Predictive Analytics Will Be The Silent Game-Changer In Employee Benefits

Have you heard of predictive analytics? Predictive analytics analyzes current and historical data to make predictions about unknown events. Read on to learn how this technology could be used to help fine-tune employee benefits offerings.


Last year’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers came down to a seven-game battle based not only on talent, athleticism and coaching but also on data. Just as Sports Illustrated suggested back in 2014 via predictive data, the Astros were the victors.

The publication of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game spurred not only Major League Baseball teams to deploy predictive analytics, but also businesses to take a harder look at what their data means. It's no longer part of the hype cycle: Statista forecasts (paywall) that the predictive analytics market worldwide will reach $6.2 billion in 2018 and $10.95 billion in 2022.

I believe we are also at a transformational point in improving corporate employee benefits and our employees’ lives by embracing predictive analytics. HR is swimming in rich data. Instead of guesstimating needs across multiple generations of employees, employers can turn to their own data to fine-tune what they are offering as benefits solutions. Companies spend 25-40% of an employee’s salary on benefits. It simply makes strategic and financial sense to get it right.

Bring Employee Benefits Out Of The Dark Ages

Hiring and retaining great talent is at the very soul of almost every company’s strategy. Not surprisingly, more companies have turned to predictive analytics to give them a leg up in recruitment. However, HR benefits have lagged behind. As John Greenwood reported to Corporate Adviser, “More than half of reward and employee benefits professionals see predictive analytics as a game-changer, but 90 percent are still using spreadsheets to manage data, research from the Reward & Employee Benefits Association shows.”

One reason for benefits lagging behind recruitment in adopting predictive analytics is that the way companies choose new benefits varies greatly from business to business. Given that the majority of HR departments keep data in disparate spreadsheets, even if some HR departments conduct employee surveys or historical cost analyses, they often do not integrate the data about their workforce. If a new benefit offering is chosen based on a needs analysis, only some know the “why” behind a request from the workforce. Knowing how many employees are logging into a benefits platform is helpful; market standard benefit utilization reports provide this level of information. Yet they do not give insight into the underlying reason for an employee to utilize a benefit. The user of deeper analytics is required to look deeper into employees' behavior.

We have found firsthand that many HR departments do not have a full understanding of how their employees are utilizing their benefits across the entire offering suite. A one-size-fits-all or a one-off strategy no longer is effective. Companies must understand not only their employees’ needs but also the underlying data related to these needs to provide a valuable benefits offering.

Put Your Existing Data To Use

For the past five years, I have watched our clients glean valuable insights into what the real underlying issues are for their employees and what must be done to address these pressing needs. I also have been watching companies realize that what they thought were the core problems at hand sometimes were not.

For example, one of our national high-tech clients, with over 50,000 benefit-eligible employees, believed that a high number of their employees had children struggling with autism. This belief was initially based on input from some of their employees. After approximately 16 months, the client reviewed the masked utilization data from their benefit platform. The data illustrated that the overwhelming majority of employee families (tenfold) in fact faced challenges associated with youth anxiety, a concern that had never been expressed to HR previously. Once they reviewed what employees were doing within our platform, their results mirrored the National Institute of Mental Health’s report that approximately 31.9% of U.S. children ages 13-18 struggle with anxiety disorders.

Their own data helped them understand much more specifically where their employees’ stress lay, and their HR department was able to focus communications around it.

Getting Started

Mining and viewing use data across all benefits is ideal. This enables an employer to determine if the benefit suite is serving employees effectively. We have found that as quickly as year over year, users' behaviors shift. If a company solely chooses a benefit based on what they saw as most heavily utilized the previous year, they are not being strategic.

For that reason, HR should utilize past and current data to better predict future patterns of need for a truly strategic approach to benefit choice. With this insight, they can make better choices and serve their workforce more effectively.

Given the limitations across many employee benefit vendors today, to start initially:

1. Embrace KPIs. Agree upon them internally, and measure benefit vendors on them.

2. Work with your current vendors to determine what data they provide to support your internal analysis. Ensure you have access to all the data you need, and if not, consider a vendor change.

