2021 HR & Benefits Trends Report – Recap Blog
March 11, 2021
Jill Garrison
Timer  Read Time: 6 minutes
2020 was insane, and with that insanity a new benefits landscape rocketed on to the scene as the face of business changed to take on the challenges we all faced. We’ve all been suffocated by terms like “Unprecedented Times” and “New Normal”, so we promise not to dive in too deeply on the path that brought us here, and instead, plan for the future.

If you’re a Human Resources professional looking to make some sense of our new business climate or wanting to stay ahead of key upcoming trends, you’re in the right spot.  

Welcome to the 2021 Benefits Trends Guide (blog edition)

In addition to our deep dive report, we also wanted to give you the ‘Clifs Notes’ recap of the biggest trends impacting the benefits space this year. Here are the 3 key benefits trends we see as absolutely crucial for HR and Benefits leaders in 2021 and beyond

Trend #1: Artificial Intelligence

The Robots will see you now

Spend on AI technologies is expected to grow by 2.5x by 2023 – to $97.9 billion. ICD Report

AI is being implemented in business so quickly and seamlessly that we often might miss the fact that it’s AI at all! From chat bots on websites to benefits reporting run by HR administrators, Artificial Intelligence tools are getting getting smarter, quickly. But what exactly is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)? 

In short, it’s the ability to program software to perform time-saving tasks, freeing up humans to focus on more cerebral work while also mitigating mistakes that could get made. It might seem far out, but aspects of simple AI have been creeping into our workspaces for a while now. And in 2021, we should see them really take off.

For example, here at PlanSource we’re rolling out a new product family suite of AI/ML-powered solutions called PlanSourceIQ. With our Nova Release this March, we’ll be releasing Dependent IQ which uses AI to scan, verify and instantly approve employees’ eligibility documents. We’ll also be releasing our new employee decision support product, DecisionIQ, which leverages AI/ML to provide hyper-personalized recommendations to employees during the benefit shopping experience.

$800,000: Annual cost savings to the plan with dependent verification in PlanSource. GRPS.

For HR, these types of time-saving opportunities are more and more crucial, especially during Open Enrollment season and with many HR teams being forced to do more with less (/fewer staff). The opportunities to leverage Artificial Intelligence in 2021 are limitless, so when developing your growth goals for this year, aim a little bit higher and let the machines do the heavy lifting.

HR Trend #2: Creating Customizable Benefits Solutions

Like Bob Ross with a benefits package

“To hold on to your talent, or to attract new talent, the time for a simple solution to navigate a highly personalized benefits experience is now,” – Nancy Sansom, Chief Commercial Officer, PlanSource

The time of ‘one size fits all’ benefits package is done. Employees are more insurance savvy than ever before and understand that their benefits needs are personal to their lifestyle. A recent college graduate needs to have a benefitsoffering that serves them differently than their near-retirement age parents; and the savvy companies among us understand that.

How do we the right steps into action though? A recent SHRM report illuminates what we should be focusing on:

1) A Personalized benefits package will be a #1 priority for 2021 and beyond. 

2) Offering student loan repayment aid will help in attracting talented, debt-challenged workers 

3) Employees will not accept taking on more of the cost for their Health Plans  

4) Serving employees access to mental health benefits  

5) Providing aid to caregiving Americans; mitigating absenteeism from work 

With the above ideas gaining traction in the benefits landscape, take this year to explore creative options that are feasible for your company. The most important theme though is to recognize your employees as individuals with unique needs.

HR Trend #3: Invest in Intuitive Experiences

Your audience deserves nice things

60% of people would rather have their questions answered by a chatbot than a human.[2]

Amazon has the intuitive market cornered here, so trying to outdo them with a much smaller budget would be wasted effort at best. Instead, look at why they’re doing and understand why it’s important and impactful, so that you can create much more scalable experiences within your company. How?

Focus on big data and AI to learn With machine learning and big data, you can work to create a customizable experience for your audience (external customers or internal employees) by tracking and learning from the audiences themselves.

Invest in useful APIs – Make the robots talk to each other. With data transfer becoming more streamlined, having a proper API strategy is make or break. At PlanSource, customer feedback shared the irritation employers have always had with filling out EOI forms, so we listened. And through our direct carrier API integrations, EOI forms are automatically sent to, approved and returned from the carrier automatically and in real time. Now, the process takes minutes vs. the weeks of manual back-and-forth between employer and insurance carriers it used to.

Prioritize Digital Personalization Efforts – Talk to people like, well … people. This can be simple and free, if you’re dedicated to doing it right. Start small and measure your results. The impact of even small personalization efforts areuncanny. Retailers show that even simple efforts to personalize a communications plan can provide a 25% revenue lift.[3]

Follow mobile on the move – This one isn’t new, but it’s definitely not going anywhere. If you don’t have an airtight mobile communication method, whether to customers or to employees, you’re already missing an easy mark. In October 2020, >90% of the world’s 4.66 billion active Internet users accessed the Web via mobile.

Are you communicating with your audience how they want to be communicated to, not how you wish to communicate with them? Secondly, what tools or strategies can help facilitate this for you, without being exhaustive in time or effort? You don’t need to break the bank to create a strong intuitive experience, but you do need to be creative and crafty. 

While a handy list is always helpful, what does this really mean for your continued HR work? Basically, ensure that your efforts to increase your team’s proficiency include focus on what an intuitive experience really means. 

Conclusion

While that was a speed recap of everything explored in depth in our 2021 HR & Benefits Trends Report, the biggest takeaways we want employers and brokers to take away from this is that you’ll need to remain unusually nimble in the year ahead, as 2020’s sweeping changes are sure to cause growing pains in 2021.

Stay alert to what your audience is asking, and stay communicative in how you fulfill their wants. Tech is a big winner in the year to come, so take extra effort in ideating how certain items listed above can serve you in the work that you do.  

For more detail, statistics and ideas, download our full 2021 HR & Benefits Trends Report here.  

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