is creating the problem, which often results in a solution that contributes to necessary long-term adaptations for survival.
For example, instead of easing financial strain by freezing HR budgets or shifting health expenses onto employees, progressive organizations are successfully lowering operational costs by investing in technologies that streamline HR operations.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SOLUTION
If operations depend on HR and HR depends on technology, that technology must perform without flaw. As your organization considers its options, keep the following in mind:
Investing in a solution that optimizes operational efficiency, specifically in HR and benefits administration, will prove vital to organizations in the unpredictable months ahead. However, it’s important to focus on the larger underlying need when considering your options: data visibility.
By implementing one all-encompassing solution that seamlessly connects existing systems with a suite of powerful new applications, including benefits management, eligibility, enrollment, and billing software, organizations gain visibility into valuable data insights across the enterprise, all in one place, allowing decision-makers to:
- More easily identify risks before they become problems
- Recognize new opportunities the moment they arise
- Respond in the moment with precision and confidence.
While total project failure is rare, only 35% of organizations that implemented new HR technologies last year deemed them a complete success (Gallagher). One possible reason for their struggle is lack of implementation planning. More than half of HR departments do not have processes in place to optimize the use of HR tech. As a result, less than one-third of professionals even remotely utilize the full capabilities of their HR technology (Gallagher).
Simple, Integrative UX
Adding a complex solution to an increasingly complex HR landscape will more likely result in losses rather than gains. Instead, HR professionals and leadership teams should look for solutions that offer a simple user experience (UX). The most successful solutions are those that mimic other popular digital platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon, or Apple, with which employees are already familiar and “wired” to navigate.
With little room for error, the best way to ensure that your solution supports a more efficient benefits administration delivery model is by selecting a partner with the experience and resources to align their solution with your benefits and business goals, and assist with implementation planning.
Find out which type of benefits administration partner is right for you.
 Gallagher, 2020 HR Technology Pulse Survey