3. Hold possible new vendors to similar data standards, and create a transparent relationship from the start.

4. Collect current and historical data. Existing vendors can provide this history, so make sure to collect at least 2-3 years of information.

These analytics need to go deeper than basic demographics to show patterns of activity. In order to understand the benefit needs of your workforce, you'll want to analyze trends across multiple data sets: medical, pharmacy, worker's compensation, biometric screenings, utilization patterns, FMLA requests and demographic trends. From there, you can start to pinpoint what your employees need -- and the “whys” behind the needs -- in order to make a measurable impact.

While predictive analytics is still in the nascent phase in the benefits and vendor worlds, the easiest and most proactive thing any employer can do is to focus on other insights vendors can provide related to the workforce and benefit use beyond simple utilization. In doing so, you will be able to support your employees both in their work lives and their personal lives by providing them with the benefits they need to be at their best.

SOURCE: Goldberg, A. (2 October 2018) "Predictive Analytics Will Be The Silent Game-Changer In Employee Benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/10/02/predictive-analytics-will-be-the-silent-game-changer-in-employee-benefits/#26648166e182


Creating Better Employee Benefits With Advanced Analytics

Are your employees happy at work? It is important to provide a workplace, employee benefits and payment system that keep your employees happy. Read on to learn more.


Job satisfaction is the most important part of maintaining a happy workforce. If you have a workforce that feels like they could get a better deal elsewhere then they are likely to leave.

It is therefore important to provide a working environment, benefits and payment system, that keeps your employees happy without breaking the bank.

Analytics are being used to make sure that this is being done effectively, seeing where discontent is occurring and helping to suggest how this can be solved.

For instance, there are research companies that can use text analysis tools to analyze hundreds, if not thousands of survey entries that can give a holistic view of employee benefits. Often when survey results are being analyzed by an individual, it is difficult to gauge the overall feeling and there can be bias put on the results.

It also allows for HR to note the frequency of meetings with individuals as well as the frequency and size of any pay rises. If it is flagged that somebody hasn’t had a meeting with HR where they can directly communicate any concerns for a considerable amount of time, then tho scan be rectified.

Analytics can also be used to investigate which teams are happiest, have the highest retention rates or are the most profitable. This then allows companies to investigate in detail what is making these teams happiest or most productive, then create benefit packages to create similar results for other teams in the company.

Analytics and data have allowed companies to collect data to make their workforces happier and more content. This, in turn, creates situations where employees are eager to work and appreciative of the benefits they receive, improving ROI and increasing productivity.

SOURCE: Pannaman, E. (12 October 2018) "Creating Better Employee Benefits With Advanced Analytics" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://channels.theinnovationenterprise.com/articles/202-creating-better-employee-benefits-with-advanced-analytics


How data science can help employers build better benefit plans

What is your definition of data? New approaches to data science allow companies to have many different definitions of data and have them all coded. Read on to learn more.


Is your data management system overdue for an overhaul? Benefit plan sponsors don’t need to feel stuck with old systems requiring hours of manual data entry, according to Marc Rind, chief data scientist for ADP.

“I’ve been in data for a long time,” he says. “For generations, the traditional data management approach has been people having to standardize data.”

But people in different companies — even different departments of the same company – could have different definitions and means of data. An organization’s governance team would have to come up with one definition for everyone to adhere to.

With new approaches to data science, Rind says, “you’re able to have many different definitions of your data and have them all coded. It’s not about governing the definition of data but more about enhancing and publishing that data.”

With data science, employers and those in HR can see trends much more easily using automated mapping and search capabilities. This will allow them to see trends over time, like what people are choosing for their benefit plans and how benefits impact employee productivity and engagement.

“It builds context around the data,” Rind says. “For employers, they have to not only understand which benefit offerings they have to offer to employees but the effect on retention. They can also see what similar employers are offering and if they are getting higher retention rates.”

Employees can use the data to see what benefits others with similar backgrounds have chosen to get, helping them decide what their perfect healthcare plan looks like. However, they cannot yet see how satisfied people similar to them were with these benefits. Rind says that this feedback loop is important, and will become more prominent for the next generation of data science systems.

