Outsourced Expertise, Tech Reshape Benefits Landscape

One in three employers outsource all their benefits administration, up 20% since 2013.

Guardian’s third annual Workplace Benefits Study uncovers a seeming disconnect in employers’ attitude about benefits: Few believe it is their responsibility to provide them, but company cultures and philosophies differ. And most employers do believe they play a role in helping employees and their families achieve financial security.

The research shows employers remain committed to offering affordable benefits that meet employees’ needs. More so than last year, employers are demonstrating a renewed focus on improving employee satisfaction and helping employees make the right benefits choices for their financial situations. Given that diverse employee populations that are undergoing a generational shift, this is no easy task.

Employers are using more vendors for support, the study found, with nearly two-thirds that outsource some benefits administration using multiple vendors, up from 48% in 2013.

Several factors are driving this upswing in benefits outsourcing: Employers of all sizes realize they will need to rely more heavily on external expertise to meet their goals, such as the need to improve efficiency as well as employees’ benefits enrollment experience. Regulatory burdens include keeping compliant with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Nearly two-thirds of employers report outsourcing some aspects of their enrollment process—most often tasks such as preparing enrollment materials (49%) and presenting at enrollment meetings (48%). Fewer (31%) are inclined to outsource the development of their overall enrollment strategy. A decentralized approach lessens the effectiveness of enrollment activities, Guardian contends, recommending that employers are best-suited by outsourcing enrollment strategies to integrate services that support employee decision-making.

“As emerging technology and specialized expertise increasingly become available in the market, employers and HR decision makers should embrace these offerings for advantages that go beyond addressing administration complexities,” says Ray Marra, senior vice president, group products at Guardian. “Our study shows utilizing outside expertise can offer opportunities for companies to transform their benefits package and offer a broader range of employee benefits and related services.”

A copy of the Workplace Benefits Study report is available at Guardian’s website.