4 Keys to AI’s Future in Employee Benefits

by Holly Wright, EBS Director of HR Technology

Artificial Intelligence holds a lot of promise in helping organizations better understand the needs of its employees. From gathering broad swaths of data (including turnover rates, the best times to hire, and employee demographics) to leaning on automation in the pursuit of a more efficient workforce, AI’s ability to make sense of large amounts of information helps HR technology experts like myself discover actionable insights and new ways of solving problems.

AI and employee benefits go hand in hand. But while AI can help me translate those numbers into a readable format, key decisions like choosing employee benefits still require the participation and insights of experienced professionals.

What is AI’s role in the workplace— and how might you best leverage AI technology to coordinate employee benefits and create simple solutions at an organizational level?

Here are four keys to consider as you weigh the future of AI:

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1. AI Technology in HR Does Some Things Very Well—But Not Everything

The most progressive organizations push the envelope when it comes to technology, and many of these innovation-first companies acknowledge AI as a tool— not as a catch-all solution, answer or idea generator for determining high level, strategic business outcomes. Here’s what AI does very well:

  • Information gathering. Between mobile accessibility and AI software, it’s never been easier to capture information about prospective employees. Today’s HR technology records and organizes data to help guide – not determine – key HR decisions.

  • Generating insights about your current employee population. If you recognize a problem with high employee turnover, do you know what caused it? The most important features in the next wave of HR technology will find answers to your most pertinent questions, like this one. For example, if the average retention rate is drastically higher for employees with shorter commutes, a company needs to know how its location is affecting its ability to attract talent. Without those insights, you’re simply guessing at solutions to the problem.

That isn’t to say that AI has all the answers. Making the right decisions for your employee recruitment and benefit programs requires deeper considerations. Here’s where experience in HR still counts:

  • Forming a recruiting plan that attracts talent. Today’s HR technology—including employee assessments from The Predictive Index—can provide plenty of information on prospective employees for people like myself. But what can our own system tell us based on the information we’ve already collected? What could our systems do to make us smarter HR professionals?

  • Determining company-level policies and employee benefits. There’s no doubt that AI allows us to collect enormous amounts of data never before possible. But it’s what a company decides to do with that information that counts. From a recruiting standpoint—lean on AI to identify where you’re finding the best candidates. Do you look for certain schools or locations? What attributes does the ideal candidate have? Based on how you can interpret the criteria that make up your next employees will allow you to make tweaks to your talent acquisition processes (and candidate experience).

When AI is working effectively with HR, it can generate key insights about employee retention, recruitment, and employee benefits that help identify gaps and missed opportunities.

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2. AI Helps Answer Questions on Employee Benefits

As senior HR leaders, we’ve been focused on finding different benefit and health plans that are going to offer the coverage levels that suit our employees. AI helps us step back and evaluate the success of these plans.

Our existing HR technology systems provide us with a snapshot of any employee (marital status, whether or not they have dependents, their history of benefits and the choices that they’ve made, their annual salary and the balance of their FSA or HSA) upon log in. That said, the introduction of AI as, say, a decision support tool, can help direct them to select the plan that fits their criteria the best, and also allows them to consider their options while doing so. Think of AI as a benefits simplification tool; there’s so much data to consider when enrolling that overwhelm is easy. We often hear people say “just tell me the plan that will work best for me and my family.” That’s where AI comes in. It’s an electronic guide for employees to help them understand how to use their benefits effectively.

We can then take that information on the plans selected and, through our HCM (in conjunction with our carriers), determine what the utilization rates are, what services are used most and IF those plans are meeting employee needs.

When all of us want to be the employer of choice with top talent in their field and at the same time want what’s best for our employees, AI helps you match the benefit solutions to your employees’ precise needs.

3. AI Isn’t Going to Solve All of Our Problems Overnight—But It Might Solve Some

In HR, AI really started generating valuable insights as it helped in reporting this year’s statistics compared to last year’s. As an HR professional, I’m looking for that knowledge: was our turnover lower than last year’s? Was our employee benefits package comprehensive enough? What do employees think about it this year as opposed to last year?

AI continues to help drive that wisdom. It may never replace the HR department, but it’s certainly going to make it more efficient. Where else might AI help? Consider the following:

  • Onboarding. Automated tools already make onboarding easier, especially with assistance as simple as pre-populated fields. AI technology can help streamline this process and make it easier for both new hires and employers.

  • Identifying the unknown. We don’t know what we don’t know.  A lot of organizations focus on day-to-day operations; AI forces us to step back and evaluate year-over-year insights.

  • Attracting talent. Going to a wall and swiping a badge to ‘clock in’ every day seems archaic to today’s talent. The technology we now have available lets employees sign in with a fingerprint on a mobile device. Choosing old ways of doing things will make you forfeit the opportunity to win over the people who are going to propel your business into the future.

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4. There are Specific Ways Employers Can Leverage AI for Employee Benefits Today

With the above in mind, what are some ways employers can start using AI to enhance their employee benefits?

  • Start by ditching the fear. There’s no reason to fear AI—instead, be open to the possibility that it’s not here to replace you, but rather to make your life easier.

  • Use AI to better understand your employees’ interaction with their benefits. What’s driving low retention rates? What benefits to employees most use, and which benefits have little impact on their day-to-day lives?

  • Streamline your employees’ experience. In one case, I saw an organization using seven different systems. We were able to connect these disparate systems with APIs and software so that when the company hired a candidate, they could onboard all new employee information with one single sign-in. While AI is great for making key decisions on employee benefits and understanding long-term trends, don’t be afraid to use it to enhance the day-to-day employee experience.

AI predictors can have a dramatic impact on the future success of an organization. While AI still has its limitations, failing to know your internal statistics can impede your ability to provide employees the best possible benefits experience. Use AI to make sense of your information and to get a better sense of what your employees want. They’ll thank you with higher retention rates, better job satisfaction, and an organization that attracts top talent.

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