SOURCE: Spiezio, C. (16 June 2016) "How data science can help employers build better benefit plans" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/how-data-science-can-help-employers-build-better-benefit-plans


Why employee performance management needs an HR tech overhaul

Are you still utilizing annual performance reviews at your organization? According to a recent survey by Adobe, 58 percent of people feel that performance reviews are no longer necessary. Read on to learn more.


According to a recent survey conducted by Adobe, 58% of people feel that performance reviews “are a needless HR requirement.” Adobe, in fact, no longer has an annual performance review process and instead has adopted an approach involving ongoing discussions between managers and employees that emphasize talent development and future productivity instead of formal ratings and rankings based on past performance.

Still, the vast majority of companies continue to persist with a backward-looking evaluation process that is time-consuming for managers, demotivating for employees and of negligible benefit to the business as a whole. They do this because, as Adobe’s survey respondents suspected, performance reviews are more about “compliance than customer service.”

Focusing on past performance is an industrial-era hangover from when employees were mainly required to hit targets in easily measurable, repetitive tasks. Although most people’s jobs have evolved to be more complex and creative since then, the process and the tools used to manage their efficacy and performance in those roles have not.

In many respects, HR is still a defensive function whose role is to protect the business from its own employees. This is reflected by HR technology that is built for compliance, rather than helping managers and employees become more productive.

HR’s on-premise or enterprise resource planning systems can track performance reviews to prove a dismissal was not unfair, rank employees to justify compensation distribution and demonstrate effective people management to the board or shareholders. What they can’t do is react positively to the ever-changing demands of the modern business world and help employees and managers meaningfully improve their skills to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Performance management is changing — but HR tech is not

These days, a company’s and individual employee’s goals can change dramatically in the time between end-of-year reviews. Individual roles are more specialized and require frequent skill updates, while cross-functional teams have long since replaced the siloed departments that were standard just 10 years ago. In this environment, HR’s focus on past compliance is detrimental to future development.

Forward-thinking companies are changing the performance process to focus on development and continuous feedback that makes managers and employees more productive and engaged. The success of these trailblazers will encourage other businesses from a wide range of industries to follow suit.

This new model of performance management needs help from technology, but existing HR tech vendors are not keeping up. Their services are so embedded in the world of compliance, they cannot change to support the development needs of managers and employees. Fortunately, the solution already exists.

Creating a connected system of productivity

One of the key issues with performance reviews is that so much of the process involves looking back to gather the data. For managers, it is a huge time investment. For employees, end-of-year feedback about an issue that occurred months beforehand is too late to be useful.

The process seems doubly inefficient when you realize that real-time, instantly-actionable performance data is already available in productivity systems like JIRA and Salesforce that are used by different teams. The problem is HR’s defensive mindset has made it difficult to integrate existing internal or ERP systems with these tools.

For many employees, benefits enrollment can be tedious—sometimes even scary. They don’t want to make a mistake—and who can blame them?

Dedicated performance management services that connect to both HR systems and the departmental productivity tools can take HR technology out of its silo. This will create a connected system of productivity that uses real-time data alongside transparent and flexible goal-tracking to drive ongoing development conversations between managers and employees.

It’s time for HR to evolve from a defensive function to make a positive contribution to key business goals and become what HR analyst Josh Bersin calls the “chief of productivity.” This demands a shift from a performance review process based on compliance to a human-centered, development-focused experience.

Adopting new performance technology that integrates with widely-used productivity tools is a key step to ensuring everyone from employees to managers to HR can work on what matters most in order to meet today’s goals and tomorrow’s challenges.

SOURCE: Dennerline, D. (15 October 2018) "Why employee performance management needs an HR tech overhaul" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/why-employee-performance-management-needs-an-hr-tech-overhaul?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


5 ways employers can leverage tech during open enrollment

How are you leveraging technology advancements during 2019 open enrollment? Technology is constantly changing the way employers select and offer benefits to their employees. Read this blog post to learn more.


