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Kazim Ladimeji Benefits Software Capabilities That Deliver the Biggest Payback

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 By Kazim Ladimeji

4 Key Features of Benefits Administration Software

While it may go without saying, according to a recent BNA report (HR Department Benchmarks and Analysis 2011), growth in HR departments' budgets has been severely limited as a result of the current recessionary climate; and in many cases HR staff have actually been reduced. What results from this is a great deal of HR doing more with less and struggling to gain as many operational efficiencies as possible just to stay afloat—let alone stay strategic. As is the case for other core HR services, leveraging benefits administration software holds a huge potential to realize some of these tactical efficiencies. In fact, recent research by Forrester indicates that HR teams can spend up to 30% of their time on benefits administration; tasks that, while important, are done at the expense of more productive, strategic initiatives which are confined to just 14%.

Remedying this time disparity involves leveraging benefits administration applications to reduce manual workloads and automate as much of the process as possible. While recent studies from HRO Today reveal that benefits administration is one of the first HR functions that organizations look to outsource, the fact remains that the business case for adopting Benefits Administration software is compelling enough that companies around the world are still leveraging this technology—which, given that this type of HR automation conserves time and money, can increase the effectiveness of an HR department (by allowing greater time for strategic functions), and is relatively easy to do (compared to other HRMS implementations), is no surprise. However, in order to realize these benefits (no pun intended), specific benefits software feature sets must be present. Here, we have highlighted a few of the more key benefits administration software features to look for.

Benefits Administration Software Feature # 1: Ease of Use

Usability is a recurrent theme in countless articles on HR technology, and for good reason, as a study by the Sand Hill Group and NeoChange has shown that effective user adoption is the single-most critical factor for software success and return-on-investment (ROI). Indeed, not only does HR staff need an easy-to-use benefits system, but employees and managers will also need to have a positive user experience (UX) to ensure that intended ROI is achieved. But what should a usable benefits automation system look and perform like?

To start with, in order to maximize UX, the benefits administration software should be easily configurable by both HR generalists and benefits specialists. For instance, data importing should be simple and configuring benefits plans that match to the organization's needs should be achievable without needing to construct complicated formulas or bring in IT experts. Further, this ease of use should also be reflected in the reporting capabilities of the benefits software (i.e. there should be a preexisting library of commonly used reports that the user can access at the click of a button without having to become familiarized with a complicated custom report writer).

Benefits Administration Software Feature # 2: Multiple Plan Support

A central part of benefits administration is maintaining a range of different benefits plans and coverage levels for your workforce. Your benefits system should have the flexibility to be able to store information on unlimited plan types, ranging from pensions and health through ancillary employee benefit items such as parking, gym memberships, etc. This functionality should be fully reflected by allowing the organization to be able to map (and maintain) all these types of benefit plans within the system. If the benefits administration software fails in this capacity, or delivers less than this comprehensive capability, then in all likelihood, your HR team will have to maintain additional records outside of the HR system—thusly diminishing a host of efficiency gains.

Benefits Administration Software Feature # 3: Process Automation

While it may sound redundant to list the functionality of process automation for a tool that in and of itself is already predicated upon that concept, organizations should be aware that from a workflow perspective, benefits administration software must be able to run end to end tasks rather than solely existing as a single data repository. Specifically, having mapped all of the organization's benefits into the HR system (thusly establishing eligibility and coverage level criteria such as age, length of service, location, seniority, grade etc.), the benefits administration software must then be able to automatically calculate the individual benefits offering for each employee. Further, the benefits administration application must be able to accurately and independently determine employee benefits eligibility; entitlements and coverage levels; as well as generate benefits statements and cost reports.

Benefits Administration Software Feature # 4: Self-Service

One of the inescapable truths of the HR department is that a significant amount of time is spent responding to basic questions and queries from employees about benefits, entitlements, leave, and the like. While no organizational intervention can be introduced to fully alleviate this workload, by leveraging benefits administration software that has self-service functionality, managers can directly access benefits information and policies without contacting HR—essentially cutting out the middle man for those times that employees have basic administrative questions. On top of that, self-service functionality for employees (or even integration with ancillary Employee Self Service software solutions) allows staff to self-enroll in benefits schemes—effectively removing a further manual data entry burden from HR staff. Additionally, though the efficiencies gained through the self-service process are inarguably positive enough on their own, research from Webster Buchanan shows that self-service applications increase user adoption levels, resource utilization, and return-on-investment (ROI).

Final Thoughts on Benefits Administration Software

In an increasingly demanding business environment where HR departments are being called upon to provide greater impact with fewer resources, there is a growing need to operate more efficiently and to provide greater impact. To achieve this, organizational changes must occur that liberate HR staff from excessively administrative duties and allow greater time for focusing on strategic value-added interventions. HR software such as benefits automation can play a large part in this transformation, but organizations should understand what functional elements are needed from this technology in order to maximize effectiveness. As such, when choosing benefits automation software, care must be taken to ensure that all the above criteria are fulfilled if the system is to deliver the desired efficiency gains and ROI. End

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Your benefits system should have the flexibility to store information on unlimited plan types, ranging from pensions and health through to ancillary employee benefit items such as parking, gym memberships, etc.


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