Is Your Benefits Strategy Ready For The Mobile-First World?
March 6, 2018
Jill Garrison
Timer  Read Time: 6 minutes

How many times a day do you check your mobile phone? If you’re like many Americans, it could be 80 times a day – or more! We are truly living in a mobile-first world. We can now order food or hail transportation using mobile apps. We can access banking information, transfer money, complete our taxes, or even apply for a mortgage on our mobile device. What’s next?

The mobile movement is quickly filtering into the workplace and offering a mobile-friendly benefits technology solution is essential to providing a frictionless user experience for employees. Gone are the days of completing benefits enrollment in a single sitting. Behaviors have shifted, and a person might research and view plans on one device, go home and discuss options with a spouse or significant other on a second device and then complete the enrollment later on a third device.

Is your benefits platform capable of providing a truly mobile-friendly experience?

Mobile Trends

71% of online time in the US is mobile54% of email is opened via mobile

58% of search queries are via mobil

77% of Americans own Smartphones

Mobile App vs Responsive Design

There is sometimes confusion about the difference between a ‘mobile-friendly’ or ‘mobile optimized’ experience and a ‘mobile app’. These are two entirely different things.

What is responsive design?

Responsive design is an approach to web design which makes web page render well on a variety of devices. There is no need to pinch and zoom on a screen or enlarge features for usage. Elements automatically adjust as needed to the size of the screen. You can visit a website on a desktop, tablet, or mobile phone and have a relatively similar experience.

Tip: You can test if a website is responsive by simply adjusting and scaling down a browser window on a computer. Do the elements move and adjust as the window size shrinks? Try it now with the PlanSource site!

What is a mobile app?

A mobile app is a software application that is downloaded to a mobile device via an app store. Mobile apps are used exclusively on mobile devices (phones and tablets) and offer specific functionality that may or may not be the same experience offered via the actual website. As an example, social media apps often offer an identical experience as the full social media website. However, many other apps offer limited functionality intended only for mobile use.

Mobile App or Responsive Design?

So, which is right for your HR department? Both offer key differences that can be important when selecting the best approach.

Mobile Apps Considerations


  • Can take advantage of hardware: camera, GPS, accelerometer, Bluetooth, etc.
  • Consistent design experience
  • Offline content viewing
  • Personalization / targeted content
  • Push notifications/alerts
  • Cons:
    • Requires users to download the app, manage app updates, and have adequate storage space on their phones
    • Different apps for different platforms (Apple, Android, Microsoft, etc.)

Mobile Apps In The Benefits Space 

Curious about the demand for a dedicated mobile app for benefits? Well, so were we.

PlanSource recently conducted an employee focus group to discuss the preferences when it came to benefits and human resources communications. Surprisingly, it was nearly unanimous that employees didn’t want an app for work on their personal phones. Phone storage was cited as the #1 reason for not wanting a work-related mobile app on a personal phone.

HR Benefits Mobile Usage

Though 71% of online time in the US is spent on mobile devices, what is the breakdown of mobile usage in the HR and benefits admin space?

As you can see, mobile usage for benefits management is minimal, with only 4% of users accessing benefits systems via a mobile phone and 2% of users accessing systems via a tablet. Though this might seem surprising, keep in mind that many benefits administration platforms are behind the curve on embracing mobile and not many providers offer a mobile-friendly experience. We anticipate this to shift as more companies begin to offer a mobile-first experience.

Advantages Of Mobile-Friendly Benefits Technology

Embracing mobile and fully investing in a mobile-friendly benefits experience offers several advantages that can increase employee engagement, streamline administration and communication, and ultimately save your company money over time.

Document Upload Via Mobile Device

Let’s face it, some of the most challenging parts of benefits administration are also the parts that seem the simplest. Many events, like adding a new dependent, can require an employee to provide proper documentation. Hunting down and organizing these documents can be a pain for both employees and administrators. However, by using a mobile-friendly platform, employees will have the ability to simply upload and submit required documents via an image snapped on their mobile phones. How easy is that?

Text Message Alerts

Need to send a reminder about Open Enrollment? A quick email should do the trick, right? While it can be a powerful communication tool, emails can also quickly get buried beneath more pressing items in the inbox. The average office worker receives 121 emails a day. That’s a lot of email to sift through! Diversifying your important employee communications through text message alerts can ensure that your employees are actually seeing your announcements.

Text messages have a 98% open rate, as opposed to email, which has an average open rate of only 34%. And, 90% of all text messages are read in under 3 minutes. Don’t think your employees want text alerts? Think again. 70% of US consumers appreciate getting texts from health care providers.


Here are a few things to consider with text message alerts:


  • Relatively inexpensive way to reach employees on the go
  • Simple, easy, and convenient
  • 98% open rate
  • Great for announcements, reminders, & calls to action with links


  • 160 character limit means your message must be concise and simple
  • Employees should opt-in and they might choose not to receive text alerts
  • Employees who do not have unlimited texting might have to pay for messages


A good benefits administration platform will not only house powerful employee data but also be able to use that data for automation and personalization. Which would you personally prefer, a blanket email with generic information or a personalized email with your name and information that pertained to you specifically? Data proves that employees will be more apt to engage in personalized content versus generic content. It is more important than ever to partner with a benefits administration provider that can provide personalized messages!

A few things to look for in a benefits technology provider include:

  • Let employees decide how they want to receive your messages – via app notifications, text messages, email, etc.
  • Must be able to generate messages based on workforce characteristics, such as enrollment status, classification, gender, location, union status, and benefits accepted
Mobile-Friendly Benefits Administration Recommendations

Bottom line? We recommend fully embracing the mobile-first world and partnering with a mobile-friendly benefits and HR technology provider. This could mean starting small with text message alerts and reminders or going all-in with a full-service mobile-friendly benefits experience.

Step one is to better understand your workforce and their unique needs and preferences. We recommend completing employee surveys and focus groups to help shape your benefits technology strategy. A few questions to ask include:

  • Is your workforce distributed and/or “on the go”?
  • How tech savvy are your employees?
  • Are your employees asking for mobile tools and technology?
  • What needs to be communicated to spouses?

Step two is to evaluate your entire communication strategy and plan to better incorporate mobile where it makes sense.

  • Begin using text message alerts and reminders
  • Consider creating a single mobile-friendly website for your employees to access and manage HR and benefits
  • Partner with HR tech providers that support a mobile-friendly experience
  • Partner with your marketing team for messaging best practices on mobile

Ready To Upgrade Your Mobile Experience?

Contact us today to schedule your free demo of the mobile-friendly PlanSource platform.

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