I have had a few experiences over the past few months that have convinced me that Employee Benefits is going to go mobile faster than most may believe but not in the way most benefits brokers would think. My first experience was with my own staff. We launched a web and mobile system to manage our HR, Benefits, and Payroll on July 1st. What was amazing is that 100% of my employees used their mobile phones within the first 5 weeks to request a vacation day. What was more interesting though was that my employees all of a sudden became more aware of their benefits. One individual commented that she did not know the company provided disability insurance and another mentioned how he went to the doctors and forgot his medical card and then remembered seeing the benefits button on his Smartphone. What I found most interesting is that none of my employees went to the smartphone to see what their benefits were. They went there to request a vacation day and “bumped into” the benefits button.
The second experience started with me seeing a statistic (that I can’t find now) that said that 60% of the American workforce did not have internet access or email at work. As an office worker myself in a predominantly office based market that did not seem realistic, but I saw that stat when I was at a conference in Vegas. And if you walk around the casinos in Vegas it is easy to see how this stat could be true. So I decided to test this stat when speaking at a conference just yesterday in Richmond, VA. I was speaking about HR/Benefits technology to an audience of HR people from various employers. I first asked the audience “if you had something real important to communicate to your employees how do you do it?” One woman answered that she sends an email. I then asked the crowd to raise their hands if their employees don’t have a work email. Half the audience raised their hands. I followed this by asking what percent of their workforce they thought owned a Smartphone. Almost all that answered said they thought all their employees owned smartphones.
If you add these two stories together it draws a picture of how employers are going to communicate with their employees and how employees are going to access information. It is going to be same the same way we all do in our personal lives and that is via smartphone apps and text messaging. The thing about smartphones is that they are always with us. We stare at them when we kill time at a doctor’s offices, during commercials when watching television, and between innings of our kids baseball games. We consume information on our smartphones because it is easy.
I started this by saying benefits is going mobile but not in the way most benefits brokers would envision. I would imagine benefits brokers would look for some standalone benefits mobile app. However, when you actually look at how employees utilize their benefits few employees use their benefits beyond an office visit or getting a prescription in any year. So, remembering where to find information one almost ever needs is a challenge. I saw a stat the other day where the average American has 18 users names and passwords in their lives. How are employees going to remember a user name and password to some app or website they never use? The answer is to put the benefits information right next to something employees use frequently such as requesting a vacation day. For this reason deploying a solution that has everything an employee would need from their employer in one spot is the best way to communicate benefits to employees.
Now let’s quickly address text messaging. Imagine I am an employer and I have 30 people that did not go online to enroll in their benefits and there are only 3 days left to enroll. For 50% of employers their employees don’t have a company email. Wouldn’t it be real easy to send these employees a text message? We all text in our personal lives because it is a quick and easy way to communicate. I believe text messaging will become a common form of employee communications in the near future.
The opportunity exists for benefits brokers to take a leadership position by helping employers realize this opportunity to leverage mobile and text messaging to improve the way employers administer and communicate benefits. It simply makes sense. So, let’s go!