Technology continues to reshape how employers select and offer healthcare benefits to employees, putting access to information at our fingertips and creating a more seamless and interactive healthcare experience. At the same time, these advances may help employees become savvier users of healthcare, helping simplify and personalize their journey toward health and, in the process, help curb costs for employers.

The revolution can be important to remember during open enrollment, which occurs during the fall when millions of Americans select or switch their health benefits for 2019. With that in mind, here are five tips employers should be aware of during open enrollment and year-round.

Make sense of big data

Big data is a buzzword, but the applications are only meaningful if employers can make sense of that information. To help with that, employers are gaining access to online resources to help enable them to more easily analyze and make sense of health data, taking into account aggregate medical and prescription claims, demographics, and clinical and well-being information. This can provide an analytics-driven roadmap to help employers implement tailored clinical management and employee engagement programs, which may help improve health outcomes, mitigate expenses and help employees take charge of their health.

Help people understand their options

More than three-quarters (77%) of employees say they are prepared for open enrollment, yet most people struggle to understand basic health insurance terms, according to a recent healthcare benefits company's survey. In fact, only 6% of survey respondents could successfully define all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum. To support employees during open enrollment, employers can adopt online platforms designed to personalize and simplify the experience to help people select a health plan based on their personal health and financial preferences while encouraging them to select a primary care physician and enroll in programs such as smoking cessation or weight loss.

Encourage your people to move more

An estimated 35% of employers now integrate wearable devices into their wellbeing programs, helping employees more accurately understand their daily activity levels. As these programs become more common, there may be opportunities for cost savings for companies and their workforces. For instance, some wearable device wellness programs may enable people to earn more than $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily walking goals, while employers can achieve premium renewal discounts based on the aggregate walking results of their employees.

Offer incentives to employees who comparison shop for care

More than one-third (36%) of Americans say they have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for healthcare, up from 14% in 2012, according to a healthcare benefits company's survey. To encourage employees to participate in this trend, some employers are offering financial incentives — such as $25 or $50 gift cards — to employees for using healthcare transparency resources. Healthcare quality and cost varies widely within a city or neighborhood, so encouraging the use of online and mobile transparency resources may yield savings for employers and employees.

Integrate medical and ancillary benefits

Open enrollment is also the time for people to select important ancillary benefits, such as vision and dental coverage. While some people may overlook these plans, offering this coverage as part of an employee’s menu of benefits options may maximize the effectiveness of a company’s healthcare dollars, provide families with added peace of mind and help build a culture of health. Combining medical and ancillary benefits under a single health plan may enable for the integrated analysis of a wide range of data that can facilitate proactive outreach and clinical support for employees, including for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes or to help prevent the development of such conditions.
SOURCE: Madsen, R. (12 October 2018) "5 ways employers can leverage tech during open enrollment" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/5-ways-employers-can-leverage-tech-during-open-enrollment

LinkedIn voice messaging aims to connect HR with job seekers

Are you looking for new ways to connect with potential hires? Connecting with applicants is becoming more complex and interactive. Read this blog post to learn more.


Connecting with job applicants has become more complex and interactive since the days when a single telephone number and e-mail address were displayed at the top of a candidate’s paper resume. HR professionals are continually looking for more active ways to communicate with potential hires.

Now they have another tool to allow them to connect.

LinkedIn announced last week it is rolling out a free messaging service to its 562 million users. The service allows job seekers and HR pros to dictate and send voice messages via the LinkedIn mobile app and receive them via the app or the web.

LinkedIn Messaging users can record and send a voice message up to one minute in length and review the message before hitting the send button.

“People speak about four times faster than they type, making voice messaging great for explaining longer or more complex ideas without the time and involvement of typing and editing a message,” according to LinkedIn. “It’s also helpful for when you’re on the move and don’t have time to stop and type.”

The LinkedIn feature can help HR managers determine if a job candidate is truly interested in the position that is waiting to be filled, according to Kimberly Schneiderman, senior practice development manager for RiseSmart, an outplacement services provider with headquarters in San Jose, California.

“People like to hear tone of voice and their energy from both the job seeker and job candidate side,” she says. “HR wants to hear that the candidate is interested and is eloquent — and oftentimes that comes through verbally,” she says.

