PlanSource Eclipse 2019: Conference Recap

Takeaways from PlanSource Eclipse

It hardly seems a year has passed since the 2018 PlanSource Eclipse conference, but here we are again—back from the 2019 conference where three BTR team members attended a series of informative sessions and connected with clients, peers, and vendors from the industry.

We were pleased to be part of the invite-only Elite Advisory Board and Reseller Roundtable sessions, where BTR team members Jaime Ferguson, Jamie Betteridge, and Nicole Coffman got some valuable intel on the PlanSource product roadmap. It also provided us the opportunity to give feedback on the PlanSource platform based on what we hear from you, our benefit advisor colleagues and your clients. As before, we’re happy to share the most important takeaways to help you in your role as a benefit advisor to your employer clients.

Introducing PlanSource Boost. “Elevate” was the overall conference theme (a great progression from 2018’s “Simplify” theme) and PlanSource made several major product announcements reflecting their work to elevate their platform. Among them, PlanSource Boost, an exclusive program between PlanSource and select insurance carriers to take advantage of API technology to support real-time data integration. This integration will eliminate weekly EDI files, thereby streamlining the process and removing discrepancies that occur between PlanSource and carrier systems due to timing that can lead to a lack of coverage. PlanSource Boost is also intended to reduce complex billing for all parties involved, including helping the carrier’s streamline their technology contributions.  Guardian will be the first carrier to participate in the Boost program, but PlanSource reports Aflac, Cigna, MetLife, The Hartford, and Unum are on board.

Other announcements included:

  • Integrated text messaging to allow HR professionals to create targeted communication campaigns to push out important information to employees about their benefits. Text messages result in much higher open rates than emails—helping ensure busy employees read the message.
  • Data security is a high priority for PlanSource, evident in the hiring of a chief technology officer and expansion of their information security staff over the past year. PlanSource is currently pursuing ISO 27001 certification for management of the security of assets such as employee information entrusted to PlanSource by third parties.
  • PlanSource Communities (an addition to PlanSource University) provide users a forum to connect over FAQs, feature requests, industry trends, changes and more.

Benefits are a year-round business. PlanSource emphasized the value of leveraging its platform year-round, not just during Open Enrollment or for new hire/life event elections, supported by the new integrated text messaging feature. Advice for employer clients: know your audience and don’t be afraid to use multiple and different types of communications, e.g., emails, text, postcards, etc., to get the word out. Expand benefit news/changes messaging to encompass wellness program details, team-building opportunities and more—any information that communicates value to employees. Make sure your communications are clear and sell the value proposition. PlanSource’s Chief Commercial Officer Nancy Sansom shared research showing 30% of employees don’t perceive value in their benefits and only 4 in 10 employees believe their employer’s benefit communications are simple to understand. There’s a good reason to keep benefits top of mind with employees. Research from Zenefits shows that 60% of employees are willing to move to a job that pays less money but offers better benefits.

Expanding the HR mindset. HR professionals need to rethink their relationships with employees and their use of technology. While technology is a great enabler of innovation, don’t let tech overshadow the “human” in Human Resources. Some specific takeaways around this concept include:

  • Invert the workflow process to identify best-fit plan providers. Traditionally, HR managers identify the carrier first and then look for plans to meet employee needs. Instead, use data analytic tools to assess employee needs to guide the selection of a best-fit carrier.
  • Cultivate an atmosphere of growth within the company; understand where your employees are now and where they want to go. Today’s learning and development technology is highly sophisticated and can help employers respond to just about any challenge associated with a company’s learning culture. By 2022, 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs Survey.
  • Stop pushing paper at employees when you can talk to them. “Paper is getting in the way of success in HR,” said Kate Bischoff of tHRive Law & Consulting. When employees have questions, don’t point them to the handbook; have a conversation. It’s much more likely the information will stick.
  • Know your audience and plan year-round communications accordingly. Most agree…email is out; texting is in. Everyone has a phone they check on a regular basis.