LinkedIn agrees, saying that “it’s easier for your tone and personality to come through, which can sometimes get lost in translation in written communications.”

See also: Smiley faces and thumbs up? Texting, emojis enter the job interview

With unemployment at a record low in the U.S., employment experts agree that this is a job seeker’s market. Using social media for job hunting is now the norm. According to business consultant and author Peter Economy, 79% of job seekers use social media in their job search, and this number jumps to 86% for younger job hunters. He adds that 45% of job seekers use their mobile devices to search for a job at least once a day.

But not all new gadgets take hold in the HR world, warns Schneiderman, who says she has seen innovations like video resumes that were proposed in the 1990s fizzle out. “Now we see video interviews,” she says.

“Any tool can be useful so long as people use it,” she says. “We see an ebb and flow with these new tools and some stick and some don’t.”

LinkedIn’s voice messaging feature is available on its app on the iOS and Android platforms. It will be available globally to all members in the late summer.

SOURCE: Albinus, P (9 August 2018) "LinkedIn voice messaging aims to connect HR with job seekers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/linkedin-voice-messaging-technology-connects-hr-job-seekers?tag=0000015f-0970-de2a-a7df-8f7ee7d20000


Beware of Tech Overload

Technology has certainly made the workplace faster, smarter and more productive. New apps and systems continuously offer new ways to create, manage and collaborate. However, just as with many good things, workers can get too much of office tech. With each digitization of traditional job and team functions comes a cost in diminishing associated skills. Many forward-thinking companies are taking heed of the potential pitfalls of tech overload. Check out some particular hazards culled from across the Web.

Loss of Interpersonal Skills — Video chats, group chats, IMs, DMs, texts, pings, not to mention old-fashioned email certainly afford a multitude of ways to communicate, even collaborate. However, there’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction. Over-reliance on digital channels can diminish the opportunities and ability to collaborate in the most free-form manner, that being when folks share the same room.

Inhibits Big Thinking — Unlimited information flow can sometimes turn into overflow. Continuous text alerts, IMs and other pings can inhibit completion of the task at hand. They can also cause mistakes due to lack of concentration. While pressing issues can be quickly resolved, continual interruptions leave little or no time for working through larger projects and long-term planning.

Impaired Security — It’s an unfortunate fact of business life that the more freely information flows, even behind firewalls, the more susceptible it is to hacking, corruption and theft. As well-publicized incidents have shown, corporate information is not the only data at risk, but also financial and personal data of employees and customers. It’s vital that when companies upgrade their business tech, their security tech and protocols keep pace.

Time and Maintenance Costs — The only sure bet with a new application or system is that it will require updates. Also, while out-of-pocket expenses can be quantified, less-obvious costs of downtime devoted to system maintenance and training can pose significant drag on productivity, and in some cases job satisfaction. More companies are discovering that not every tech wave is worth catching, especially if it crashes against strained budgets.

Encroachment on Personal Time — Certainly boundaries of normal working hours have been significantly extended. While tech has indeed freed workers from cubicle and office tethers, it can also tempt managers and team members to infringe, often unknowingly, on the personal lives of their reports. Yes, emergencies may arise. But workers repeatedly besieged with after-hour queries may seek other places to use their devices.

It May Be Unhealthy — Work is stressful enough. While technology has certainly speeded operations, it’s concurrently raised everyone’s expectations. Some research indicates that over-reliance on devices may increase stress levels with potentially adverse health consequences. For better health, occasionally put down the phone!

Source:
Olson B. (17 April 2018). "Beware of Tech Overload" [blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2HGQLTX


Are Virtual Doctor Visits Really Cost-Effective? Not So Much, Study Says

As the virtual world expands, it raises a question: at what point does it take away from the user experience? In this article from Kaiser Health News, we take a look at a study presenting facts on how virtual healthcare may be an issue rather than a convenience. Read further for more information.


Consultations with doctors by phone or video conference appear to be catching on, with well over a million virtual visits reported in 2015. The convenience of “telehealth” appeals to patients, and the notion that it costs less than an in-office visit would make it attractive to employers and health plans. But a new study suggests that while telehealth services may boost access to a physician, they don’t necessarily reduce health care spending, contrary to assertions by telehealth companies. The study, published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, shows that telehealth prompts patients to seek care for minor illnesses that otherwise would not have induced them to visit a doctor’s office. Telehealth has been around for more than a decade, but its growth has been fueled more recently by the ubiquity of smartphones and laptops, said Lori Uscher-Pines, one of the study’s authors who is a policy researcher at the Rand Corp., a nonprofit think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif.

These virtual consultations are designed to replace more expensive visits to a doctor’s office or emergency room. On average, a telehealth visit costs about $79, compared with about $146 for an office visit, according to the study. But it found that virtual visits generate additional medical use. “What we found is contrary to what [telehealth] companies often say,” Uscher-Pines told California Healthline. “We found an increase in spending for the payer.” The researchers found that only 12 percent of telemedicine visits replaced an in-person provider visit, while 88 percent represented new demand. The researchers examined 2011-13 utilization data of 300,000 people enrolled in the Blue Shield of California Health Maintenance Organization plan offered by the California Public Employees Retirement System, which covers current and former state employees and their families. CalPERS’ Blue Shield HMO started offering telehealth services, available 24/7 to its beneficiaries, in April 2012.

The researchers focused on virtual visits for respiratory illnesses, which include sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia and tonsillitis, among others. While a single telehealth visit for a respiratory illness costs less than an in-person visit, it often results in more follow-up appointments, lab tests and prescriptions, which increases spending in the long run. Liability concerns may prompt telehealth physicians to recommend that a patient go in for a face-to-face appointment with a doctor, the study notes. Researchers estimated that annual spending for respiratory illnesses increased about $45 per telehealth user, compared with patients who did not take advantage of such virtual consultations. Jason Gorevic, the CEO at Teladoc, the operator that provides telehealth services for CalPERS Blue Shield members, said the new study doesn’t square with Teladoc data showing the cost savings of telemedicine.

According to 2016 data, Gorevic said, only 13 percent of Teladoc visits represent new medical use. He noted that the Rand study uses older data, and that many things have changed since then — including the technology, the rate at which these services are being adopted and patient engagement. “In fact, other more comprehensive studies — using six times the amount of claims data including the same population as the [Rand] study — have found tremendous value of telehealth, with consistently repeatable results,” Gorevic said. These other studies have shown that telehealth decreases overall health care spending, he said. But Uscher-Pines said the Rand findings were not surprising.

When Rand researchers studied retail clinics last year, they found that making access to health care more convenient triggers new use and additional costs. That study found 58 percent of visits to in-store clinics represented new use of medical services rather than a substitute for doctor office visits. Yet the fact that telehealth services are more affordable per visit than a trip to a physician’s office shows that there is still a pathway to cost savings, Uscher-Pines said. To achieve cost savings, telehealth services would have to replace costlier visits, the researcher said. Insurers could increase telehealth visit costs for patients to deter unnecessary use.

Another way to increase the health system value of virtual doctor visits is to target specific groups of patients — such as those who often use emergency rooms for less severe illnesses. An emergency room visit costs an estimated $1,734. “You could take these people in the emergency department and offer them this cheaper option. That would be a direct replacement,” Uscher-Pines said. Gorevic said that a challenge for telehealth is engaging consumers, so the comparatively low fees provide a financial incentive. “Because a telehealth visit is much cheaper than an in-person visit, the cost sharing should be reflective of that,” he said.

Marcus Thygeson, senior vice president and chief health officer at Blue Shield, which also provides virtual doctor visits through Teladoc, in a statement said that “increased convenience can increase utilization, so overall healthcare costs may increase or stay the same. Blue Shield supports the use of telemedicine to improve access for both primary and specialty healthcare, especially in rural communities.” The researchers noted several limitations to the Rand study.

For example, researchers examined only one telehealth company and studied only visits for respiratory illnesses. In addition, the patients whose data were scrutinized had commercial insurance, and it is possible the use of telehealth would differ among people with government insurance, high-deductible plans or no insurance at all, the study said.

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. Written by: Ana B. Ibarra