PlanSource, meet Alexa: Voice activation technology is here. PlanSource demoed the use of Amazon’s Alexa for benefit enrollment. This is the future, said Anita Messal, president & COO of PlanSource, noting that 65% of people with a smart speaker device can’t imagine life without it.

Top workplace trends. Dr. Jarik Conrad, senior director of HCM innovation for Ultimate Software, shared his top mega workplace trends for 2019: 1) Overload and stress, 2) Fourth Industrial Revolution (blurring of lines between digital, physical and biological) and 3) Internet of Things (to engage and communicate with employees). All suggest a “people first” strategy for HR managers. Here are our favorites from the many data points shared:

  • In the next five years, 74% of workers will be overloaded beyond capacity. (Ultimate)
  • Job stress costs US employers over $300 billion per year. (Jeffrey Pfeffer)
  • 57% of managers agree with the statement “I wish my employees would tell me what’s on their minds.” (Ultimate)
  • Machines will handle more than half of workplace tasks by 2025. (World Economic Forum)
  • 77% of employers are not ready for people + robotics. (Ultimate)

Conrad’s recommendations to HR included strategies that recognize and support the future of work and workplaces, which he portrayed as personalized and experiential; digital, interactive, and person-centered; self-directed and self-organizing; and fluid, connected and collaborative.

Dealing with criticism in a digital world. Social media, Glassdoor, Yelp and other online platforms where employees share job dissatisfaction and interpersonal conflict can put employers in a challenging position. Workplace expert Laurie Ruettimann offered conference attendees some practical advice when workplace issues spill online. The biggest takeaway was when you see something online, deal with it. Respond to every comment you see. Address criticism with humility, grace, respect…and don’t freak out. Accept the feedback and adapt as best you can. When false information becomes public (fake news!), fight it rigorously with truth and candor. Be transparent and honest…and with nothing to fear, advises Ruettimann.

DC update. Bradley Knox, senior VP and counsel, federal relations for Aflac, provided an update on the current and future state of health benefits. As we’ve learned in recent years, the legislative arena can be more talk than action, so we’ve opted to share some consumer perceptions—many of which we tweeted about. We found it interesting that while everyone seems to complain about healthcare, Aflac’s research shows 75% of consumers are satisfied with their health plan (compared to the 45% who say they are satisfied with the healthcare system).

  • Comprehensive coverage is the top reason for satisfaction with a plan (42%) followed by affordability (41%) and choice of doctors (32%).
  • Cost is overwhelmingly the #1 reason for dissatisfaction with a plan (78%) followed by inadequate coverage (45%) and surprise bills (18%).
  • 61% say lowering healthcare costs is the most important priority to improve the US health care system.

See our conference tweets for additional data points from Knox.

News from the product market. We connected with some great vendors during our time at PlanSource Eclipse—two of which had news we thought worth sharing. First is Cancer Guardian, which allows employees to identify their genetic risk for cancer in advance and helps address challenges associated with cancer. Their service includes a secure, cloud-based platform for storing and transmitting medical records for any condition. This is a good example of a benefit employers can offer, that goes beyond the basic insurance policy that only covers cost. Second news of note: Allstate acquired InfoArmour in late 2018, bringing identify theft protection into the insurance arena.

That pretty much sums up our big takeaways from PlanSource. You’ll find more speaker quotes on our Twitter page. For ongoing industry insights, follow us at @bentechre. And speaking of Twitter, we’re proud to report that Jaime Ferguson (@Jme_Ferguson) won PlanSource’s “Lightening Thumbs” social media award!

Let us know if you need more information on the PlanSource platform. BTR offers PlanSource as one of four pre-vetted recommended solutions for the larger mid-market sector. (Jaime was also honored by PlanSource this year with their “Super User” award for her system expertise, so you know you’ll be in good hands.) Regardless of the platform, we help benefit advisers understand the HR tech market and make sense of the many solutions available to help you and your clients determine best-fit systems to meet specific needs. Contact us at 1-877-299-8155 or visit bentechre.com.